The Balanced Athlete
Being an athlete at any level – from just starting out in pee wee to the pros – is all about balance. And while this picture is pretty impressive, this isn’t the kind of balance we’re talking about. We’re talking about balancing your conditioning, your skill and your lifestyle. It is so important to not only be the best competitor you can be, but also to be the happiest person you can be.
Which is why we’ve comprised the Top Ten Tips for Athletic Success (at any age, gender or sport):
- Train to the Nth Power – This one covers a lot of ground in terms of conditioning, so we’re going to cheat a little and give you several tips under #1. Essential to any athlete is an off-season program and year-round conditioning program. Athlete should progress gradually in their conditioning so that they are not doing anything “too hard”, “too fast”, too far”, “too quickly”, predisposing themselves to injury. Off-season conditioning programs should address conditioning, strength training and flexibility. During the off-season, the exercise program is at a lower level, thus allowing tissue healing; and the program should peak right before the competitive season. A structured program should be followed for the greatest benefit. The training program should follow an interval fashion and should be formulated so that the athlete reaches peak fitness during the competitive season, or periodization.
- Train Body Weight Before External Resistance – If you cannot perform 20 perfect push ups while stabilizing your shoulders, core, spine and hip flexors you do not need to get under a weighted bar…Period. Younger athletes shouldn’t be training with external resistance anyway. Athletes and coaches often underestimate the power a good body weight program can bring.
- Train Your Muscles Through Range of Motion – Going along with the above tip, stationary machines should seldom be used. You do not play the game (any game) in a seated or fixed spot, so you shouldn’t train that way. Body weight exercises, resistance tubes & bands, medicine balls, stability balls and other functional training methods help to increase your muscle mass AND range of motion.
- Work Out Your Joints – Going along with the above tip, leg extension machines and bicep curls develop useless strength. You cannot possess coordination in your skill unless you train your muscles to work in groups.
- Train With Movement & Explosiveness – Again, isolation training of muscles does an athlete no good. Focus on specific movements and focus on perfecting those movements with explosiveness and power…all body controlled.
- Vary Your Conditioning - Use all primary methods to train: Strength, Dynamic, Speed, Agility, Endurance, Static, Skill. Your training program must be progressive AND varied. If you spend too much time on one aspect (particularly skill set), your positive attributes will suffer and the negative ones will come out.
- Truly Training With Balance - Every action has an opposite and equal reaction. Although each of us have slight ‘flaws’ to our bodies, they are basically made to be in perfect balance. Train your left side as much as your right. Address pushing and pulling on horizontal and vertical planes. If you can’t handle the load or skill on one side or plane as much as the other, adjust to increase the volume and repetition of the weaker. This will make you better than your competition on the court, field, whatever, but it will make you a healthier athlete, less prone to injuries.
- Core Training - Think outside of the box and the weight room. Core training should begin at the very beginning of Phase I, or when an athlete comes off the off-season (8-12 wks before pre-season). If an athlete’s body isn’t strong and stable enough to take what’s going to be thrown at them during conditioning, pre-season and competition, it WILL break down.
- Flexibility Training - See above. It’s the same thing. Many athletes overlook the importance of a structured flexibility program. Both dynamic and static stretching is all-too-important when approaching Phase I of conditioning and all the way through. A longer muscle is a stronger muscle. Again, a flexible athlete will have an edge over their competition and come away the healthier athlete, being less prone to injuries.
- Avoid Mimicking Skills - This is BIG and might be hard for athletes to resist. But throwing weighted balls or the like will do very little to improve your strength and range of motion and very MUCH to mess up your technique and balance. Loading a technique will do a lot to mess up that technique’s mechanics. Just don’t do it.
- Avoid Burn Out - I know. I know. You love the court, or the field or the pool, or whatever. You join leagues and other teams, enter tournaments and play every second you can get. Take a time out. At least from the competitive mindset. There’s nothing wrong with keeping your skill set sharp, but the point is to become a better ATHLETE. From that you will become the best at your sport. So focus on the other 8 factors necessary here for you to do that.
- Nutrition - If I had a penny for every time I told a client “You Are What You Eat” I could buy out Mark Zuckerberg and put him out of his misery! But it is soooo true. I know that it’s hard. You have school. You have practice. You have friends and a social life. You have a family and parents that unfairly make you do things around the house. And it’s so easy to grab something at the gas station or cruise through the drive through, picking up whatever’s on the value menu. You’re only messing up everything that you’re training so hard to do on the court or field. Plan ahead for the week, or even the day. Make smart choices. If you need some help, ask parents, coaches, trainers and us some things you should be eating, particularly during pre-season and competition season.
- Hydration - Ok, so this one goes along with #8, but many athletes don’t properly hydrate. Best case scenario, you’re not performing at max capacity. Worst case scenario, you have a heat stroke on the field and don’t make it. Not pretty, but it happens EVERY year. And chugging a glass of water or bottle of Gatorade when you feel thirsty is not gong to work. You need to hydrate throughout the day. Good rule of thumb: Take your body weight, divide by 2. This is the number of ounces you should be drinking every day. Add in a glass for every serving of caffeine you drink. Add in a glass for every hour that you’re doing profuse sweating.
- Off The Court - Be a good athlete, but just be a good person. While there are plenty of athletes to look up to these days, there are many who are less than stellar role models. Trust your instincts. Do what you feel is right. Do, say and act towards others the way that you would want to be treated. And please, please, please…think before you post or tweet. Once you do that, it DOES NOT go away. Your friends, family, coaches and scouts WILL see your social media activity. Get involved in community events. Somewhere there is a younger athlete that wants someone to look up to…be that someone.
So we hope these tips help you…both on the court or field and off. Our goal is to not develop athletes in a particular sport, but to help all kids be the best athlete they can be. Our camps and clinics focus on this ideology, which is why we believe they’re met with so much success.
Erin Morrow & Greg Holmes
Fitness & Wellness With an EDGE!
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