All athletes have faced it: the dreaded training slump. When you’re in the middle of the most grueling part of your training, your muscles are fatigued beyond belief. You have to physically drag yourself out of bed and try to convince yourself that all the work will be worth it. When your body and your mind are both this tired it can feel like no matter how hard you work, you just aren’t making any progress. Here are some tips for pushing through peak training without absolutely losing your mind.
- Be patient—It can seem like the light at the end of the tunnel doesn’t exist, but most likely Game Day is right around the corner. You’ve made it this far into your training and you can make it just a little bit farther. You are strong, you are prepared, and you are completely capable of achieving your goals. It’s time to be confident.
- Eat right—Give yourself every possible advantage. Eating foods with a balance of carbs and protein (like a banana with almond butter or yogurt with granola) before workouts will give you the energy necessary to perform at your highest potential. Refueling after practice with lean protein, lots of carbs, and veggies is crucial to maintaining muscle mass and being able to come back just as strong the next day. Here are some ideas for both pre- and post-workout meals.
- Take care of your body—Stretch, ice and roll out your sore muscles. Your body is already pretty broken down so it’s extra important to do your best to prevent injuries. Also, stretching after your workout will help you feel way better at your next training session to give you a chance to maximize your progress. Even for healthy athletes, foam rolling provides tons of benefits. It has to do with the mobility of the fascia (aka the connective tissue that surrounds the muscles in your body). Without proper mobility, fibers of the fascia can bind to muscles and nerves causing pain and limited range of motion. Source: http://www.fleetfeethartford.com/sports-medicine/benefits-of-foam-rolling
- Find small, creative ways to motivate yourself—When you’re in the middle of a hard training session, think about your post-workout meal or how nice it will be to take a long, well-deserved shower. Reward yourself with an hour of Netflix or a tall glass of chocolate milk after practice (fun fact: the fat-to-carbohydrate ratio in chocolate makes it an ideal choice for right after a workout). The hardest part of peak training is often mental but finding little motivational things can make the battle way easier.
- Look for small victories—or, set attainable goals. Get a little bit done each day. Instead of going into a workout expecting to have a phenomenal day and beat a bunch of personal bests, go in looking for small wins you can accomplish. Make a faster interval for one set, run an extra mile, or do one more set of squats. Focusing on small positive things leads to a much better state of mind. To use an old saying: Don’t try to climb the whole mountain. Take it one step at a time.
- Write down your progress—When you’re stuck in a rut it can feel like you haven’t had a good workout in forever, even if it hasn’t actually been that long. Keeping a dated, written log of what you did, how you felt, and what you could improve will help put things in perspective. Also, the next time you train for something big you’ll have a template for your training program. You’ll have a better idea of what worked and what didn’t and you’ll also be able to gauge if how you’re feeling at a certain point in your training is normal.
- Get comfortable being uncomfortable—Change your perspective. View discomfort not as pain but as progress. The times when you’re fatigued and feel like you’re not actually going anywhere may be when you’re getting the most done. By pushing through when you’re totally worn down—think two-a-day practices or lifting after a long run—you’re putting in the work for when you’ll really need it.
- Get some cool gear—Pick out clothes that combine style and function. Look for fabrics that wick away sweat and provide sun protection. It’s easier to perform your best when you look and feel your best, so choose clothes that let you express yourself. You’re a badass, so you might as well look like one too.