Your body is the greatest gift you've been given. Where would you be without it? Unfortunately, some athletes stray from proper nutrition, hydration and training because they are more focused on how their body looks than how it feels and performs.
Messages in the media often encourage athletes to focus on their physical imperfections. Everywhere you look, a special pill, powder, wrap, surgical procedure or exercise routine claims to "fix" an area of your body.
"If only my stomach was flatter."
"I wish my thighs were a little smaller."
"Why can't my calves be bigger?"
The reality is, such changes in your body don't always translate to better performance. In some cases, athletes are wishing for physical changes that will actually make their athletic performance worse.
Here are some ways to pay attention to what your body needs to perform well:
Challenge yourself to stop criticizing your appearance.
Discourage your teammates from criticizing their appearance, too. It's hard to be happy, confident, competitive and successful when you're being mean to yourself all the time.
Train hard and train smart.
Recover well. Give your body the fuel and hydration it needs to reach your performance goals.
Focus on your performance and the statistics that matter—how fast you can run, how much you can lift, etc.
Your weight on the scale, body fat percentage, biceps circumference and waist size say nothing about your character or work ethic.
Check in with your body several times per day.
If you're hungry, eat. If you need rest, take it.
Remember that great athletes come in all shapes and sizes.
Look at Muggsy Bogues. Who would have thought a 5'3", 141-pound guy could be an NBA star? If he were just a little taller or a little heavier, would he have been better? Maybe not.
Trust that your training and nutrition are molding you into the best athlete you can be.
Cast aside the image of what you're supposed to look like and focus on how you want to perform. If your body changes along the way, continue to love it and be grateful for your improved performance. Then get excited about the numbers that really matter: running times, pounds lifted, steals, catches, kills, shots on goal, yards after contact, saves, assists, etc.
Once you've mastered the winning mentality—performance over appearance—consistently check in with how you're feeling.
Are you more tired than usual? Your body is telling you it needs more rest, food or hydration. It is not telling you that it needs more coffee, soda or energy drinks! Do you have a dry mouth, headache, muscle cramps or dark-colored urine? Your body is telling you it's time to hydrate. Is your stomach growling? Your body is telling you it's time to eat. If you listen to your body and give it the quality fuel it's asking for, it will thank you by giving a quality performance.
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