Training Tips for Athletes
If you're an athlete, these tips can help you stay healthy and on top of your game.
By Jenilee Matz, MPH, Staff Writer
Whether your goal is to gain a leg up on the competition or just achieve a personal best, you must be mindful of your training. Athletes are prone to injury and have special needs.
Am I an athlete?
An athlete is anyone who plays a sport. It can be a team sport like soccer or basketball, or an individual sport like running or golf.
Competitive athletes may have different goals than people who exercise to lose weight or to stay fit. Their goal may be to win, to stay in shape, or to simply have fun.
To excel in their sport, some athletes train longer and harder than their body can handle. This can lead to injuries or health threats like dehydration. Athletes must take special precautions to stay healthy during training and competition.
Training tips for athletes of all kinds
Always check with your doctor first before increasing your activity level. Try these tips to help you stay healthy and on top of your game:
- Stay hydrated. Drink enough water to replace the fluids you lose through sweat when you exercise. Not only is dehydration risky to your health, but even slight dehydration can hurt your performance.
Note that drinking too much water can cause a rare condition called hyponatremia, which is marked by low sodium levels. This rare condition usually only happens to people who are exercising for a long period of time, such as a marathon runner. If you workout hard for 1 hour or longer, consider drinking a sports beverage during exercise instead of just water. Sports drinks replace needed electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium.
- Do not train in pain. If you get hurt, stop training and see your doctor. Trying to train through the pain could lead to a worse injury that will take longer to heal.
- Don't do too much, too soon. Training longer and harder is not the best way to build up strength. "Off" days are equally as important as training days because they allow your muscles to rebuild. Over-training can lead to poor performance and injury. A good rule of thumb is to increase how much training you do by no more than 10 percent each week.
- Have proper nutrition. Refueling after a workout helps rebuild muscles and replenish glycogen stores. Some experts recommend eating both protein and carbohydrates within 1 hour of finishing a training session. Simple snacks like low-fat or nonfat yogurt and a banana, cereal with low-fat or nonfat milk, or trail mix are good choices.
- Get plenty of rest. Rest gives the body time to heal and recover from training sessions. A regular sleep schedule will also help your mind focus on training and focus better during competition, too.
- Cross-train. Cross-training means doing a physical activity other than your sport. For a basketball player, this could mean swimming. A long-distance runner may do cycling. Cross-training helps athletes by keeping the whole body fit. It helps strengthen muscles not normally used, which may lead to fewer injuries. Cross-training also can help build stronger bones and increase overall flexibility and endurance.