Professional athletes are different from the rest of us. They endure grueling training schedules, adversity, and even pain, yet still find a way to compete and succeed. Sports and competition are not just for professionals, but can be a part of everyone’s life. You, too, can become an athlete, not by running a marathon, or biking across France, but by cultivating the mind-set of an athlete and pushing yourself to do the best you can.
Becoming an athlete (whether you compete or not) can have huge benefits for your health and well-being. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 80 percent of us are not meeting physical activity recommendations for aerobic and non-aerobic exercise. That is unfortunate because we can all benefit from being active. Exercising helps maintain your weight, strengthens bones, contributes to cardiovascular health, reduces stress, and even improves your mood.
What is the difference between you and a serious athlete? It is less than you might think and has to do with their habits and mind-set. Knowing what professionals know can help you live a long and healthy life.
Here is how to find your inner athlete:
- Routine: For athletes, exercising is like bathing or brushing their teeth. It is just something that they do every day (or most days), without questioning whether or not they have the time or the energy. Make exercise part of your day, not an addition to it.
- Uncomfortable: Exercising is not always a comfortable experience. You are going to get too hot or too cold, you are going to sweat, and little aches and pains will pop up from time to time. This is all part of the process and not a reason to stop. In fact, overcoming these challenges can give you a sense of accomplishment that might help you stick to your routine.
- Diet: What you eat is important. The food that you put in your body is not only your fuel, but the basic building blocks of a healthy body. If you want that body to work and function well, you have to fuel it with good nutrition and back that up with nutritional supplements when you are not getting what you need. As you exercise more, you may benefit from products designed to help you with energy, hydration, and muscle recovery.
- Mind Games: Cultivating the mind-set of an athlete means understanding that you can go much further than you think you can. Ultramarathoner, Scott Jurak, says that the only thing that keeps him going when he is running 50-plus miles is his mind because his body has been telling him to stop for the past hour. Think you have hit your limit? Give a little more effort and you might be surprised at what you can do.
- Competition: A little friendly competition can keep you motivated. Winning is important to most professional athletes, but beating their own personal best is often more motivating. They compete against themselves more than others. Competition, whether in a local 5k or against your own record, can be what gets you out of bed and to your training on the mornings you don’t feel like it.
Become an athlete on your level. Try golf, hiking, tennis, swimming, or even walking. Think about challenging yourself with a little competition (look for a run or walk for a cause you believe in to help you stay motivated). The mall is a great place to walk if you live where it gets too hot or too cold for you to exercise outdoors. A pedometer is a great tool to engage that competitive spirit; see if you can walk more steps this week than you did last week.
You may be intimidated by exercising, but it doesn’t have to be that hard. You don’t have to train for a marathon, triathlon, or iron man competition to become an athlete; you just have to dedicate yourself to getting out there and doing something. Exercise has too many important benefits to leave it to the professionals; borrow the mind-set of the athlete and get out there and hit the road today.
Consult your physician before starting any exercise program, especially if you are significantly overweight, have cardiovascular health issues and/or you have not been exercising regularly.