08 Mar Part One: Preparing for Sporting Performance…
Correct PREPARATION is an important component of training and exercise. Whether you are running, playing in a competitive team, or beginning a fitness program, it is essential to prepare your body for performance.
What are the Components of correct preparation?
MENTAL TRAINING is as crucial to an athlete’s success as physical preparation. It helps them to focus, gain confidence and manage stress levels. Setting realistic goals, having a positive attitude, and positive mental imagery can all make a significant difference to an athlete’s performance.
NUTRITION is a vital part of sports preparation.
The right foods can optimise energy levels and enable your body to recover more easily following exercise.
Nutrient-rich carbohydrates are important to an athlete’s diet to ensure the production of glycogen, which is stored in muscle and is the primary fuel for exercise. A lack of carbohydrate intake can cause muscle fatigue and lead to poor performance. Meals should include energy-dense and nutrient-rich foods such as pasta, rice, bread, fruit & vegetables. Athletes should also include a range of healthy fats – such as nuts, fish and avocado – and proteins – chicken, turkey, eggs – in a well-balanced diet.
The morning of an intense work out, race, or game, low GI foods such as muesli, yoghurt, apples, bananas or porridge should be consumed. This way, energy from the food will be released over a longer period of time, enabling you to perform better, for longer. The graphic below looks at different foods and their corresponding Glycemic Index.
Foods high in fat should be avoided before exercise because they take longer to digest and can remain in the stomach for a long time.
ADEQUATE SLEEP is important the night before competition/performance. It has been shown that poor sleep prior to exercise/game can interfere with sporting performance. It is also essential for body regeneration and repair, mental calmness, focus and alertness.
A good WARM UP is also important to sports preparation because it raises the body temperature and increases blood flow to the muscles. This can improve performance and reduce the chance of injury. Muscles and joints need to be ready to perform. Warming up prepares the body to cope with the metabolic demand resulting from activity, such as the build up of lactic acid. The warm up itself should not cause fatigue, and should not be completed too early as its benefits are lost after about 30 minutes.
Every athlete will have their own warm up routine, however each should include an exercise that raises the pulse and encourages blood and oxygen circulation (for example, jogging or skipping rope), dynamic stretching, and sport-specific exercises such as throwing, passing, and dribbling. (Dynamic stretching refers to a form of stretching where momentum is utilised, such as swinging a straight leg forward to stretch the hamstring.)
RECOVERY is just as essential as preparation to maintaining sports performance and reducing the risk of injury.
Following exercise, a COOL DOWN is necessary to ensure your body recovers well. It helps clear the body of metabolic by-products from exercise and allows for a gradual return to your pre-exercise heart rate and blood pressure. Your cool down should include light cardio exercise (i.e. jogging, swimming or run-throughs) and gentle static stretching whereby the muscle being stretched remains still. After the cool down, your body should feel refreshed, not fatigued.
Post-performance, protein-rich foods along with a carbohydrate source need to be consumed within the first hour following exercise. These have been shown to be the most effective in replenishing muscle glycogen stores which have been depleted during exercise. It will also aid muscle regeneration and repair.
Effectively preparing your body and allowing optimal recovery can lead to improved performance and reduced risk of injury. Both are highly important aspects of sports and exercise, whether you’re a professional athlete, or just beginning your exercise program.