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Healthy Ways to Condition Yourself for Athletic Competition

min read

By Jeff Hayward

Medically Reviewed by Eric Leckie, PT

Whether you’ve decided to take on a marathon, or you’re training for a big soccer or rugby match, you need to turn your body and mind into finely tuned machines to get the edge out on the battlefield. Having that edge can mean the difference between winning or losing, or coming in first place or 20th.

The first trick is getting yourself into the mindset that you want to tackle the challenge head-on, and maybe start visualizing your victory. Then there are a number of dietary and exercise regimes you can follow to get yourself into optimal shape for the big contest. Here are six of them…

Strength Training for Marathons

While we think of marathons as a test of endurance (therefore often focusing on cardiovascular conditioning), you can actually gain an edge by performing strength training, notes Men’s Fitness magazine.

The source notes that adding extra miles to your training route may set you up for injury if your muscles aren’t up to the task. That’s why strengthening muscles is important to avoid your bones and connective tissues from absorbing the extra strain that your muscles can’t handle, adds the source.

Mental Strength Training

As we mentioned earlier, being in the right state of mind for competition is just as important as having a body that is up to the task. WarriorMindCoach.com is important in enhancing sports performance, and more coaches are “now recognizing the importance of psychology in sports,” it notes.

This doesn’t mean getting totally psyched up for the match; it can mean the opposite. “Mental strength training seeks to achieve the overall goal of performance improvement and enhancing consistency in performance,” notes the source. That can also include “relaxation and visualization regimens” rather than teaching athletes to burst out of the gates with a war cry, it adds.

Proper Pre- and Post-Nutrition

Food is your fuel, so without the right nutrition leading up to a competition, you could have all the training in the world and still fall short. Lifehacker.com shares some insight about proper eating before and after your big game.

This diet includes eating food rich in carbohydrates 2 or 3-days before the competition, not just a carb-rich meal right before the event that many athletes rely on. When game day arrives, eat a solid meal 4-hours before going into battle (you can use fluid replacement drinks up to 1-hour before competition). Load in some carbs (from fruit smoothies, for example) within 15-minutes following the strenuous exercise, and then eat some more carbs with lean protein, adds the source.

Increased Flexibility

Again, while gaining size and strength are big factors for many who are taking on a physical sport, some key conditioning techniques can be put on the back burner. One of this is flexibility training, which can help you reduce the chance of injuries.

BodyBuilding.com notes that after an intense workout, “your arms stay in a semi-contracted state for hours”. Over time, this lack of stretching after intense activity can decrease your range of motion. And if getting bigger is your goal, stretching can actually help your muscles develop.

Proper Rest

It may feel like you want to train all hours of the day, but you shouldn’t do so at the expense of your sleep, says Men’s Fitness magazine. In fact, if you’re trying to gain mass for a contact sport, “When you sleep you slip into an anabolic (muscle-building) state that’s optimal for growth,” notes the source.

It says that you should be getting from 7- to 9-hours of (quality) sleep per night, regardless of what time of day you start your workouts. If you’re having trouble falling asleep at night, the source also lists six exercises that promote rest…

Increased Lung Capacity

You should think about trying to increase your lung capacity for running (and for finesse sports), which will in turn help you run further, according to Livestrong.com. “Most people don’t think about their lung capacity until they go running and find that they’re out of breath in 10 minutes,” notes the source.

Ways to boost your capacity to not lose your breath so easily include high-altitude training (which builds up more red blood cells that carry more oxygen), but this technique is a “short fix” according to the site. It also mentions not-so-natural respiratory training equipment (training masks) that improves lung capacity. However, possibly the more practical way for long-term benefits is cardiovascular exercises including short sprints, cycling, swimming and skiing. You may have to push yourself a bit to get the benefits.

DPT, Doctor of Physiotherapy

Eric Leckie is a men's health Physiotherapist specializing in prostate cancer treatment. He completed his studies in Australia earning his Doctor of Physiotherapy from the University of Melbourne. He currently works in a private practice, in addition to owning his own Telehealth Physiotherapy clinic which focuses on treating men with prostate cancer.

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