One of the things I love about competing in a sport is that it guides your life outside of the gym. You make sure you’re hydrated because you’re recovering from your last training session and getting ready for the next. You skip satisfying urges and cravings because you know they will set you back. You train your brain as hard as you train your body and learn to control your emotions because when it’s time to perform, they don’t serve you.
You don’t need to be a serious athlete to train and eat like one and you don’t have to live like a monk either. You do need to love your body and respect it. What that means to each individual person is different. To me it means eating high quality food and keeping portions in control, drinking at least 120 ounces of water a day, stretching more than I train, sleeping as soundly as I can when it’s possible, and carefully warming up first thing in the morning.
What would living like an athlete mean to you?
Paint a picture in your mind what you would do differently in the day and start somewhere. Add a new habit after you’re settled into your first one. Undoubtedly the biggest bang for your buck is your diet and it’s also the hardest to control for most of us. I can’t stress to you enough that we have a very bad relationship with food. Imagine if you put all the expectations of food on a person! I’m upset; you are going to make me feel better. I’m happy; you’re going to make me happier. It’s my birthday, you are going to be the highlight of my night and you better be spelled correctly. I’ve had a terrible day, take my mind off it. Food would be pretty exhausted with us after a year or so. Food would be moving back in with its mother and changing its Facebook status to “It’s complicated”.
There are a lot of ways to approach food out there and the wonderful thing is that if something doesn’t resonate with you there is something else to try. In no particular order we love: The Zone Diet, The Paleo Diet, The Whole 30, The Mediterranean Diet, The Athlete’s Plate, and there’s probably a few I would give props too but forgot.
If dietary changes are a little too overwhelming at the moment then start with something else that will pay off huge in terms of how you feel: a wake up workout.
It shouldn’t be intense and it shouldn’t have a bunch of reps; the idea is to wake your body up and get blood moving. Here’s a quick one I love to do in bed before I put my feet on the floor:
5 reps of a Knee Pull Crunch with a 2 second hold at the top
2 reps of a Bent Windshield Wiper at each clock position
5 reps alternating each side of a Side Pretzel with a deep breath in each side.
5 reps alt. each side of a Hip Flexor Stretch (I crunch my abs and pull hard)
Once my feet are on the ground it’s time to either get moving or I’ll do 5 more exercises.
5 reps of a Chest Stretch hold for 3 seconds each
5 reps of a Bicep Stretch with a 5 second hold at the top
5 reps both ways of hip circles with my feet apart, together, and crossed.
5 reps each side of side-to-side then up-and-down neck stretches
5 reps on one side then the other of an Upper Trap Stretch
This takes about 5-10 minutes to do and I can’t describe to you how good I feel after. The best part? You can do some of these anywhere. Scan your body and find what’s tight and open it up.
Living like an athlete doesn’t mean to live like a full time athlete, the fun thing about not having the glorious job of working out for a living is that I can drink a few glasses of wine at night and I don’t feel like I’m doing any harm. Just treat your body like you would treat your car if it was the only one you’re ever going to get for your entire life. Athletes have to rely on their bodies to work so they treat them with the respect that they deserve. Love your body and do the same as an athlete at critical times like waking and laying down for the night and you will be amazed how the good feeling you had that started out physical penetrates deeper than just your muscles bones.