Use some of the same training techniques as elite athletes to help your active patients with athletic performance
While it is true that most of us will never reach their dizzying athletic heights of the top pro athletes, there are still athletic performance lessons we can impart on patients to improve levels of fitness.
So, what do top-tier athletes have to teach the rest of us about getting ourselves to the next level in our fitness goals? Let’s take a closer look at some of the latest research in sports medicine to determine the best training techniques to suggest to our patients.
Sleep and athletic performance
There are numerous studies showing the positive association between sleep duration, sleep quality, and any number of other variables.
In one case, a 2021 article from the European Journal of Sport Science reported on findings from a study including a group of elite college swimmers. The study’s purpose was to look for any associations between the students’ sleep patterns and their training and academic schedules.1
Over the course of the 12-month study, almost 42% of the students reported experiencing poor sleep. Additionally, the students reported they slept the longest during those months when they had the fewest academic and training demands.1 It seems rather evident that good sleep habits, particularly when under stress from other activities, becomes important when regularly training for an athletic event.
Even if your patients are not competitive athletes, proper sleep will keep them in peak performance mode.
We’ve all heard about various diets endorsed by celebrities that involve some type of restricted eating, such as fasting or juicing for one day a week. Although the science behind some of these diet plans may be open to debate, some studies using athletes have shown benefits for consuming certain types of food at certain times of the day.
A 2014 article from the journal Sports Medicine reported on the benefits of consuming foods high in certain neurotransmitters (including serotonin, gamma-aminobutyric acid, and histamine) associated with the sleep-wake cycle close to bedtime.2 The researchers suggest that foods high in carbohydrates or tryptophan can improve sleep quality for elite athletes.
Although those of us who are not elite athletes may not be able to consume as much in the way of these foods on a regular basis, examining when we eat which types of foods may be useful in helping determine the optimal feeding time for best performance.
Mindfulness and performance
Mental focus is just as important as physical form for elite athletes to be at their best.
The effects of not having such a high level of mental focus can be disastrous, as we all saw when top gymnast Simone Biles had to withdraw from the recent Tokyo Olympics because she did not have the mental focus needed to orient herself spatially for aerial spins and twists. Although most athletes are not performing such maneuvers, they still need mental focus to be at their best.
A 2019 article from the Journal of Sport Psychology in Action outlined a mindfulness-based athletic performance program that was tested with a collegiate women’s lacrosse team over the course of two years.3 The program was so successful that the team was able to turn a losing record into a division champion season. The lesson here is that mindfulness training helps patients visualize proper form and technique, reduce stress and improve concentration, which all works to up their game.
Whether your patients regularly compete in bike races or are just getting ready to start on a “Couch to 5K” program, they will need support and guidance to be at their best. Using some of the same training techniques as elite athletes can help their athletic performance and get them across the finish line of their personal goals.
- Astridge D, Sommerville A, Verheul M, Turner AP. Training and academic demands are associated with sleep quality in high-performance “dual career” student swimmers. European Journal of Sport Science. 2021 Dec;21(12):1675-1683.
- Halson SL. Sleep in elite athletes and nutritional interventions to enhance sleep. Sports Medicine. 2014;44 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S13-S23.
- Pineau TR, Glass CR, Kaufman KA, Minkler TO. From losing record to championship season: A case study of mindful sport performance enhancement. Journal of Sport Psychology in Action. 2019,10(4):244-254.