Whether training for sports competition or just to improve your health, everybody should be aiming to reach their highest level of fitness and performance. Nobody wants to put all of their effort into their training only to get back average results at the end of it.
The point of training is to become the very best version of yourself you can be. To help you get there, here are 7 top tips to help you reach your optimum fitness levels:
1) Get Specific With Your Training
The principle of specificity states that in order to get better at a skill, you need to perform activities that are specific to that skill. For example, a programme that is designed to help you get better at running a mile should include quite a bit of running. All training programmes should be specific to your end goal if you want to achieve the very best results.
This isn’t to say that exercises which don’t directly relate to your sport can’t be included in a programme. Some exercises will improve an aspect of performance even if they don’t directly mirror the sport you are training for.
As an example, squats can be used heavily in a sprint training programme to increase leg strength, whereas bicep curls may not be so involved since they are less specific to sprinting. Every exercise or training modality that is included must be thought about with your end goal in mind. There should be a very specific reason for everything that is added to a programme.
If you can’t answer the question “what purpose does this serve in my training?”, then that exercise probably isn’t specific enough to your goals.
2) Train For Progression
Many people have a training routine or schedule but they don’t have an actual programme. The difference between a routine and a programme is that people with a routine might have a guide to what they are doing each day but miss out the vital component of progression. On the other hand, having a programme means you incorporate a plan for progression from day one.
The only way to get better at something is to constantly push past what you are currently capable of. Planning proper progression patterns into a programme can be a complex subject and it is very individualised. Athletes at different stages of training, experience levels and genetic makeup will be capable of different rates of progress.
It all comes down to smart programming. You need to be able to overload your body by consistently increasing the physical demands of training while recovering properly and avoiding injury. Progression in training can take a number of different forms, all of which should be used at different times depending on your goals. More weight, more reps, more sets, less rest, faster speeds, better technique and longer distances are all forms of progression you can use over time within training.
3) Balance Your Training
If a training programme is going to get you to your optimum level of performance, all areas of performance must be included. Focusing too much on a single area and ignoring others will lead to a training imbalance that can negatively affect overall fitness down the line. Strength training, cardio training and flexibility must all be considered and plugged into a solid all-around plan.
At first glance, this advice may seem like it contradicts the principle of specificity. However, each aspect of the training must still adhere to that principle. All strength movements, cardio work and flexibility routines should still be specific to the demands of your sport. The ratio of strength, cardio and flexibility do not have to be equal. In fact, it rarely will be for most sports. It is just important to include the correct amount of all three for your own goals.
4) Plan Your Recovery
Recovery time is just as important as the training you will be doing. It is actually when you are recovering that your body adapts. Recovery needs to be high up in your thoughts when designing a training regime. A lack of recovery time can limit progress, performance and increase the risk of injuries.
Much the same as progression rates, recovery times are quite individual. Genetics, age and training level all play a big role in recovery ability. You need to work out how you recover from certain activities and plan accordingly. Recovery isn’t just planning in rest days. Massage, hot/cold therapy and active recovery can all be considered. Again, it comes down to the individual and the demands of the training.
Following on from the importance of recovery is the importance of getting enough sleep.
You already know how crucial it is to recover properly. Well, sleep is one of the best ways for the body to recover. When you sleep, hormones are released in the body that helps to aid your recovery and adaptation to your training. Your brain also gets recharged, which will have a great effect on your performance levels both in the gym and in on the sports field.
Getting adequate sleep of around 8 hours per night will enhance the training you are already doing. Some tips for getting good quality sleep include:
- Going to bed at the same time each night to set your body clock into a pattern.
- Avoiding caffeine at night.
- Sleeping in a dark and relatively cool room.
- Avoiding televisions and other bright screens before going to bed, including backlit smartphones and tablets. They increase your alertness and can make it harder to fall asleep.
6) Proper Nutrition And Hydration
It is no use doing all of the training if you aren’t fuelling your body with the correct foods to help make the most of it. Everything you do requires energy and fuel. The energy and fuel to recover and adapt to your training must come from your diet.
Consume a well-balanced diet of foods that contain all of the different nutrients, vitamins and minerals that you need to support your activities. Enough protein for muscle repair, carbohydrates for energy, healthy fats for hormones and energy, calcium for healthy bones and muscles. These are just a few examples of the elements that need to be thought about during diet planning. On top of what you eat, what you drink is just as vital. Staying properly hydrated is a must if you want to maintain peak performance levels.
Everybody learnt it in primary school, your body is mostly water. So, you need to replenish with water. As little as 2% dehydration can impair your overall performance levels.
7) Supplement Correctly
Supplements are there to give you an added edge when you have everything else properly in place.
Once your training programme is solid and your nutrition is adequate, supplements can be used to provide an added little boost or to fill in any gaps. Many supplements that claim to instantly boost performance will have little to no actual effect. They are really only worth considering as the last element in the overall picture.
However, supplements that are aimed towards general health can be used to fill in any gaps that you have in your diet. Even with a very well thought out diet, some individuals may still be deficient in certain vitamins or minerals. Sometimes these deficiencies are genetically predisposed, which makes it hard to get enough from the diet alone. In this case, supplementing with the deficient nutrient is recommended.
When deciding on supplementation, be sure to research the products and ingredients thoroughly. Be certain it is legal in your sport and that you actually need it.
As you can see, a great deal of thought has to go into a number of aspects if you are to reach your optimum fitness levels. Becoming the very best you can be is never going to be easy work. If you truly want to realise your potential and that of your team mates, you need to be prepared to put effort into the minor details. You also need to be prepared to work on them consistently.
One thing you may have noticed while reading many of the tips above is that there is a common theme among them.
That theme is individualisation.
Most of the elements that go into creating a successful plan are very much down to the individual athlete. Recovery ability, nutrient deficiencies, how you react to certain training stimuli and how your body responds to different foods. These are all personal things that are unique to you.
So how can you find out how you, as a unique individual, respond to these factors? One way is through years of trial and error. A long process of trying different things and seeing what works.
A much quicker, more efficient and accurate way is through genetic testing.
It is now very simple for you to get your own DNA analysed to see exactly how you are genetically predisposed to respond to training styles, nutrition approaches, recovery methods and all other aspects that affect your performance.
All you need to do is send off a sample, usually a mouth swab, of your DNA and let a genetic profiling company do the rest. DNActiv8 are a UK based company that does exactly that for athletes. After receiving your results, you will have a very clear picture of what your body needs to reach optimum fitness and performance. You can then design an effective plan from the start. To make it even more simple, we have various different packages, tailored towards different sports and training goals. You can view all of them at www.dnactiv8.co.uk.
You can find out more about genetic testing in our new, free eBook: The Beginner’s Guide To Genetic Testing. Click here to download your free copy!