Every athlete has a goal or multiple goals. They want to be faster; they want to be stronger; they want to win x number of games this season. Goals are essential, and without them, we’d just be spinning our wheels without any way to track our progress or capture that coveted feeling of accomplishment. But goals come and go, and being an athlete is not only about numbers, but also about the healthy lifestyle you lead that supports your overall goals.
The right wellness habits can help support your health, happiness and athletic performance, and once the habits stick, you won’t even realize that you’ve been passively driving toward your goals even on your rest days. So, what wellness habits should you pick up? Here are the top five that every athlete, regardless of sport or condition, should try to keep.
Always Stretch and WarmUp
When we’re in a rush and just want to lace up our basketball shoes and get after it, it’s easy to forgo the warm-up. But you probably know how miserable it can be to take time off for an injury, no matter how minor or significant it is. While stretching and warming up won’t necessarily prevent every single injury from ever happening, getting your body loose and ready for the workout will help you do better and prime your body for athletic success.
Stretching and improving your flexibility also becomes much more crucial as you age. If you fail to stretch adequately, you can end up compromising your joints over time, which can lead to aches, pains and severe injuries in extreme cases. So, make a vow always to stretch out no matter how short on time or excited you are to work out—your body will thank you for it.
Listen to Your Body
There’s no denying that getting stronger, faster and better requires a certain amount of discomfort. However, this shouldn’t be conflated with actual pain. Even when you know your hamstring feels a little funny on that last rep, you might decide to brush it off since you’re almost done with the set. This is asking for trouble, and as the partner in your athletic success, if you take care of your body, it’ll take care of you too. So, don’t push your body past its limits unless you’re fine rolling the injury dice and jeopardizing potentially weeks and months of training.
On that same note, you’d be remiss not to track vital metrics such as blood pressure, blood sugar, resting heart rate and cholesterol levels. Especially as we age, these things start to become crucial to know and understand. Getting a regular checkup can tell you about the inner workings of your body and give you a jump-start, so health issues are less likely to sneak up on you.
Seek Quality Over Quantity
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that more training sessions equals faster progress. While you want to be consistent, you should focus on the quality of each session rather than the frequency. If you’re rushing through reps with poor form or turning an planned endurance run into a sprint, you’re not getting a quality workout that supports your goals accurately. Instead, focus on making every rep and step count, with clear intentions to do it right, not just for the sake of doing it. This not only helps you achieve your overall goals more efficiently, but it also helps cut down on potential injuries that a rushed set of squats might cause.
If scheduling has become hectic, set priorities and draw clear, non-negotiable lines between your training and other items on the to-do list. This isn’t to say you should skip your cousin’s wedding because you won’t have a chance to hit the gym that day, but find ways to work around your schedule, ensuring that quality training is a top priority.
Don’t Think of Resting as Being Lazy
Your “go-go-go” mentality can be a double-edged sword. It’s what keeps you going, refusing to quit until you’ve left it all on the field, court or lifting platform. Conversely, many athletes will assume that taking a day off for active recovery or just plain resting is being “lazy.”
In actuality, not giving your body adequate time to recover from the strain and stress you put on it could end up hurting you in the long run. With every workout, you’re breaking down your body. It’s through active recovery and REM sleep that your body repairs itself. So, if you find yourself skipping rest days in an effort to speed up progress, make it a habit to take rest as seriously as the workout.
Invest in Your Performance
While our goals are paid with the blood, sweat, tears and hard work we put into training, sometimes adequate training requires a financial investment. Whether it’s sessions with a professional trainer or a pair of advanced basketball shoes that could give you the speed edge you need on the hardwood, if it will genuinely support your overall goal, consider it an investment in your performance, not an expense.
Having a good habit is a powerful thing. Just like training regularly is a fantastic habit that many people envy, so are supporting habits that will propel you toward your goals. Consider how picking up new, better habits could impact your wellness. Once they stick, the results will come naturally.
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