We’ve all grown up dreaming of being on the big screen during the Super Bowl or NBA finals. You’d go to sleep fantasizing about making the game-winning touchdown or sinking the final three-pointer to win the game. No matter who you are, athleticism is built inside you, even if you feel like you don’t have a hand-eye coordination bone in your body. From running to weightlifting and tennis to baseball, there are things you can do to become the best athlete you can be. Sure, not everyone is going to be the next Florence Joyner, Shalane Flanagan, Billie Jean King, or Serena Williams. But, with dedication and hard work, you can become a professional in your own right. Take a look at how you can improve your skills below!
Improve your cardio
If your sport focuses on muscle gains, such as football or weightlifting, you may think cardio isn’t necessary. Going for runs, stepping on the elliptical, or hopping in the pool seem like a waste of time. However, if you want to improve on and off the field, you need to increase your aerobic capacity. This doesn’t mean you need to set out on 20-mile long runs like marathon runners. Rather, it means you need to spend at least 30 minutes every day or every other day strengthening your heart to make it pump blood more efficiently.
For improved cardiovascular health, you want to make sure you have the proper footwear. The last thing you want is an injury to sideline you for an entire season. If you’re a beginner, walking shoes are a great option to start with. These shoes are built with comfort and stability in mind, so you don’t have to worry about twisted ankles, plantar fasciitis, or achy feet. If you have a solid cardio foundation, look for running shoes that provide ample support and breathability.
Get enough sleep
Sleep is crucial if you want to recover and perform your best. You don’t see Christiano Ronaldo out at the club every night until the wee hours of the morning. Instead, he’s sound asleep by 9:30 p.m. every night. Getting the recommended eight hours of sleep allows your body to repair itself. When you enter the most restorative stages of sleep, such as Stage 3 and REM sleep, your body releases growth hormones that repair muscles and tissue, as well as your brain, so you remain sharp on the field.
To get a good night’s sleep, make sure your bedroom is calm and relaxing. Invest in a comfortable bed, such as a memory foam mattress, along with cooling sheets and a white noise machine to block out any distractions that may keep you up at night. Additionally, limit your screen time before bed. Scrolling through your Instagram feed and other sites can trick your body into thinking it’s daytime. That’s because blue light that’s emitted from screens inhibits the release of melatonin, which is the chemical that helps you fall asleep.
Ending a run or a lift session and bee-lining straight to the car is tempting. But, it can leave you extremely sore and trap lactic acid in your muscles. A buildup of lactic acid can leave you feeling heavy, sore, and in pain, which can make it uncomfortable to perform the next day.
After each session, no matter the difficulty, take time to stretch and roll out. Foam rollers are key to flushing out lactic acid that’s stored deep within your muscles, such as your calves and back. Tennis balls are perfect for centrally-located sore spots that are hard to reach. Dynamic stretching is excellent for increasing your range of motion, improving your posture, and remaining flexible. Spending a few minutes on the yoga mat to stretch will make you feel like a new person the next day.
Your mental strength plays just as an important role as your physical strength. Have you ever entered a race, game, or meet with a lot on your mind or negative thoughts on how you’d perform? You most likely didn’t have your best day out there. Practicing self-talk is a great way to boost your confidence and performance.
Before you toe the line or get ready for kickoff, give yourself words of encouragement. Reading inspirational quotes from professional athletes, looking yourself in the mirror and giving yourself a pep talk, and listening to motivational music are all excellent ways to become the next champion.
The bottom line
Becoming the best athlete you can be is going to take some sacrifices. However, if you’re passionate about a sport you love, making some changes to your routine can yield some serious results. From upping your cardio motivating yourself, these tips will turn you into the next gold medal winner.