Updated: Jan 14, 2020
We know we need to train consistently to improve performance, but did you know there are things you can do beyond your workout to make your performance soar? Here are 5 important aspects that get overlooked time and time again. This information may not be new to you, but here, in the thick of your season, consider improving one or more of these areas.
by Mandi Kowal
Did you know that so many great things are happening when we sleep? Check out these fantastic effects of good sleep.
First of all, during sleep is when your body repairs itself. Did you know that growth hormones are released during deep sleep and the extra sleep encourages more hormone production? HGH production during deep sleep promotes tissue repair and recovery of the body and muscles, critical for maintaining sustained performance during an athlete’s season. HGH are also responsible for muscle growth and sustained performance.
More sleep means your cortisol (stress hormone) levels are kept at bay. When your cortisol levels are too high for too long it may cause weight gain, high blood pressure, negatively impact your sleep, reduce your energy level and can contribute to diabetes. Yikes! I feel like going back to bed as I type this.
Finally, better sleep can mean a decrease in the likelihood of injuries, improved reaction time, improved mental focus and attitude and a stronger immune system. Sounds good to me. So why is sleep pushed to the side? There are myriad reasons. No need to be hard on ourselves, let’s use this list as a great reminder for us to go to bed a little earlier, and adopt some better pre bed routines by turning off the devices.
Oh boy, this is one aspect I always have to work on. I can get on with my day and not remember to rehydrate. I recently found a great article and in particular loved these two quotes from the Sports CardiologyBC article (source):
“A loss of sweat equal to 2% of body weight causes a noticeable decrease of physical and mental performance. ... Dehydration may cause a reduction in blood volume, decreased skin blood flow, decreased sweat rate, decreased heat dissipation, increased core temperature and an increased rate of glycogen use” “
A loss of sweat equal to 2% of body weight causes a noticeable decrease of physical and mental performance. Losses of 5% or more of body weight during physical activities may decrease the capacity for work by roughly 30% (6). In addition to dehydration affecting the capacity for work, losses of perspiration greater than 2% of body weight increases the risk of nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and gastrointestinal problems.”
Wow! It’s time to start drinking some water! But that’s not all. Let’s take a look at what proper refueling can do for you and your athletic endeavors.
Many of us have heard the importance of refueling within 30 min of a workout. What that is continues to evolve. I encourage you to check with your coach because this can be different for everyone. For all you female athletes out there, the book Roar by Dr. Stacey Sims, where she talks about different approaches for women with refueling due to our different make up.
We know that you refuel properly in order to keep your machine functioning at a high level, and ready for your next workout. If not, you will lack energy, your blood sugar will drop, and you will not be replacing your glycogen stores in your muscles and liver. Also, did you know that ignoring post-workout steps that are essential for recovery, like proper nutrition, can contribute to overuse injuries. Some doctors think that a lot of overuse injuries happen when people are not replacing essential building blocks as readily as they should. This becomes a problem if we neglect to replenish what your body needs to repair microtears and damage. Remember that fixing those tears is how your body builds muscle; failing to do so puts your muscles at risk of further damage next time you work out.
The best way coaches can help you is if you communicate the details of your workouts. Simply syncing your watch to Garmin, Strava or Final Surge is not what I mean. Putting in how you feel, and a few short comments can make a world of difference as we prepare workouts and provide helpful feedback for you. Coaches love being there for you and when you provide them a little extra information it’s a game changer. Not to mention, it helps you process and evaluate the workout. I remember when I had to log in everything before we were able to sync or devises. The process alone had me more engaged and allowed me to evaluate the workout more effectively. Please take an extra minute or so to give your coach some valuable information. If logging in doesn’t work for you then email or call your coach. It’s the best way to make the best use of your time.
4. Commitment to the plan
I see this as one of the biggest issues recently. Athletes getting caught up in what others are doing, or comments on social media that they stray from the plan. Athletes start questioning their plan when they see what someone else is doing and feel the need to rush their process. Or they question the plan which can get in the way of proper preparation. For example, why would I compare myself to someone else when I have no idea what their background in the sport is, what their goals are, or what is their health history. It’s important to remember that when coaches create a plan, it’s keeping the entire picture in mind. We look at your goal(s), your limitations (skill wise, time, health) and time frame leading into the event. With each training phase comes specific physiological focuses. Some of these build on each other. So avoid getting caught up with what others are doing and trust the plan. This will help you physically as well as mentally prepare for the next event. Not to mention, there’s a huge confidence booster as you tackle these workouts as planned. I’ve experienced it as an athlete and witnessed it as a coach. The athletes who have had the most success achieving their goals are the ones who follow the plan. Stick to the plan and you too will see what I mean.
Similar to sleep, if you don’t allow your body to heal from the work you have put it through, you won’t reap the benefits of your workouts. Recovery allows your body to adapt to the training you just completed. Having the proper Stress/Rest cycle is essential to success.
Taking a day off, can be more helpful than working out. Check out these two quotes form notable resources.
When reading an article out of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, I found this awesome quote (Recovery From Training: A Brief Review by Bishop, Phillip A; Jones, Eric; Woods, A Krista, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: May 2008 - Volume 22 - Issue 3 - p 1015-1024):
“Recovery from training is one of the most important aspects of improving athletic performance.”
I remember reading this article by Joel Friel (Endurance coach, author) a few years back and loved this opening paragraph. I never had problems resting or taking a recovery day. I mentally and physically welcomed it. However, I thought this was a very helpful description on what was happening, and I hope you see it that way as well (source).
“Training as if you are trying to become overtrained is necessary for high performance in sport regardless of age. You can’t get there by taking it easy. The process of becoming fit requires that you do workouts that stress the body to a level for which it is not currently adapted. You become tired. This upsets the body and so it manages the situation by adapting and becoming “stronger.” You can’t do such a workout only one time and expect to reap great benefits, however. High fitness requires that you do it repeatedly for some period of time, over and over for several days or a couple of weeks. The key to doing this successfully is building in recovery days when you back off between the hard sessions to let your body catch up. It’s during rest and recovery that the body adapts.”
The big take away for all of us is that, making these changes is very doable. Some don’t necessarily require more time out of your day. Maybe simply focusing on one will make the difference. They don’t require more workouts. These are changeable aspects to the big picture that will not only shift your athletic performance but lead to better relationships at home and work. Not to mention, have you feeling better and not so beat up. Before you head off to the next obligation, decide what you would like to improve from the list above and go from there. And remember to make the goals SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant (Reasonable, Realistic, Resourced), and Time Bound. Now take a few minutes and write down goals for the next week because improving the even one of these will make your coming sessions and events great!