Eric Cantona once said, “Preparation is everything, and focus is the key.”
Competitive sports are exciting and fun. They help you stay in shape, meet new people and be a better version of yourself. When you’re involved in sports, especially if it’s competitive, you’re in it to win it. And to win it, adequate preparation is essential.
Athletic preparation improves performance and helps avoid injury. Even when injuries occur, better-prepared athletes are usually more equipped to recover quickly and return to performing. So, how do you prepare for sports? Stay with us as we answer this question.
How Athletes Prepare for a Sport
Getting Adequate Sleep
Sleep is as important as diet and exercise. Having a good night’s sleep will boost your performance, mood, and health. Sleep is also essential for retaining and consolidating memories. Preparing to compete in a sports event starts with a good night’s sleep.
As an athlete, you can improve accuracy, reaction time, and endurance performance by improving your sleep quality by increasing the duration. Research has shown that athletes’ speed increases by 5% when they get enough sleep.
Think positive thoughts and use positive words. Adopt using positive self-talk while preparing for a competition. Statements like “I ran really fast in my last race” and “I believe I can beat the odds” are examples of positive self-talk. Such statements will help replace negative thoughts and emotions with positive ones.
Studies have shown that privately listening to music creates a comfortable headspace and allows individuals to experience self-acknowledgment. Your choice of music can get you in a great mood, block out negative and distracting thoughts, and help you visualize positive outcomes.
Setting goals can be used as a technique to boost performance levels by achieving targets. It is an essential skill that athletes can use to optimise their performance. By setting Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based (SMART) goals, you can focus on key areas to improve your performance and gain confidence in your abilities.
Goals can be broken down into three categories:
- Outcome goals that deal with specific results in the competition
- Performance goals that help an athlete improve over time and
- Process goals are the areas an athlete should focus on when carrying out a specific skill
Recent studies have shown that athletes’ goals can impact the emotions surrounding their performance. Setting performance goals deters athletes from concentrating on things they only have partial control of. Consequently, athletes are less likely to be anxious or worried.
Eating an occasional cookie is fine. However, it should not be your daily food plan. Eating healthy is crucial for athletes, especially when preparing for a sports event. You should eat five servings of vegetables daily and have a banana a day before race day.
A balanced diet can give athletes the nutrients and energy to optimise performance. Avoid processed and sugary foods as much as possible. Eat a small meal before your race, such as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. If there’s a lot of time between your last meal and the event you’re competing in, have a healthy snack to keep you focused and energised.
When athletes exercise, the core body temperature increases. This causes the body to sweat and lose a significant amount of water to dissipate heat. Staying hydrated replaces the water lost through sweating.
Drink 8-10 glasses of water throughout the day. Have a water bottle with you all day long to stay hydrated. A dehydrated body can’t perform at its highest level. So, stay hydrated to avoid having a hamstring cramp in the middle of your mile run.
Conquering the Fear of Failure
An athlete’s fear of failure may be a motivator to put in more work and get better results. However, it often transforms into stress and anxiety, undermining peak performance. The fear of failure is often a shared trait among perfectionists and can cause an athlete to be overtrained for races.
Pre-race tension or worries stem from different sources, depending on each unique individual. Every athlete experiences the fear of failure, however, in different ways. As you prepare for that race, it’s important to confront your fear. You can do this by replacing irrational beliefs with an improved perspective.
Building a Support Network
Training for a race can be stressful. And this is why having a good support network around you is essential. Your network may include your parents, family, friends, coaches, teammates, and medical team. Your support network has a crucial role in fostering a psychologically safe environment.
A support network encourages athletes to express their feelings and offer advice and support. They can also help athletes regain their confidence when faced with a setback.
Anthony K. Tjan once said, “Without self-awareness, you cannot understand your strengths and weakness, your superpowers versus your kryptonite.” As an athlete, you can prepare for a sport by being self-aware of your strengths and weaknesses. Many athletes underperform when they allow their emotions to get the better of them. By being self-aware, athletes can have a better grip on their emotions and ultimately control their performance.
An athlete can develop self-awareness by setting bi-weekly process goals. You can also develop self-awareness by keeping a diary, which helps you identify which emotions enhance and hinder your performance.
As a runner, stretching is an integral part of your prep. It helps ensure your muscles are adequately warmed up and ready for the race. Ensure you stretch the night before and on the day of the race. So, whatever stretches work for you, whether dynamic or static, ensure you stretch!
Adequate preparation is key to an excellent performance. Building a solid support network, eating healthy, staying hydrated, embracing positivity, and so on can be the difference between being a great athlete and being average. Do your best while preparing for your event, and when the day comes when you’re standing on the start line, perform with all your heart and give it your best shot.