I have considered myself an athlete since I joined the varsity tennis team in high school. That was about 8 years ago now, and I still consider myself an athlete, but the big difference now is how I define being an athlete. I used to think being an athlete just meant playing a sport competitively and being "athletic." Well now I'm older and wiser, and I know that being an athlete is something that becomes a part of all aspects of your life, and comes to help define who you are as a person.
I have learned a lot over my time as an athlete, from many places including; friends, family, teammates, books and the Internet. There are some ideas that seem to be constants when it comes to athletics, in that they are mentioned by all of the sources I just listed and more.
After I gave this fact more thought, I decided maybe these are the keys to athletic success. By athletic success I don't mean only bodybuilding, I feel these can apply to any athlete in any sport, and many of them can apply to anyone in general.
Here is a list of my top 10, and a short description of each. In no particular order:
Top 10 Keys To Athletic Success
This in my opinion is the hardest part of being a successful athlete. Without mental discipline you will never be able to reach your goals as an athlete. The fact that there's a
whole segment of Bodybuilding.com dedicated to the mind, is really no surprise. Having the correct mindset all begins with deciding for yourself that you are an athlete, and believing in yourself.
A lot of people may give you a weird look when you refer to yourself as an athlete, I'm a tall skinny guy, and I've dealt with this for years. It's important to stay focused and not be distracted by negative outside influences. For me one of the best things about being an athlete is surprising people and proving people wrong.
2. Set Goals:
This is a large part of creating the correct mindset, and could have probably been placed as a sub section of that key. However I feel it is important enough to warrant its own section. Goals are important when it comes to staying motivated, and having a sense of accomplishment.
A goal can be something as simple as losing 5 pounds in 1 month, or as detailed as transforming your entire body and changing your life. The important thing to remember is to set realistic goals that are within your ability to achieve. Too often I've seen people set unrealistic goals, and give up frustrated, blaming their failure on a variety of excuses, don't let this happen to you.
3. Weight Training:
Everyone can benefit from weight training, not only athletes. However for athletes, a consistent and focused
workout program is absolute necessity. I'm not sure about you, but I feel much better in general when I've been lifting weights consistently. You may have noticed that I mentioned consistency twice already, and I believe that is the most important part of this key.
Find a workout that works for you and stick with it. You don't have to be a bodybuilder to lift weights, I'm tired of hearing people say: "I don't want to lift weights, because I'll get all scary and too muscular."
4. Diet & Nutrition:
More than anything this is mentioned in all the fitness research I have done. The standard answer seems to be that being fit is really 60% diet and 40% exercise. I'm not really sure if I agree with that since that statement doesn't take the mind into account. I am sure however, that a balanced diet is key when it comes having the energy it takes to be an athlete.
Another reoccurring theme when it comes to bodybuilding is adequate protein intake; the universal answer here is 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.
Personally I highly recommend taking a multivitamin daily as well. Another standard seems to be 4-6 meals a day, instead of the 3 large meals you probably grew up with.
I would hope that this would be obvious;
water is pretty important as far as living in general it's second only to oxygen. A large percentage of your body is water, so it should follow by logic that if you plan on building your body, you should be drinking a lot of water. Just how much?
Is the next question, the recommendation for a non-athlete is about 64 ounces a day. All of the articles I've read involving water intake seem to use the baseline of 1 - 1.5 gallons a day or 1-3 ounces of water per pound of body weight.
All people can benefit from drinking more water, but for an athlete staying adequately hydrated is essential. Oh yeah, and water means water, this does not include soft drinks, iced tea, etc? you can drink those things as well, as long as you're drinking enough water along with them.
I'm sure we've all heard the standard answer that the average adult needs 8 hours of sleep a night, to function normally and feel well rested. Well this certainly holds true, but rest is more than simply getting enough sleep every night. Another key to rest, is having adequate rest time between workouts, this is why a lot of people tend to split up their workout over the course of the week, focusing on specific body parts each day.
All of my experience and research has said that muscles grow during rest time not while you're in the gym, so by not getting enough rest you'll be cheating yourself out of progress.
Cardiovascular training is another one of those things that anyone can benefit from. For an athlete it is important for burning fat, increasing endurance and improving your overall cardiovascular health. Personally I recommend doing cardio at least two days a week, for 15-30 minutes at a time.
The most important thing when it comes to cardio is to pick a time and intensity that fits your needs, and that you are comfortable with. In my experience it's best to start out with a short period of time, say 10 minutes and add 5 minutes every 2 weeks till you get up to a solid 30 minutes. Unless you're training to run a marathon, a cardio session more than 30 minutes in length isn't really necessary.
8. Track Your Progress:
Tracking your progress is great when it comes to meeting goals and staying motivated. The most common way to track your progress is to keep a log. I find it easiest to make a log based on the goals that you have set, since every athlete has different goals a standard training log may not apply to your situation easily.
I find that simplicity is the key when it comes to a log, anything to complicated or time consuming is likely to be abandoned in a short amount of time.
Another way to track your progress is to take pictures; I got this idea by looking at the transformations posted on Bodybuilding.com. It's easy to look in the mirror and think you're seeing a difference, but photos take all the guesswork out. I generally take a photo after each month of training.
Last but not least here, I'd like to urge you not to live and die by the numbers on the scale. Checking your weight once a week is a good idea, but becoming obsessed with it can easily have detrimental effects on your motivation, mindset and overall progress.
9. Mix Things Up:
The universal term that applies here is cross training. No athlete should only practice and compete solely in their sport. Different sports and exercises work your muscles in different ways, and this is the key to maximizing your progress. When it comes to weight lifting try and change exercises or the order you do them in every four weeks.
Muscles have memory and will stop growing if they perform the same movements for an extended period of time. Also be sure and increase the amount of weight you lift on a regular basis. Changing the type of cardio you perform is also a good idea as well. I find that changing your workouts keeps them fresh, and interesting, your worst enemy is getting bored and losing motivation.
10. Never Stop Learning:
Chances are if you're reading this article you spend least some time reading about fitness. However reading
articles is really only one way to learn about fitness and athleticism. You can also watch videos or TV, read books, goes to conventions, talk to other athletes, go to sporting events and visit
bulletin boards, while always trying to keep an open mind. There is always more to learn when it comes to anything, and the same is true of athleticism.
There you have it the 10 things that I find most important when it comes to being a successful athlete. There are a lot of other things that are important as well, but these are things that an athlete in any sport should consider and make part of their lifestyle.
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