Since graduating from Chiropractic College in 1986, I have had the privilege and pleasure of working with numerous elite and world class athletes, as well as countless weekend warriors who work hard and play even harder. Their enthusiasm and commitment have inspired and motivated me to push my own limits and share some of my observations and research with others. Hopefully, some of my experiences will benefit you as you strive to achieve your own unique health and fitness goals.
Focus: When I first began researching athletic potential, I was somewhat surprised to find that one of the attributes that sets elite athletes apart has more to do with the mind than with the physical body. Most world-class athletes possess an extraordinary ability to block out all distractions, while concentrating and focusing solely on the present moment and visualizing their future success.
As Olympic swimmer Natalie Coughlin explains, “The winning secret is not strength, not height, but focus.” She states that when she is in the pool, she focuses on whatever technique she is working on that day. There are layer upon layers of things to think about, she says, such as concentrating on building her core muscles so that when she gets tired, her technique does not deteriorate.
Increasing the ability to focus and block out extraneous noise and chatter is a difficult challenge for most of us in today’s hyper speed world. When we take time to center ourselves through practices such as creative visualization and meditation, however, we too can accomplish goals that may have previously seemed unattainable.
Self discipline is another common trait among the best of the best athletes in the world. Olympic medalists are masters at disciplining their bodies and minds to achieve optimal results. It is not unusual for athletes training for competition in the Olympics to spend a minimum of six or eight hours a day, six or seven days a week training for their particular event or sport.
Their days usually start early in the morning, when many of us are still sleeping, and are filled not only with training and drills for their specific sport or event, but also devoted to countless hours of conditioning their bodies with practices such as strength and resistance training, plyometrics, stretching, and speed work.
Another area that self discipline is evident in is the nutritional aspect of elite athlete’s daily lives. They realize that nutrition and exercise are integrally related and are acutely aware of everything that goes into their bodies. They see quality food as the fuel necessary to provide energy and finely tune their bodies. They drink enormous amounts of pure water and almost always supplement their diets with quality vitamins and minerals containing health promoting substances such as phytochemicals and antioxidants.
Awareness: Most world class athletes seem to instinctively value the importance of holistic health care and are some of the most open minded people that I have ever encountered. They take responsibility for the state of their own well being and continually educate themselves about health and fitness topics such as exercise physiology, sports nutrition, and bio mechanics.
Increasing numbers of elite athletes take advantage of the vast knowledge base and experience of health care providers such as Doctors of Chiropractic, who treat the entire body and not simply isolated parts. In addition, record numbers of professional athletes utilize the services of alternative practitioners such as massage therapists, yoga and pilates instructors, acupuncturists, and herbalists.
Part of the reason that many of the world’s greatest athletes are loyal supporters of natural health care systems stems from the fact that they truly appreciate the specificity of the advice and treatment related to their unique conditions and health and fitness goals.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be an elite athlete to benefit from the subjects listed above. With just a little extra focus, awareness, and self discipline, most of us can discover reserves of confidence and inner strength within ourselves that motivate and inspire us to be the best that we can be.