So far in my career in the health and fitness industry as a strength and conditioning coach I’ve had the opportunity to work with a number of professional athletes from a wide range of different sports.
This has given me the opportunity to really observe the way they go about their training, recovery, nutrition and day to day lives, allowing me to pick apart what it takes to become a top-level athlete.
These are some of the key things I’ve taken away…
#1 Preparation is the key
Physical preparation, preparing meals throughout the week to make sure they stay on top of their nutritional intake, mental and emotional preparation for games and training… these are all detrimental to professional athletes success. Some of the top athletes in the world put in 10x more work behind the scenes compared to what we see on T.V. and social media.
#2 Being at the top of your game requires full time effort
There’s no such thing as an over night success. Why do you think extremely successful people often continue working until they are no longer capable? It’s because those that make it to the top (sports men and women, wealthy people, business’s and companies etc.) aren’t competing against everyone else, they’re competing against themselves. They believe they were made to do what they do and that if they settle for what they have, it won’t take long for someone else to take their place. And it’s true!
#3 Never underestimate the power of proper nutrition
Eating adequate protein and micronutrients, eating enough calories to fuel your training and recovery or to suit your weight loss/gain goal and eating a in a way that is sustainable and enjoyable is highly underrated by most. But not by those that continually compete at a high level and know the effect that eating like crap can have on your performance and recovery compared to eating well.
#4 Sleep isn’t just for babies
Sleep more. Some people can get away with small amounts of sleep but most of us can’t (even those that can would benefit from a few extra hours). Poor sleep or not enough hours can lead to decreased performance, decreased awareness and ability to concentrate and dramatically decreases your chance of recovering properly between training sessions or games.
#5 There’s always something you CAN be doing
Too many of us focus on what we can’t do, or what we don’t have compared to others. There is ALWAYS something you can be doing. Looking for the small things that can improve you as an athlete or a person in general will eventually lead to big time success. Time spent thinking about what you wish you ‘could’ do is a waste of time and won’t bring you any closer towards your goals.
#6 There needs to be some sort of release
The best in the world all have something they love doing outside of their given sport or profession. It might be reading, going to the movies, watching a different sport, playing an instrument… it can literally be anything. Too much of one thing is never a good thing. You should always have something that takes your mind of your usual day-to-day grind and focus. Once you find this vice, your potential to grow as a person (or an athlete in this case) will open up significantly. Balance is essential in any professional athlete’s life.
#7 A little goes a long way
That extra sprint after training or the attention to detail with your nutrition can go a long way to achieving your success. Small efforts made daily (which become habits) ultimately lead to big results. An example of this in day-to-day life may be something as simple as meditating for 10 minutes every day, or smiling at the person walking past you in the street. It could even be making your bed every single morning to put yourself in a productive state for the rest of the day. Making your bed may not make you a professional footballer, but it will teach you to create effective daily habits.
#8 No one cares about your excuses
Sometimes excuses are valid, most of the time they aren’t. In the end of the day no one cares about excuses. They care about results. As hard as it is, most professionals are truly world class at taking ownership of their mistakes or lack of performance and using those times to drive them until they get their opportunity once again.
#9 Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice does
Practicing something the wrong way every day for 10 years doesn’t make you perfect at it, it makes you perfect at doing the wrong thing. Focus on quality over quantity every day of the week. Foundations are far more important than useless repetition.
#10 There’s more than one way to skin a cat
If you look at the top 5 professional players of every sport, chances are their approach to at least one aspect of their life or training and nutrition will be completely different to others. But hey, who cares if it works for them right? Do what works for you; there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach that will make you the best at what you do. Individuality is key.
Professionals are in the position they’re in for a reason, the best part about it is that we can adapt the same habits to achieve success in our own way.