Tips for the 'everyday athlete'
Tips for the ‘everyday athlete’
Just because you might not represent Australia at the Olympics does not mean that you can’t treat yourself like an athlete. It does depend on your goal and HOW much you want to take your training and nutrition seriously, however there are some tips, which you can implement to optimise your training, nutrition and recovery.
1. Focus on the BIG ROCKS first. Don’t get all swept up into nutrition timing or trying to figure out how many grams of protein to be having after a workout. Aim to look at your lifestyle first. Are you getting 7-8 hours sleep? And if it’s a yes, is it quality sleep? Do you spend 1 hour on your phone prior to going to sleep, which may affect the quality because your brain is being aroused by the blue bright lights? How about water? Are you getting around 2 Litres? And stress? Are you stressed at work for ~8 hours everyday, then need to have a few glasses of wine every afternoon to de-stress? All of these things can be looked at OVER TIME to gradually improve your environment. Then, you can dial in on more specific protocols such as potentially macronutrient tracking, nutrient timing or supplements. These are more advanced however and could be utilised after getting the foundation correct first (movement and nutrition).
2. Give yourself adequate recovery days. If your goal is to grow your muscles or improve your performance, you NEED to be having adequate rest periods. When you are resting is when your body has the time to repair and heal. When you are exercising (especially with any weights or resistance exercise, you are ‘tearing’ your muscles and it is only in the recovery stage where you will make your progress. Now, the amount of time to allow for rest will be more Individualised, however, a good place to start is 5 days of training and 1-2 days of rest. On your rest days you could go for a light walk, swim, yoga or stretching / foam rolling as this will help with your recovery. Aim to treat your rest day like a training session. Program it in to your training and stay consistent with it.
3. Optimise your sleep! I’m sure you have heard that the sweet spot for sleep is around 7-8 hours, but how is the QUALITY of your sleep? It is really important to be setting up your ‘optimal sleep environment’. Ideally, no television, mobile phones or laptops just prior to sleep. The reason for this is not because it’s ‘bad’, but because it can affect your sleep quality. The blue lights emitted from laptops and technology can keep the brain aroused and in the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight). We want to be nourishing the parasympathetic system, which is out ‘rest and digest’ system to get ready for a deep and restorative sleep. Other ways to assist with getting in to the parasympathetic system is to use sounds and smells. This could be as simple as playing some soothing music while getting ready for bed or using an oil diffuser with lavender or other calming scents. This might sound a bit ‘extra’ or over the top, however, if you struggle with having a deep sleep then I invite you to try a few of these strategies.
4. Seek help from professionals. Just because you aren’t a sponsored elite athlete, it doesn’t mean you can’t get advice (or don’t deserve advice from professionals). This may include physiologists, remedial massage professionals, Dietitians (**waves**) or personal trainers. They will be able to give you advice that suits your individuals needs so don’t shy away from asking the questions. And remember, MOST people I know in the health and fitness industry are there to help you and do the best for you. There are no silly questions and you should never feel intimidated or scared to seek help. You should see this as an opportunity and investment in you and your health. Just make sure you do your research with WHOM you see. If they have an social media page, look at the reviews and make sure their values align with yours.
5. Your nutrition IS important. This is again very dependent on your goals. If you like to exercise a few days of the week for some social interaction and not too worried about hitting any goals, then you probably don’t need to focus 110% on your nutrition. If you are training hard and determined to hit a goal (whether this is actual physical lifting amount or reaching a certain body fat %, you probably need to invest some more time into proper nutrition. This might mean that you need to say no to a few foods at social events or extra drinks every weekend. Mainly because this will affect how well your body can recover from training and also might bump you over the amount of calories you should be aiming for in the day. If you were doing this consistently then this is a lot of ‘extra’ calories. You have probably heard the saying ‘you can’t out-exercise a bad diet’. Your nutrition is very important as it affects your overall gut health, your mental and your physical health.
6. Don’t forget to hydrate! Aim for ~2L per day (more if you are exercising). Typical Dietitian talk: but if your urine is clear then this means you are adequately hydrated. Hydration can affect your body’s ability to recover and repair.