You have to do the work. Whether it’s in the gym, on the field, court, ring, track or in the pool, if you want to be great and succeed as an athlete there is simply no substitute for showing up and consistently putting in work.
But what if you are already putting in the work?
There comes a point where you simply can’t squeeze any more work into the week, and nor should you want to, sleep, rest, and recovery are vital parts of the routine for your body to regenerate and for the nervous system to lock down new skills and qualities.
These five hacks are part of the invisible.
The work that is done in the behind the scenes while no one is watching.
Nothing sexy. Not very exciting. But they work.
Make these regulars in your routine and they will have a profound positive effect on your body and mind; boosting energy, increasing skill and focus, reduce soreness and cutting down your injury and illness risk allowing you to squeeze every last drop out of your training schedule.
They don’t cost much (if anything), you can do them basically anywhere, and they each take less than ten minutes to do
Ignore these at your own peril.
“If you told an athlete you had a treatment that would reduce the chemicals associated with stress, that would naturally increase human growth hormone, that enhances recovery rate, that improves performance, they would all do it.
Sleep does all those things.
- Casey Smith, Head Athletic Trainer, Dallas Mavericks
The stats and science are pretty clear-cut here. Get enough (8-9 hours a night) and you can expect to be stronger, fitter, faster, more focused, accurate and have a sharper reaction time. Skimp on the time between the sheets and look forward to more basic mistakes, more injuries, less muscle mass and more body fat.
We have talked about sleep heaps. That's because it matters so much.
Prevention is a gazzilion times easier/better/more effective than treatment.
While not every injury is avoidable there is plenty you can do on a daily and weekly basis to prevent and significantly reduce your risk of getting injured.
And it starts with a proper warm-up and cool-down.
There are plenty of fancy, exciting training ideas on Instagram and YouTube that get plenty of airtime, but the truth is for most athletes (elite, domestic, backyard legends) the fundamentals are key.
Regular (by regular we mean daily) foam rolling, stretching, trigger point work, glute, rotator cuff, and core activation is the smartest ten-minute spend you can make to your athletic future every day.
We find the best times are before and after training and competition or while watching TV before bed.
Water goes hand in hand with point #1, sleep.
Get enough and everything goes well, not enough (and it only has to be 2% drop in hydration for as much as a 10% drop in performance) and your blood thickens, brain function and decision making slows down, muscles get weaker and your heart and lungs have to work so much harder pumping oxygen.
For high-intensity, long duration sessions, or in hot conditions, sports drinks (electrolytes and sugar) might be of some use. Be wary though most sports drinks are too concentrated so dilute it down to half strength.
This video we talk about the best pre-, during-, and post-exercise nutrition and hydration strategies
Protein isn’t just for bulging muscles. It plays a vital role in your immune system, hormone and neurotransmitter production, enzymes (the things in our body that do the stuff that makes us alive, digesting our food, giving muscles energy, repairing injuries etc).
On top of that protein is also part of your hair, skin, nails, tendons, ligaments and even your bones (fun fact: there is more protein in your bone than there is calcium!).
As a ballpark figure, you should be eating a minimum of one gram of protein for every gram of body weight (80g of protein for an 80kg person). The harder you train, the more you are growing the more you should be eating!
And lastly, meat isn’t the only place you can find protein. Nuts, seeds, legumes, beans, dairy, eggs, soy (tofu), protein powder, are all great additions to meat in your diet.
Check out our article and video to learn about all things protein shakes, sources and why it's so awesome
This might seem a little airy-fairy but stick with us on this one.
Elite athletes from virtually every sport are now using it to improve skills, calm nerves and perform better when it matters most.
Visualisation is the deliberate and controlled imagination of events or actions before they happen. Visualisation can be done anywhere, anytime and can involve sitting or lying in a quiet place alone or while miming sports actions.
Try doing 5 minutes of a "walk-through" of some key scenarios or skills you may have to execute in the upcoming competition or training session, but be sure to follow these key points when visualising:
- Keep it positive.
Visualise and 'feel' what a good outcome is like, the swish of the net, roar of the crowd, feeling of your foot/club/bat as it connects sweetly with the ball.
- Quality matters.
The more senses you can engage the better, let yourself be immersed in the experience, the closer it can come to a full body experience the better. The best visualisation should feel like a vivid, controlled dream sequence. Paint every detail inside your head, if that means you have to mime out the actions as well that's fine
- Practice makes better.
The more often you can practice visualisation the better, try and do 2-3 minutes of visualisation before every practice to improve your visualisation for when it matters most.
It can be tricky to draw up good visualisations at first but like everything in sport the more you practice the better you get and the more you can cash in on this clever mind trick.
There you have it. five of the easiest things you can start doing right now, that take basically no time or effort to work into your routine. You may experience some instant improvements (if you are chronically dehydrated or sleep deprived for example) but more than likely the effects will be a slow burn.
A few weeks to months from now though you will notice better focus, fitness, strength and reaction time, Less soreness, illness, and injuries.