Hello wordpress community!
I am back on track this week and will be discussing how to be a successful athlete without damaging your health. First I want to start by explaining the inspiration for this article. It was a set of articles in the local paper where I live on high school football players gaining tremendous amounts of weight (total body weight in excess of 300 lbs) in order to (in their minds) consider themselves eligible for college football. Some of these high school players gained the weight in healthy manner, ie: eating healthy foods and weight lifting, while others did not, ie: eating empty calorie foods. While I can comprehend how some of these young men could have this mindset, it is extremely devastating for not only their current health but future health as well.
While being an athlete is on the surface a healthy lifestyle, for many athletes, it severely compromises their health. An athlete is trained and programmed to push their bodies to their competitive limits, which more often than not, results in decreased health. Therefore, as I have stated many times before, being a successful athlete is about balance. Balancing your health and athletic goals.
Cause and effect of poor athletic health:
Training multiple hours a day, malnourishment, negative beliefs, abusive coaches, lack of sleep and many others are the culprit for poor athlete health. These aspects of what outdated logic has told us defines a “good athlete” require change. Why? Because this method is what makes athletes suffer from mental illness, injuries, and burn out. While many athletes may be unaware, many of them are suffering from mental illness, or are aware and suffering silently. I say unaware, because within athletics many mental illnesses have become the norm within the culture, such as substance abuse, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. This does not discount that these are very serious mental health problems that must be addressed and treated.
How to preserve and increase health as an athlete:
- Train with assistance of a professional. Use this professional and their knowledge and ask questions. High school, college and professional athletes have the best resources for professional assistance in their athletic careers. Other athletes have many resources available to them as well including groups, clubs or organizations they can join for their sport, which usually have someone certified or knowledgeable about safe training for their specific sport, or medical professionals.
- Listen and be kind to your body. If you begin to have injuries or sickness, this is your body’s way of telling you to slow down and change your training regimen, so do that. Be sure you are getting the necessary nutrients, calories, vitamins, water and electrolytes throughout the day. Be sure you are getting enough sleep (8 hours is the recommended, while some people require more or less). Ensure your stress levels are minimal. Stress creates damage to your body and inhibits athletic performance, using meditative practices will help keep your stress levels low. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Your intuition is your greatest decision maker, but many people often ignore it. On that same note, if you aren’t having fun with your training or do not have some type of essential gain from it (such as a scholarship for college education) change what you are doing so you enjoy it or stop all together. Life is to short to be doing something you don’t enjoy. ( I would also encourage that even if you were receiving an athletic scholarship and you are not enjoying your experience to explore other educational payment options such as a loan or non-athletic scholarship if you are no longer enjoying your sport)
- Seek help when needed. Athletes are the least likely to seek help compared to the general public, so let’s break the mold and start getting help when necessary. There is no shame in doing what is right for your health, especially when it will aid in a longer more fulfilled life.
Why it is important:
Each person only gets one body and one life, and it is our choice on how we treat both of those. Even if you have made mistakes in the past, it is never too late amend them and make a change for the future. It is also never too late for preventative measures.
While the media portrays athletes as the model of health perfection, they are more often than not the ones who live shorter lives than non-athletes. So take care of your body while pursuing your dreams. Life is about balance and you can achieve greatness with both health and athletics.