When you’re working hard to improve your skills in a sport or increase your strength, endurance, or agility, it can be difficult to take proper care of yourself. All of your energy is going towards improving on some aspect of your skills, and it’s counterintuitive at times to take a step back and check-in with yourself. Here are a few tips for doing effective self-care while performing at the top of your game.
1. Quality Sleep
You’ve probably heard it a million times, but one of the best ways you can take care of yourself, mind and body, is by ensuring that you get enough sleep every night. But the amount of sleep (hopefully seven to eight hours) isn’t the only thing that matters – you should also be ensuring that you get quality sleep. Things like looking at bright screens before bed, eating too late at night, and having an erratic sleep schedule can all contribute to poor quality of sleep.
To get better sleep, you should be establishing a good nighttime routine. First, you should be going to bed around the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning. This will help your body learn how to turn on the right cues for sleepiness and wakefulness. Do things around bedtime that help you relax, like applying a lavender-scented body cream, or listening to an audiobook. Getting quality sleep ensures that your mind and body can recover properly for the next day.
2. Warm-Up and Cool-Down
When you’re spending hours at the gym, on the field, or wherever you train, it can be difficult to work in the time for a proper warm-up and cool-down routine. But neglecting to do at least five minutes of preparation for a workout means that your muscles don’t have time to warm up and activate, meaning that you’re more likely to get injured or have an ineffective workout. Not cooling down afterward can lead to increased muscle soreness and can put your body under more stress than it can handle after a workout. Develop a quick routine and make sure you do it every time, no matter what.
3. Rest Days
For pro athletes of any kind, your active training time can be what you look forward to all day. You might love it so much that you’re tempted to just do it every day, seven days a week. But taking rest days is essential to letting your muscles recover and letting injuries or strains heal properly. A rest day can feel boring and might make you feel lazy, but every minute that you’re not training you should imagine your muscles knitting themselves back together. Light activities like walking, stretching, and foam rolling can all be great ways to spend a rest day. But don’t avoid laying on the couch if that’s what you think your body needs during recovery.
4. Food As Fuel
When you have a busy schedule and you’re taking hours for training, it can be difficult to feed yourself properly. But nutrition is just as important to your progress as any other part of your training routine. You should prioritize eating properly and getting enough food over other parts of your training schedule, if necessary. If the time aspect of preparing meals is what is preventing you from eating well, try doing some meal prep once or twice a week so you’ll have a few nutritious dishes ready to go in the fridge.
Keep some macro-balanced granola bars and canned soup on hand for when you need something quick on the go, and don’t turn your nose up at some of the healthy options in the frozen food aisle. Eating well can be tough, but eating instant ramen for dinner won’t help you become an elite athlete. Self-care isn’t just about soaking in a bathtub or lighting scented candles. It’s also about ensuring that your body is able to function properly, and using these tips will help you achieve that.
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