If someone asked you to explain what makes a professional athlete different from an average person who is doing their best to stay fit, what would you say? If you’re like most people, you might list unusual advantages like luck, opportunity, and great genetics. You might even be right, to some extent, but you’d also be missing a very important part of the equation.
The differences between professional athletes and the rest of us starts within. Excelling at a sport requires fortitude, dedication, and an iron-willed determination to succeed. It also calls for unflinching consistency. Most of us will never live like our favorite professional athletes, but we can reach our full fitness potential by adopting some of their habits for our own. The following are some excellent examples to help inspire you.
THEY REMAIN DEDICATED TO THEIR FITNESS GOALS.
Professional athletes don’t just set vague goals for themselves and hope for the best. They have a habit of setting quantifiable, measurable goals and making detailed plans as to how they’re going to reach them. Then they refuse to let anything take priority over what they’re looking to achieve.
Don’t just say “I want to lose weight.” Say “I want to lose 50 pounds by this time next year.” Then sit down and put together a detailed but realistic meal plan and workout regimen that will get you there if you stick with it. Decide it’s important enough to you to make it your number-one priority, no matter what.
THEY ENLIST THE AID OF COACHES AND TRAINERS.
While professional athletes definitely work hard at their sport of choice, they don’tattempt to tackle monumental goals all on their own. They have coaches, trainers, nutritionists, and more in their corner who are also 100% dedicated to their success.
Consider doing something similar by hiring a personal trainer or a nutritionist to help you meet your own goals. They can help you take the guesswork out of putting together meal plans and fitness regimens that will yield the results you seek. They can also help you make sure you stay on track and stay focused in all the right ways.
If you already go to a gym, you very likely already have access to fantastic trainers who can help you get where you’d like to be. Alternatively, you can hire a private trainer to work with you at home or in another setting of your choice. It’s all up to you!
THEY FOLLOW STRUCTURED PROGRAMS.
Professional athletes aren’t just really diligent about working out. They follow balanced, structured training programs that ensure they continue to improve and become perpetually better at what they do. You can reap some of the same impressive benefits if you make a commitment to doing the same.
Structured programs don’t just focus on areas where you’re strong. They help you improve in areas where you’re weak, as well as lower your risk of injury. The right program can help even a less gifted athlete compete on a much higher level and blast through obstacles they otherwise wouldn’t be able to conquer. It can do the same for you.
THEY MAKE IT A POINT TO GET ENOUGH SLEEP.
If you’re like most, you probably know at least a couple of people who like to brag about how little sleep they get. Some people like to think they’re somehow overcoming their bodies’ natural needs and limitations in the name of success when they’re actually doing the opposite. Athletes think very differently.
No one can expect their bodies to perform at their best on only two or three hours of sleep, least of all athletes. That said, sleep is essential when it comes to properly recovering from workouts, repairing damage, resetting important hormone imbalances, and staying energized. The more intense your training, the more important rest becomes.
Athletes adopt the same regimented, consistent approach toward sleep that they do toward their other training. They go to bed and wake up at the same specific times every day without exception. They understand that adequate sleep is critical to their overall success, and they treat it that way.
THEY UNDERSTAND THAT THEY ARE WHAT THEY EAT.
Athletes understand that what you get out of your body has everything to do with what you put into it. Athletes’ eating habits and approach to nutrition can have a monumental effect on how effective their training will ultimately be. Consistently eating the right nutrients in the ideal amounts ensures the body has everything it needs to keep energy levels high, maximize intensity, and recover properly from the activity.
That said, one of the best things you can do to conquer your fitness goals this year is to get serious about meal planning and sports nutrition. Good pre-workout snacks include foods like whole grains and lean protein to give you the energy you need to kill it at the gym. It’s important to replenish energy stores and support efficient muscle repair afteryou’re done working out, as well.
THINK LIKE WINNERS.
Whether you’re talking about a professional athlete or that one guy you know who consistently nails every workout at the gym, there’s something fundamentally different about the way those people think. They’re confident people who simply take it for granted they have what it takes to reach their goals. In other words, they think like winners.
Everyone experiences setbacks and moments that are less than ideal. Don’t see those moments as mistakes, embarrassments, or—worse yet—reasons to quit. See them the way athletes do—as learning experiences that can teach you something valuable. The mind is a powerful tool that’s not to be underestimated. Thinking and acting as if failure isn’t even an option can change everything about how well you perform.
THEY KNOW HOW TO HANDLE DISTRACTIONS.
Lots of people make New Year’s resolutions or start the process of working toward a fitness goal. Every last one of those people is motivated and excited about that process in the beginning. Then life starts happening. You wind up skipping a workout or two because things get hectic at work or you’ve got a lot going on at home. Or maybe you make it to the gym only to become frustrated by the crowds, the noise, or the fact that you have a lot on your mind that day.
The fact of the matter is there will always be distractions to deal with when it comes to your fitness routine. There will always be work days that run long, issues at home to handle, and so many other things that can get in the way if we let them. The key is to think like an athlete and block distractions from your mind completely. Sure, it’ll be easier said than done at first, but focus is definitely a skill that can be learned with practice and persistence.
THEY DON’T SHORTCHANGE THEIR BODIES WHEN IT COMES TO RECOVERY.
As touched on above, it’s not just what you do in the gym that counts when it comes to being fit. How you treat your body when your workout is finished is just as important. Professional athletes know that the more grueling a workout, the more important it becomes to end your session with a cool-down period.
After a seriously challenging workout, tired muscles really need a good stretch afterward. Cool-downs are also the best way to ease your muscles back into their resting state, prevent post-workout discomfort, and help you mentally transition out of “beast mode” as well. Try taking a page out of your favorite athlete’s book and ending your workouts with a stretching session or some foam rolling exercises.
THEY PUT THEIR MINDS INTO THEIR TRAINING, AS OPPOSED TO JUST THEIR BODIES.
If you’ve ever taken an aerobics class, spent some time in a CrossFit box, or done anything else that finds you training in the company of others, you may have noticed something. The people who consistently give their workouts 110% are almost always the same people who wind up sticking with the program over the long haul. Naturally, they wind up seeing the best results as well.
Those folks have something very important in common with all of your favorite professional athletes. They understand that while consistency is definitely important, success is about more than just showing up on time every day and getting all the way through your workouts. It’s not enough to simply be physically present.
If you’re not mentally present as well, you run the risk of slacking off or otherwise underperforming, possibly without even knowing it. Professional athletes push themselves all the time and every time.
THEY ALWAYS TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR CHOICES.
Whether you’re planning on becoming a serious athlete yourself one day or simply want to become the best possible version of yourself this year, learning to accept responsibility for your actions and choices is key. A professional athlete understands that taking control of one’s life and accepting responsibility for his or her own destiny factors heavily into their success.
At the end of the day, your victory isn’t ultimately determined by whether or not there are obstacles and setbacks between you and your ultimate goal. It’s all about how you handle them. No, it’s not your fault if life hasn’t been as easy for you as you’d like. It is, however, an invitation toovercome those challenges, make the most of them, and persevere if you’re serious about reaching your goals.
THEY SURROUND THEMSELVES WITH TRUE TEAMMATES.
While it’s definitely possible to transform yourself into a fitness champion all by yourself, the process goes a lot more smoothly with the support of the right people. Successful professional athletes are fantasticwhen it comes to working in a group setting. In fact, most prefer it even when it comes to their off-season training. The reason why is simple. When you’re surrounded by people that want to see you succeed, it’s impossible not to feel pumped up and motivated.
Surround yourself with like-minded people who see fitness as the same top priority you do. Ideally, they should be folks that can help you meet your goals, keep you motivated when the going gets tough, and who sincerely want to see your dreams come true for you. Think fitness classes, online exercise communities, and team-oriented options like CrossFit!
MAKE SACRIFICES AND DO WHAT IT TAKES TO SUCCEED.
Think about the last time you scored a really big win in life. It can be anything from finally landing your dream job, to earning a degree, to raising a wonderful family. Now think about the things you willingly sacrificed along the way because achieving that goal was infinitely more important to you. If you’re like most people, you could make a pretty long list!
Every last one of us has the same 24 hours to work with every day. That’s really not as much time as it sounds like, so saying yes to one thing almost always means saying no to something else. Any professional athlete can tell you that fitness is no exception. They don’t fall back on easy excuses like “I don’t have time.” They makethe time, and then make the most ofthat time.
Now think about your achievements in life. You madethe time to raise your kids right, possibly even sacrificing a career that was important to you. And that dream job or degree was likely the result of numerous evenings, weekends, and early mornings spent hard at work instead of sleeping in or hanging out with friends. That fit body and brand-new lease on life you’re seeking has a lot in common with those things. Make it your number-one priority today, and you’ll be virtually unstoppable!