Proper preparation prevents poor performance.The 5 Ps – you have likely heard that preparation is the key to success. Preparing yourself for physical activity is one of the best ways to achieve great, consistent athletic performance. Preparation can be mental and emotional; top-level athletes use multi-sensory visualization techniques to ‘be the ball’, to see themselves jumping higher, to feel themselves breaking the ribbon as they cross the finish line. Preparation can of course be physical—staying active and strong during the winter makes it easier to join a ball league in summer. Physical preparation also includes rest and nutrition.
Sleep.You signed up for a 10k and scheduled a few runs into your routine. Weeks later, training is a drag and you’re wondering why your body is not responding better. Sound familiar? It may if you did not schedule extra sleep to provide yourself with energy for these new runs. With everything else you have to get done you may even be sleeping less than usual! Do make sure you get enough sleep—aim for 7.5 hours. Sleep is a key to workout performance, enjoyment, and recovery. Try to get to bed 2 hours early the night before your long runs—you may find that it makes all the difference. A study of Stanford University basketball players reported 5% greater SPEED and 9% improvements in ACCURACY when players slept 2 extra hours per night.
Think like an athlete.Athletes do not diet and exercise, they eat and train. What we eat and drink, and when, affects enjoyment and performance in everything from marathons to hot yoga! As athletes, we need to provide ourselves fuel to allow ourselves to train. Shift your thinking toward eating and training and away from dieting and exercising. To look and feel your best, the quality of your food should increase as your activity level increases. This mindset shift may lift you to the next level. We are conditioning our bodies to better use the fuel we provide them, to give us better results from our training.
What should we eat to run faster, longer, better?As you increase your activity level, to get the most from your body, take the following steps:
- Drink the right amount of water. To calculate the number of ounces of water to drink per day, multiply your weight in pounds by .67. For every 30 minutes that you work out, add 12 ounces.
- Increase your essential fatty acid (EFA) intake - up to at least 1 tbsp. for every 50 lb. body weight.
- Get a greater portion of your carbohydrate intake from colorful veggies with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients and reap the benefits. Red beets, which often look purple, are a great example—they contain betaine, which assists with creatine synthesis, improves strength, power, and oxygen use in the body during endurance activities, and nitrate, to help dilate blood vessels and increase oxygen delivery to cells.
- Consider the timing. EFAs are best taken with food. Water is best taken 30 minutes prior to a meal or between meals, but not during or immediately after meals. To benefit from beets we need the friendly bacteria in our saliva to convert beet nitrate into nitrite, so chew your beets well. We also need time for the nitrite to become nitric oxide that will help us out aerobically, so consume your beets 2-3 hours prior to activity.