Athletes are always looking for an edge on the competition, but how do those at the absolute elite levels of sport do it?
It’s not always about training harder, or faster, or longer. The key is to train smarter. Here are three of the tools elite athletes use to perform at their absolute best.
It’s common knowledge most humans need between seven to nine hours of sleep to perform at peak levels, but just how important is that figure? Well, a 2012 study found athletes who slept for at least eight hours were a whopping 68 percent less likely to suffer injuries than those who regularly got fewer than eight hours. A 2011 study found college basketball players who aimed for 10 hours sleep each night sprinted faster, reacted faster, and drained more three-pointers then those who didn’t. Maybe that’s Steph Curry’s secret!
But believe it or not, the humble nanna nap can also help improve performance. The Sydney Swans installed two sleep pods at the Sydney Cricket Ground for players to get in a power nap of up to 25 minutes, allowing them to mentally and physically recharge in between training sessions. Students at Hiroshima University performed better and had more self-confidence after arvo naps than their peers who didn’t. Confidence is a trait many of the all-time great sports stars have in common, after all.
An intense fitness regime can take a toll on your body. That’s why it’s important to incorporate recovery into your routine. Having a designated rest day is crucial, as training too hard and too often will not only stall your progress, but reverse it.
Many elite athletes opt for treatments such as ice baths, cryotherapy, cupping, acupuncture, hyperbaric chamber therapy and massages as a way of helping their bodies recover. Athletes and bodybuilders will also use supplements. Creatine can help you train at a higher intensity and build muscle faster, branched-chain amino acids can help you recover faster, and protein powders are a staple of many diets.
You can also help your bones and joints bounce back with products such as Collagenix Joints – a joint specific collagen chewable with added vitamin C, which helps maintain health joints.
3. MENTAL TRAINING
We’ve been over the physical aspects of training, but many elite athletes take it to the next level by training their mind. Australian cricketing legend and current national coach, Justin Langer, made silent meditation a part of his daily routine long ago. He does 20 minutes in the morning and evening to help cleanse his mind, increase his concentration and improve his mood, a practice backed up by plenty of research.
Visualisation is another technique popular with those striving to be the very best in their field, like 23-time Olympic gold medal winning swimmer Michael Phelps. It sounds kooky; his coach Bob Bowman instructed Phelps to watch a “mental videotape” of his races after waking in the morning and again before going to sleep at night – every aspect of a successful race from start to finish (including celebrations) to form winning habits. Hey, if it’s good enough for the greatest swimmer of all time, it’s good enough for us.