5 Steps to Becoming a Better Athlete

Patrick Dunham's picture
By Patrick Dunham on January 4, 2017

Not too long ago, most people stopped being athletes during their teenage years or soon after college. Some athletes would go on to compete professionally, but that was very rare. However, today’s modern athletes are breaking that traditional mold. Now there are a number of types of athletes who are working professionals who also pursue their athletic goals and dreams. No matter the sport or the goal, the recipe for improving and success is very similar.

1. Write Your Sport Goals Down
Want to improve your half-marathon time, deadlift more weight or earn a championship win? It does not matter exactly what your goal is, what is important is how you plan on achieving it. By writing it down, you can revisit that goal in the future, either as a reminder of what you need to do to achieve it or as a motivator to get it done!

2. Eat Right!
Just because you might work out more than the average person does not mean that you can forgo healthy eating habits and gorge on junk food. You have to eat right. I am always weary of diets, templates and other cookie-cutter food plans. Take some time to do your research and look up credible, educated and scientific sources for advice. Avoid the fly-by-night food blog!

If you want legitimate one-on-one nutrition counseling, seek out a registered dietitian. Registered dietitians hold at least a bachelor’s degree or higher in an accredited nutrition and dietetics program, and they are also required to pass a national exam and most will have supervised practice experience in various health care settings. They can safely advise you about your nutritional needs based on your health, medical conditions and athletic goals.

3. Train the Basics
Successful athletes and coaches will agree that you are never too good to practice the basics for your sport. Quarterbacks and pitchers still warm up their arms with basic throws before games, runners practice their stride and pace and martial artists practice their footwork, body positioning and drills.

A good way to work it into your routine is to start and finish your training session with those basics. Make an effort to take five minutes before and after training to put it into practice.

4. Visualization
In sports psychology terms, visualization or imagery involves using all of the senses to create or recreate an experience in the mind. This is a powerful tool that can help to identify what you did incorrectly in previous performances and how you will fix it in the future.

Another benefit of visualization is that you can go through many different competition scenarios in your mind, creating different sequences and reactions in regards to performance. It may be easier to start visualizing your performance in general situations to start, becoming more and more detailed as you learn to put your visualizations to work on the field.

5. Cross-Train
Having a strong base in your sport is very important, but so is cross-training. Cross-training can help promote recovery, improve your overall fitness and ward off injury. A good place to start with cross-training is by working on several components of fitness, such as strength, aerobic endurance, muscular endurance, speed, balance, flexibility and agility.

And don’t forget to believe in yourself. Good luck to all of the weekend warriors and hard-core athletes as you pursue your goals this year!