Many in the sports community see playing or working in the professional league(s) as the pinnacle of ones career. The idea of nice hotels, team travel and television cameos sometimes portrays the image that any/all needs are readily available.
I recently took a short break from the weekly emails (sign up here, if you haven't already) when that very opportunity was presented to me. The athletes, coaches and staff were all amazing people and created an enjoyable and energetic environment to learn and work in.
There were, however, some key lessons from that short-lived experience that are good for athletes of all ages, experience and competitive levels to keep in mind.
* It always comes back to the basics.
Whether you're referring to a sports skill (kicking, throwing, etc) or working out, the need to remind ourselves about proper technique and simple movements is endless. Younger athletes, especially, need to keep this in mind as it creates the foundation on which your future strength and power will depend upon. Overlook the basics and you could look at years of poor technique or habits to break before building back up. Focus on them early and you can significantly improve your movement efficiency while potentially reducing your risk of injuries.
* Even the best have to make the difficult decisions.
Whether that's getting up at 5am or opting out of the social night to get plenty of recovery. The best athletes of any sport face the same challenges many of us do. The difference? They maintain the discipline to keep their priorities front of mind.
* The best athletes have the same temptations.
I was shocked on my first visit to one of the Olympic Training Centers to find so many undesirable options available for top level athletes. Sugar-filled cereals, endless ice cream and hundreds of sweetened beverages (among other things) were available constantly. The professional athletes require the same level of self-awareness and discipline to remember the ultimate goal and stay on track with their performance plan.
* Train for what you need, not for what you want.
Returning from injury is as much a mental struggle as it is a physical one. It is always critical to remember "What's Important Now?" (W.I.N) and consider what is needed to get me back in the game as quickly as possible. Sometimes that may mean using no, or significantly less, weight than usual. Or even taking an extra day to rest when you just want to get back out on the field/court.
* No excuses. Find a way.
While television may make pro sports look like glitz and glamour, behind the scenes can look a lot different. Operating budgets, training facilities and other amenities are not always world class. Some professionals may still train out of big box gyms, city parks and drive themselves to the game (not get dropped off in limos or chartered jets). That being said, they work within the means they've been given and make the most of every opportunity to get better. No catered meals? They learn to cook and prepare their own food. The only squat rack in the gym is out of order? They find the next best exercise to help them get stronger and stay on track.
In short, this experience reminded me of one major theme: It's all about the environment you create for yourself.
Want to know how you can maximize your routine and environment? Send me an email with "DTE" in the subject line.