Five “Little” Things That Make A Big Difference
The samurai used to warn people to beware of those that could take care of the “little” things in life. We all recognize that to survive, food, exercise and recovery are important, but rarely we pay the proper attention to them. Experience has taught me that the difference between an ordinary and extraordinary athlete is just the “extra” attention that has been paid to the little things. Unfortunately, this concept of the “extra” is often confused with “expendable.”
In particular, I have noticed five areas of training which athletes view as expendable. The following list is to make sure that you don’t make the same mistake:
1. Warm Up. If your warm up is simply a light first set of whatever exercise that began your workout, or a ten-minute walk on the treadmill, you are skipping a vital part of your training. A proper warmup will increase blood flow, stimulate the nervous system, improve reaction, increase strength and most importantly prevent potential injury. Action Step: Add a 15 minute warmup routine before every workout that has your heart rate up and your first sweat cracked.
2. Eat Post-Workout. After a vigorous workout, your body is starving for the most important meal of the day: the post-workout meal. If you are not taking in quality carbohydrates and protein immediately following your workout, you are increasing the chances of muscle damage and decreased gains. A shake is a great form of post-workout meal because the liquid is quickly digested by the body to halt breakdown. Today there are many excellent products on the market. Action Step: Have a post-workout shake within 15 minutes following a workout.
3. Stretch. Stretching has gained a bad rap lately. Maybe it is because people are too lazy or too pressed for time, but there are important areas of the body to keep flexible. In addition to improving range of motion, stretching following a workout can also help to decrease heart rate and relax the nervous system. If you don’t want to spend too long stretching, make sure to focus at least on the ankles, hamstrings, hip flexors and gluteal muscles. Action step: Perform 10 minutes of light stretching following each workout.
4. Drink Water. Come on, I know you have heard this one. The question is, do you REALLY drink 6-8 glasses of water a day? If not, you are leaving both your muscles and brain dehydrated and have again increased your chances for injury. In addition to water being important for performance, I have noticed another important side-benefit of sticking with water. Increased water intake also leaves my athletes leaner and gives them an easier time to make weight. Action step: Start with at least 6 glasses of water a day and cut the sugary or diet sport and or energy drinks.
5. Sleep. One third of your life is to be spent sleeping. This may sound like wasted time, but sleep is one of the basic necessities of life. An inadequate sleep environment and poor sleep habits will not just cause your fighting to suffer, but also your job, relationships and overall health as well. Both the quantity and quality of sleep can be related to health problems like obesity, hypertension and cardiovascular problems. In addition to these, poor sleep can also be related to decreased IQ, mood swings, and decreased production at work. To make these matters worse, if you aren’t getting enough restful sleep your body will have reduced ability for muscle repair, immune system response, memory consolidation, and the proper release of hormones like growth hormone and insulin. Action step: Turn off the phone, the computer, the T.V., the lights and get 8-9 hours of sleep a night.
The list above may seem like common sense. In training, however, common sense is not always common. My challenge to you is not to comprehend the list, but if you have the discipline to execute the action steps. Champions, like the samurai, eventually come to realize that there are no little things. Take these five tips to heart, and you will see that the big things in life will be easier to attain as a result.