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HOW TO IMPROVE SPORTS PERFORMANCE

The improvement of sports performance is a big thing to many. The fitness industry has thousands of products aimed at giving athletes the edge over their competitors. Influencers and famous athletes endorse programs, products, and behaviours, that they say will take a sportsperson to the next level. With all of this information, it can be tricky to navigate the path to improved performance. In this article we are going to look at five simple but effective ways you can improve your sporting performance, to achieve your sporting goals.

Nutrition

The first thing on our list is the most obvious, the food we use to fuel ourselves. Simple right? Well maybe not. The thing with nutrition is that different individuals have different needs. There’s no such thing as a universal sporting diet. Many factors make up an athlete’s nutrition needs. For example, athletes need to consider things like energy requirements, macro and micronutrient requirements, the number of meals, timing of meals, plant vs meat diets, etc. The list of factors is a long one.


A good solution for those struggling to know what to eat would be to visit a dietician. A dietician will be able to analyse your lifestyle, sporting needs, and current nutrition and then devise a recommended nutrition plan for you. They will likely ask you to keep a food journal and take regular measurements of your weight, as this will give them an understanding of your current nutritional intake.


Some people may feel unable to afford a sports nutritionist. This doesn’t mean they should give up on improving their diet. Another option for athletes is to research nutrition for themselves. A good option is to gain understanding through sources like Google Scholar and YouTube. However, take this approach cautiously and look for advice from nutrition professionals and educational sources. It can be very easy to believe everything we see on the internet, especially when the information is delivered from people we aspire to be like.

Watching film

A lot of improved sports performance focuses on physical improvement. Gaining that extra second of speed or squeezing out one more rep. This is by sports marketers to advertise their products as being essential for sporting growth. While this can be helpful, a simple way to improve is to analyse and improve your own technique. Whether it be exercise sports such as bodybuilding or technical sports such as gold, improved technique will add enormously to your sporting ability.


A good place to start is to watch successful athletes in your sport carry out the skills and techniques you are trying to improve on. This has two benefits. The first is that it gives a perfect model to try and emulate. The second is that it shows how a technique can be successful and when to use it. Especially when beginning a sporting journey, people can sometimes feel skeptical about the effectiveness of what they are being shown. By seeing professionals deploy these tactics and techniques, an athlete can see the success and also when the technique should be performed.

Once you have a good understanding of a technique and its application, the next step is to try and record yourself performing it. Sometimes when we perform a skill it feels perfect but doesn’t always get the desired result. By recording yourself you will be able to see the flaws in your technique and be able to correct them so that the action you are performing is more effective.

Sleep

With the world becoming more and more screen-based, a common problem is sleep. For many, night time routines consist of spending hours on their phone until they fall asleep. This means that more and more people, especially young people, are not getting enough sleep. This can have negative physical and mental effects on performance. Most obviously is the lack of energy a person will have after a bad night’s sleep. Especially for student-athletes that are still developing, it is recommended to get between 8-10 hours of sleep a night.


For those that struggle to sleep, a good way to improve on this is to create a night time routine. The first thing is to ensure that you are not eating close to when you sleep, as this can be disruptive. Another key aspect of a good sleep routine is to not use any screens close to sleep. This is because the blue light emitted keeps the brain stimulated. Instead of a screen try to read a book or use a guided meditation app or video to help yourself drift off to sleep.

Rest and recovery

The secret to success is practice, practice, practice. Or is it? Often, we think that the way to get better is to put as much time as humanly possible into improving. Sometimes what is not understood by athletes is that rest and recovery are vital to seeing improvement.


Muscles in the body need time to repair after they have been damaged by exercise. This is the adaptation of the body that causes us to become stronger and faster. As well as the physical, the mind also needs time away from the sport. This helps to avoid things like ‘burnout’, a form of mental fatigue that can affect athletes who practice daily for long periods of time.


It can be very challenging for athletes, especially at high levels to ensure they give themselves proper rest and recovery periods. A good strategy is to try and find a hobby or interest to distract yourself in your free time. You can also do what is known as ‘active’ recovery. This means an athlete is still recovering but doing something that satisfies their desire to be working on their sport. For example, you may do a stretching program or yoga session.

Visualisation

A lot of professional athletes use a mental strategy called visualisation. This is where an athlete will picture themselves doing everything surrounding their performance. This includes the day of the performance itself, getting to a location, going through a warm-up, and then anything that can happen during the performance itself. This allows an athlete to have already mentally lived what they are about to do. This can help to reduce competition anxiety, increase self-confidence and also provide motivation.


Visualisation aims to make use of all of a person’s senses. Imagine yourself experiencing the moment. What can you hear? What can you smell? What type of emotion are you feeling? You are really trying to live the moment and focus on the positive outcomes that will occur through your hard work and dedication.


Another tactic is to write a visualisation script, that positively talks you through a performance day. You should aim to read this every day leading up to a match or competition, including the day of the performance. You can ask a coach or teammate to help you write it to try and encompass all aspects of performance.


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