As the holidays close in, it’s easy to find good reasons to take some time away from training. But vacation doesn’t have to completely derail your athletic performance.
To get the most out of your down time without allowing your performance to slip too far off-track, practice good habits that can help you get a head start after the holidays.
Prevent poor performance on the field with these 3 awesome performance habits that help keep your body finely tuned—even when you’re on break.
If I’m traveling or away from training for an extended period of time, there are three things I always take with me:
- Lacrosse ball
- Foam roller
- Resistance band
These three tools can help improve your tired muscles, achy joints, and allow you to get some time in addressing your problem areas when it comes to range of motion.
You can start each morning with a simple protocol of smash, roll, and distract and you’ll come back from break moving better than when you left.
Isolating one movement pattern a day (e.g. hip external rotation) can help get you in the flow of practicing this positive daily habit.
An example of daily mobility work might look like this:
- Lax ball smash on hips and glutes: 2 min each side
- Foam roll in figure 4 position: 2 min each side
- Banded squat mobility: 2 min total.
And like that, in 10 minutes you’ve cleared up your hips for improved range of motion and better function. You can rotate what motor pattern you want to improve on a daily basis, always aiming to get 2 min of treatment on whatever muscle group you’re targeting.
And—this one’s a biggie—it’s important to not only mobilize, but to also reduce the amount time you’re immobile. Sitting all day can be brutal on your hips, so mitigating extended periods of sitting with some walking or mobility work every half hour or so can be a solid habit to develop while on break.
The more water you drink, the better the body functions. Period. It’s surprising how little we think about how often we need to stay on top of our hydration.
Similar to mobility, getting proper hydration is habitual and easily engrained with a few tricks to keep you focused on getting enough water. One easy way to help increase your overall water intake is to try and match whatever fluid or meal you have with equal parts water. If you have a cup of coffee in the morning, drink an equal share of water before or after.
The same goes for every meal: try and get a minimum of one glass of water per meal. This helps maintain a constant connection to actively hydrating throughout the day and can help limit the effects of foods or liquids that are too salty or are diuretic. Carrying a water bottle with you is always a smart move as well.
Keeping separate water bottles in your car, locker, gym bag, or on your desk so that water is always within arm’s reach is a positive habit that goes a long way.
Sleep More (and Better!)
Lack of sleep is one of the biggest detriments to your athletic performance. Sleep is undoubtedly one of the best forms of recovery, regeneration, and regulation of stress. Apart from food and water, nothing can really match the importance of getting sleep when it comes to being an athlete.
Missing sleep or getting stuck in a poor sleep cycle can leave you feeling groggy, under-recovered, and simply unfit for hard training. If you want to get the most out of your training, you have to be getting quality sleep on a regular basis and avoiding things that keep you out later than you should.
One easy habit to improve how you sleep (and get to sleep) is to develop a nightly routine that helps you get ready for rest. Having some sort of easily followed pattern that you repeat nightly can help your mind and body recognize that it’s time to sleep. Whether it’s doing the dishes, cleaning the living room, or organizing your life for the next day, having a routine that you can easily get accustomed to goes a long way for getting into sleep mode.
Similarly, you have to cut out distractions that interfere with getting quality sleep. Minimizing visual contact with screens (smart phones, TV, etc.) and getting into a darker environment earlier can help the body slow down and start signaling the brain for sleep mode.
As an athlete, avoiding negative trends or habits that hinder your progression is a must. Prevention is always the greatest remedy, so attempt to instill these good habits that will carry over into your everyday life.
Building good habits takes practice, but once habits become engrained they can allow you to focus your energy elsewhere: into your training, practice, and skills on the field.