Updated: Jul 8
I spent some time watching a group of pro tennis players turning those bright yellow balls into fiercely propelled orbs this week. What fuels these players and keeps them on point with the physical and mental stamina needed to stay in the game? My current client group doesn’t include professional or high-performance athletes; the group does include folks striving for better fitness and a few weekend warriors. The basics on fitness and health are pretty similar—mental stamina and good nutrition are important if you’re looking to achieve winning results at any level.
Mental toughness or stamina can be developed by mental conditioning. Exercise your brain and challenge it with exercises that will increase your ability to concentrate. Puzzles, some video games, chess and Sudoku are options that require concentration, memory and planning ahead. Additionally, it is important to think positively with confidence. For example, — “I can win this” works to your advantage; “I can’t win or I don’t think I can win” is counterproductive to boosting mental strength. "I can win this” works to your advantage; “I can’t win or I don’t think I can win” is counterproductive to boosting mental strength.“I can win this” works to your advantage; “I can’t win or I don’t think I can win” is counterproductive to boosting mental strength.
Practice visualization of past achievements and what you are trying to accomplish. This can be helpful in managing stress. Close your eyes and see a mental picture of your sports accomplishments. If you are feeling overwhelmed, visualize yourself calm and confident, winning at the sport of your choice. This technique can help you relax and generate positive thoughts that will help put you in a winning state of mind.
Get enough sleep—sleep deprivation will minimize the ability to concentrate and can also increase your perception of pain. Research studies indicate that when people get the recommended amounts of sleep, they can improve their reaction time and ability to make split second decisions. Intense physical workouts and stress will increase the need for sleep which allows the body to rest and recover from physical exertion. The amount you can vary with individuals, but the average adult needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep.
As for the best fitness diet, my mantra is “There is no one food that is totally good or totally bad for you.” However, it is important for sports enthusiasts to consume foods that will deliver on the maximum amount of nutrients. The body obtains fuel for energy from protein, carbohydrates and fat. Energy is required by the body for all activities.
Protein is necessary throughout life, building cells, tissues, and muscles in the body. It also repairs and helps your body heal muscles, cuts and wounds. Protein is made up of amino acids which are needed for muscle growth, maintaining protein stores depleted during exercise, and aiding in the repair of damaged muscles. Protein foods can come from animal or plant sources such as beef, pork, poultry, seafood, beans, legumes, lentils, and nuts.
Carbohydrates are a source of calories or fuel for the body. There are three types of carbohydrates— sugar, starch and fiber. Carbohydrates are derived from fruits, vegetables, breads, pasta, rice, beans, legumes and cereals. They provide the energy fueling the body for cell production and repair, daily and sport activities.
Fat is also critical in providing calories and energy for the body. However, fat is a higher calorie source of energy than carbohydrates. The current USDA Dietary guidelines recommend a diet that is lower in sugar and fat-based carbs. Ideally you should get more calories from protein and high fiber foods.
It is also important to drink plenty of fluids, staying hydrated even when you’re not exercising. Drink at least eight, 8-ounce glasses of water each day and don’t wait until you feel thirsty. When you recognize that you are thirsty, that is a red flag that you are dehydrated. As the temperature and intensity of exercise increase you will need to drink more water or sports beverages.
Fitness is based on your level of activity. Whether you’re focused on a plan to improve your fitness, a weekend warrior or the serious athlete, these basics can help you achieve your goals.
Take Away: Mental focus and wise food choices will help you reap the benefits of physical fitness.
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