by Kathy Rogers NSCA-CPT
What are the 3 most important habits of highly successful athletes? There are so many good practices that improve performance… how can we choose just 3? What makes anyone successful? What defines an athlete? Well, let’s say an athlete is anyone that has fitness as a focus of their life. With that in mind, whether we’re talking about an elite athlete competitive in their sport or Grandma Jo crushing it at water aerobics, successful athletes have these (and quite a few other) things in common:
1. A Little Less Talk, a Lot More Action
One key to success is consistency, and this happens when you switch the focus from outcomes to actions. Yes, the outcome is the end goal, whether that goal is to win an Olympic trial or lose 15lbs, but the magic happens in the action. The action, constant motion, sustained improvement, happens in the steps taken every day to get to that final goal. This requires dedication. Many people fall short on motivation when the going gets tough. When they move their focus from motivation to dedication, when their purpose is clear, action doesn’t require motivation. It becomes the only choice. The cause is greater than what motivation requires. When dedicated athletes take a step back and focus on the quality of their action steps, they become successful.
2. Sleep is Recovery
Recovery is a necessary part of the process, without it we wouldn’t improve. Most authorities on sleep recommend 7-8 hours per night for healthy adults (1). For athletes, this is crucial for athletic performance (2), and they may need more sleep than the average person to stay healthy. Just as we schedule other priorities into our day, we may also need to schedule sleep in as a top priority. It’s health AND performance. Many top athletes schedule nap time right into their calendar. For athletes that suffer from insomnia (nothing worse than race day excitement to set that off), nothing beats a quality night’s sleep, but scheduling resting time for the body is the next best thing.
3. High Quality Nutrition: Many Paths to the Same Place
Performing at your best requires the healthiest body possible. Lots of high caliber athletes eat like total crap (I learned in a conversation at an NSCA Nutrition Special Interest Group meeting from a crowd of coaches that college age women’s basketball players may be the worst junk food offenders). It’s interesting to consider all that we could achieve with the nutrition aspect dialed in….We know that different diets work for different people, and that’s a beautiful thing. Once you discover what works best for you, it’s like a liftoff to another whole level. There are, however, a few high quality nutrition habits that remain consistent across the board:
A. Drink plenty of water (shoot for half your weight in ounces to start with, and more the more you sweat).
B. Eat tons of vegetables, and lots of fruits. At least half of your plate every time you eat should consist of produce.
C. Eat as much whole, unprocessed, unrefined foods as possible. Keep your foods in their original form. The fruits should be whole, not juice. This goes for veggies too– green juices and smoothies are cool and have their place, but eat the fiber too. Same goes for grains and beans (if you eat those), and animal proteins (if you eat that).
If you’re looking to improve your performance or succeed with your goals, checking in with any of these 3 habits is a great place to start. If you have these 3 habits dialed in and you feel like you still have a lot more room for improvement it might be time to consult with a coach for ways to integrate more healthy habits or different training protocols to your fitness program.
(1) CDC: Centers for Disease Control
(2) Dr. James Maas: Sleep To Win!: Secrets To Unlocking Your Athletic Excellence In Every Sport.