Master the Things That Take No Talent Part 1 of 2
I think coaches and athletes who are committed to their craft often mirror following scenario. We look for the next best exercise or method that will give us an edge over our competition. While I think it is necessary to consistently add items for possible implementation, I do feel it should not be at the expense of ignoring the easily accessible low hanging fruit. Mike McCoy the former head coach of the San Diego Chargers often instructed his players to Master the things that take no talent. He basically wanted his players to do all the little things and if they did, all the big things would take care of themselves. He was referring to showing up early, paying attention to sleep and recovery, proper nutrition, studying the game and film, etc.
The intent of this article is to provide suggestions for the student-athlete to implement, but almost all people can find value. I encourage all readers to not take what is stated in this article at face value. Whether you agree or disagree with the content, continue researching on your own!
It is essential for athletes to believe in their training, train smart and hard, and also do what is necessary away from the training environment to maximize what they have been given athletically. In my experience, it is often what is done away from practice and competition that is the limiting factor in an athlete reaching his or her potential.
The low hanging fruit that can impact the performance of any athlete are as follows:
- Getting off the grid
- Athletic Homework
- Time Management
Getting Off the Grid
Smartphones are incredible.and incredibly awful. They make communication and accessing information easier than ever, but the constant accessibility which goes along with them is unhealthy. How many times have you been getting ready to turn in for the night and you read a text or saw something on social media that ticked you off and your sleep suffered?
Smartphones reduce one's ability to focus
Smartphones have addictive qualities and reduce attention spans. How many times do you check your phone per hour? If you can't be around your phone without checking it regularly, get away from it (and other modes of technology). Most importantly, by dealing with what is going on in the outside world, we can be more aware of what is going on in our own environment. There is a difference between being present and being in the moment. People who are only present can go through the motions, people who are in the moment are fully engaged in the task at hand. Getting off the grid can assist with being in the moment.
Here are some guidelines/suggestions on what an athlete's plate should look like based on the day's training intensity.
Eat more fruits and vegetables. A common check is to make sure your plate is colorful.
- An easy way to add a serving or two of vegetables at the start of the day is to drink a smoothie with kale and/or spinach.
- Protein is essential for any athlete. A phenomenal source that is overlooked is fish. Aim for twice a week. Salmon, mackerel, cod, and trout are some solid options. Another perk is getting the health benefits of Omega 3's (such as improved recovery and reaction time).
- Speaking of Omega 3's, an easy way to add more to your diet is to consider including chia seeds or flaxseed with your bowl of healthy cereal in the morning. While you are at it, consider adding some almonds and blueberries.
- Consider making avocado common in your diet.
- Consider using olive oil and coconut oil in cooking instead of butter.
- Hydration is also a huge component proper nutrition. Many sources say that a dehydrated muscle is more likely to be pulled (or will be pulled more severely when stressed). Carry around a water bottle all day and sip from it. Avoid carbonated beverages. Do not overindulge in caffeinated beverages (especially in the evening, it can impact your ability to fall asleep). Limit intake of drinks with high sugar content.
If you are reading this, you are breathing, so what is the big deal? We need to breathe to survive, but how we breathe is also connected to our emotional state. Many people need to spend more time using diaphragmatic breathing because it activates the parasympathetic portion of the nervous system (rest and digest). A simple mantra many use is In through your nose, out through your mouth, all in the belly, nothing in the chest. Try to spend at least 20 minutes per day focused on diaphragmatic breathing. Ideal times are on your way to school, before/after practice, while trying to fall asleep, or any other time you are feeling stressed!
This breathing helps to down regulate the central nervous system causing you to relax and at the same time using your lungs more efficiently
Sleep is the ultimate form of recovery and our society looks at it as an expendable commodity. Not enough time in the day to finish everything? Cut into time spent sleeping. Athletes are asked to push their bodies to the limit on a regular basis. Optimal recovery is essential to being able to train or compete at a high level in the days following a challenging session. Here are some suggestions on how to optimize sleep:
- Wake up at the same time every day (yes, even on weekends). Our bodies have an internal clock (circadian rhythm) that runs through a daily cycle. A consistent wake time is imperative to keep this rhythm flowing.
- Develop a pre-sleep routine an hour before you intend to go to bed. During this time, limit the amount of blue light you are exposed to by dimming the lights, turning off the television, and ditching the electronic devices. Less light exposure will cause your body to produce melatonin, which makes you feel sleepy. A consistent pre-sleep routine will make it more likely for you to fall asleep soon after entering bed.
- Try to have a consistent bedtime (adolescents ideally nine hours from your wake time). This can be difficult because of the inconsistent nature of required tasks. If you are certain you will have to be up past your bedtime, still wake up at your set wake time, but try to work in a 20 or 90-minute nap.
- Take the television and video game system out of your bedroom and do not bring in your smartphone (buy an alarm clock if you use your phone as one). These items have addictive qualities and can create stress, which can cause your body to release substances which make it more difficult to sleep. Your bedroom is meant for recovery, not for maintaining access to the outside world.
- Sleep in a cool and dark (pitch black) environment.
Proper sleep also increases the level of the neurotransmitter dopamine in a person's system. A high level of dopamine is essential for athletes. Other ways to enhance dopamine production are exercise and increasing Vitamin D intake. The best way to obtain Vitamin D is to be in daylight.
You should strive to decrease the likelihood of getting sick. If you are sick, you cannot train at a high level (or at all). Do not share beverages or utensils. Stay away from people who are sick. Do not be afraid of asking your teacher to relocate away from the student who is constantly sneezing, coughing, and blowing his nose. Wash your hands often (especially after leaving a workout facility!).
While the practice of showering immediately after P.E. class or practice is dying, you should make it a priority to do so upon getting home. Be sure to use soap! Infections such as MRSA are nasty and taking steps to avoid them should be a priority.
Take these 5 suggestions to heart and see where you can improve Remember Master the Things That Take No Talent. Next week we will discuss five more!!!!
- Always plan ahead for what you are going to eat
- Obtain adequate amounts of protein
- Work on Flexibility
- Supplement your diet with Vitamin D, fish oil and a multi-vitamin
Let me know if I can help. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Physical Therapist, Athletic Trainer, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist