It is true that most pro athletes started practicing their sport as soon as they could walk. Take the case of Maria Sharapova. She started with tennis as early as four years old, went professional at 14 and at present, is one of the most celebrated tennis players to date, with numerous Grand Slam titles under her belt. In China, children as young as three train for the Olympics and subject themselves to serious training sessions.
In Other Words, If You Want To Be An Athlete, You Need To Start Early – Or Do You?
Training early in life like swimmer Michael Phelps and ski racer Lindsay Vonn might be your ticket to success – and several gold medals. However, there are other athletes who didn’t start young and yet, they are still successful in their chosen sport. The truth is, you don’t have to be young to become an athlete and eventually succeed. Here are 10 ways you can start working on your athletic side.
1. Pick Your Sport
This is the first step in becoming an athlete at any age. If you are serious about making it professionally or even just for fun, you need to choose a sport that you can be passionate about and stick to no matter what.
Keep in mind that this is different from going to the gym. You need to choose a sport you love, something that makes you feel both energized and happy at the same time.
It can be swimming, skating, volleyball, tennis or anything you’ve always wanted to do. The good thing about focusing on your chosen sport is that you are more committed towards getting better. Going for a sport you are passionate about leads to lower stress levels and better muscle recovery, which makes you more successful.
2. Define Yourself As Part Of The Community
Your road towards becoming an athlete doesn’t stop with finding your sport. You also need to define yourself as part of your chosen sport community. What does this mean? Take the case of running. Being a runner is not defined by how long you run. Instead, you let the moment define yourself by what you do.
You read up about your sport, gather all the information you will need to understand it better, find the best gear and know all the trends surrounding the sport community. In other words, your chosen sport becomes part of your identity. It defines who you are as a person, in a good way of course.
3. Make It Your Priority
Athletes have the best jobs in the world. They are paid for playing the sport they love, and at the same time, they can worry less about how to maintain their bodies. However, don’t take it lightly. Pro athletes have a full-time job and have a lot at stake.
Does this mean you should quit your job and just focus on improving yourself on your chosen sport? Of course not. However, if you are serious about bringing yourself to the next level, you need to make time for this. In other words, add it as part of your priority list.
Work around your schedule and make sure to allot time for training. Treat your sport as an important appointment, which means it is a requirement and not an option. Making it part of your daily routine not only improves your performance, but it also makes your workout more fun and enjoyable. If you are also serious about weight loss, you need consistency to make it work.
4. Set Milestones
You’re probably not competing for gold in the Olympics or for a part on the national team. So, why do you have to set milestones as if you are trying to qualify for something?
That’s a good question, but the answer is simple. You’ll never know if you are getting better unless you test yourself. You need to set a target to see if there is an improvement. At the same time, it keeps your eyes on the prize and encourages you to do better the next time.
If your chosen sport is swimming, time yourself and see how fast you could go in the 100-meter doing the butterfly stroke. If you’re into running, run for 10 kilometers and take note of how fast you went. Remember; always set developmental milestones to check your performance.
5. Continuously Challenge Yourself
Do you know Rebecca Rusch? She is a mountain bike racer who started racing at the age of 38. During an interview, she once said that she is the “living proof that it’s never too late to learn a new sport and get really good at it.”
How did she do it? She challenged herself to do something she never thought she could do.
As you get older, you become smarter, savvier and learn more important lessons about life. Use those life skills and lessons to try something new. Don’t just settle on what you have right now and find something that will motivate you and push yourself to the limits.
What would you choose while in your deathbed? A life full of regrets or a contented self because you knew you tried everything. The choice is yours.
6. Work Hard
You have heard this once and you will hear it again: Success doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, it takes years of hardwork before you can achieve a glimpse of success.
Take the case of Olympic runner Kim Conley. Although she was a runner in high school and college, she never took it seriously. It was only after college when she realized she had unfinished business with the sport. She spent years training and working hard to have a spot in the Olympic team.
Therefore, work hard and train harder. Set smaller goals to help you achieve the bigger ones. It will take some time, but the harder you work hard for it, the better your results will be.
7. Eat Healthy And Right
What is another advantage of being an athlete? They pay attention to what they eat to make sure that they are getting enough to fuel them during training.
Even if you are not a hardcore athlete, you still need to keep track of what goes inside your body. This is to ensure that you are getting the right supply of nutrients to help you before, during and after workout.
Therefore, watch what you eat. A few slices of banana or a carb-heavy energy bar before workout pumps you up during training. A protein-rich fruit smoothie speeds your recovery after workout. When you are not training, make sure you only go for healthy, nutritious foods. Stay away from empty calories, processed and sugary foods even if you’ll burn it during training.
If you love your body, your body will surely return the favor.
8. Get Some Rest
Aside from eating healthy, you also need to get some rest and allow your body to heal. There’s nothing wrong with pushing yourself to the limit. However, your body is fragile and it needs to recover to minimize the risk of injury.
Take the case of a local athlete from the Philippines. She is a volleyball player from one of the top universities in the country and the school’s best player. During a game, she tore her ACL, MCL, LCL and meniscus – all at the same time. The doctor’s diagnosis was fatigue.
You don’t have to train every single day to get better. Even if you do, make sure to alternate the intensity and activity. Get a massage to loosen those tight muscles, designate a rest day and stop when you feel tired. It’s okay to rest. Don’t pressure yourself to the point of injury.
9. Train Your Mind
The fact is, both your mind and body adapts to training. This means if you are working out your body, your mind adapts to training, as well.
There will be instances when you feel exhausted, and you just want to stop and give up. Failure will also be part of your journey, which could make you think twice about what you are doing. That’s part of being an athlete. If you don’t fail, it means you are not trying hard enough.
Therefore, make sure to motivate yourself mentally. Write down why you should succeed or make a mental note to remind you why you chose to be an athlete at 30 or older. Look into failures as a minor set back and an opportunity to get better. This way, you have something to motivate you every time you feel like giving up.
More importantly, focus on learning and improvement through repeated practice.
10. Make Friends
Your success is solely attributed to you and how determined you are to improve your craft. However, one good thing about being committed to a particular sport is that it allows you to meet new people with whom you can share the same passion.
It makes the sport more fun and interesting. At the same time, you don’t feel stressed because you are surrounded by equally positive people who love the sport.
Find a buddy who is interested in the same sport. If you don’t know anyone, then sign up in a club and make new friends. It’s all about enjoying the sport, keeping you in shape and getting better as a person.
Sure, you might experience pressure because they are doing better than you do. But, on the bright side, this will push you to do better.
Are You Ready To Become An Athlete?