You may think that talent and natural athleticism are all that sets you apart from let’s say - Singapore soccer legend Fandi Ahmad. Or the Unstoppable herself, five-time MMA world champion - Angela Lee. You may think that if you simply play sports every day and work hard at your training you’d make it. That talent and athleticism is enough.
You’re wrong. The work top athletes put on the field or in the ring - or wherever it is they train and compete - is just the tip of a huge iceberg. Talent and natural athleticism helps sure - we’re not saying these characteristics don’t factor in. But it is in the daily routines: from sports recovery practices to what they eat and when - that an athlete is most different from the rest of us. What they do every day is what makes them champions.
And while it may be a bit too late for most of us to have a professional athletic career, we can still learn a lot from the winners themselves. And without further ado, here are some of the things that top athletes do that you’re most likely not doing.
1. They DO NOT stop competing
Athletes by nature, are already competitive. But the champions compete all the time. For them, staying in a competitive mindset drives them to be a better athlete and a better person. They always surround themselves with athletes who can run faster, lift heavier, punch harder than they could because to them, it’s the only way to learn and improve.
2. They’re mindful of what they eat
Sure eating healthy is easy - we can all do it. But athletes take it to the next level by watching what they eat and how much they eat every day. Sure they also have cheat days but they never overdo it. To them, their bodies are temples - it’s what brings them fame and money after all - so they are very mindful of how and what they are fueling it up with.
They also do not cut back on calories just to achieve a certain physique. They do not let themselves get into a calorie deficit because to them, food is their fuel to build muscle and store energy they need to compete. Oh, and they don’t obsess on how their abs look - they know that with the training they do - rock hard abs will follow.
3. They hydrate. Like crazy.
Sweat loss that equals to 2% of an athlete’s total body weight causes a significant decrease in performance. This is why hydration is a very serious thing for star athletes. They go so far as to test how much they sweat during workouts and how much electrolytes they lose. So they hydrate - REALLY hydrate.
4. They don’t drink like there’s no tomorrow
While there may be some that really do not drink alcohol, athletes do enjoy alcoholic drinks. But they do it very minimally. And in the few days following a game or competition, they do not drink alcohol at all. They want to compete at their best and they know that getting drunk nearly every day will negatively affect their performance.
5. They try other sports or activities
Athletes challenge themselves every day by exploring other activities, all the time. They do yoga as part of recovery. Take up golf to unwind after a game season or go scuba diving. Trying activities that take them out of their comfort zone makes them better athletes while helping their minds and body relax.
6. They set daily goals
For athletes, it doesn’t matter if it’s off season. They do not stop setting conditioning goals. Having daily goals not only keeps their bodies in shape, it keeps them motivated every day to go to the gym and workout. They research for ways to achieve those goals and stick to the program.
Daily goals gives them a purpose and it just won’t be as hard to get back to the grind when training season starts again. Athletes know exactly where they are, where they want to be and how they’re going to get there. Every. Day.
7. They supplement their nutrition
We all know that we don’t get our body’s required daily vitamins and minerals from the food we eat alone. And for athletes, taking supplements to make up for that deficit is important. From beet juice and vitamins to protein bars and shakes, they make sure that their bodies get everything it needs to stay in shape.
8. They sleep. Like.. A lot.
Research showed a negative impact on performance among athletes that have as little as 20 hours of sleep debt (sleep deprivation). For athletes, getting 7 to 10 hours of sleep every day is an absolute must. After all, it is during sleep when muscle recovery and growth happens.
9. They do not overtrain
We mentioned earlier that athletes treat their bodies as temples. And one of the ways they do that is they make sure they don’t overtrain. They listen to their bodies and never abuse it. They do not rush warming up before workouts and they never skip cool downs. They mix up their work outs to make sure they are not overworking any part of their body.
They do not feel guilty when they miss a workout. In fact, taking the time to reduce the volume of work is part of an overall plan to make them better. They understand that taking the time to rest is part of what makes muscles recover faster.
10. They focus on optimizing their recovery every day
Most of us think that working out hard every day is the way to get stronger. Recovery is often overlooked - at best, rushed. For top athletes however, sports recovery is part of their every day routine. Recovery IS training.
Whether it be active recovery activities like going for a walk and using a massage gun on sore muscles after workouts, or passive recovery activities like spending quality time with family - the top athletes understand the importance of making recovery a part of their everyday life.
And there you have it. A list of things that the world’s top athletes are doing that the rest of us are most definitely not. This by the way, is not in any way meant to be judgmental. But the dream physique and the top-notch performance DOES come with habits - well, a price if you will - that most of us are not aware of.
We all know that the athletes we look up to are doing something different - and we hope this article has brought light to that. But we’d like to know what YOU think. Did we miss out on other things the best athletes do? Let us know in the comments!