Being a well-rounded athlete is not just about what you do in the gym or studio but goes far beyond that. An athlete’s healthy habits are developed in all of the day-to-day choices he/she makes. You cannot simply train or work out and then expect to see major results, you must also learn to live in a healthy manner. In order for martial arts students to reach their fullest potential, we have put together 5 of the most effective habits that will create a stronger athlete within every type of individual.
1.) Get a Healthy Amount of Sleep
Let’s start with the basics. The first and most effective step in becoming a better and more focused athlete is making sure you are getting the correct amount of sleep. Research has proven that a good night’s sleep directly results in an improved performance in memory-requiring tasks and makes it substantially easier to retain information throughout your day. In fact, while we sleep our minds are constantly processing information, transforming short-term memories into long-term memories. Not only are our brains improved, but our bodies are strengthened as well! During sleep the body develops muscles, restores tissues, and generates hormones. To keep it short and simple: sleep is the key to feeling recharged and refreshed. The benefits of sleep can dramatically change all athletic performance. So how much sleep do you need? For children, the number varies greatly depending on age, anywhere from 9-15 hours, but for teens the recommendation is 8-10 hours, and for adults 7-9 hours are recommended. Once you figure out what amount of sleep works best for you, stick with it. Go to bed and wake up at the same times, because consistency is the best thing for your body.
2.) Maintain a Healthy Diet
You have most likely heard about a million different diet plans and new health fads and become overwhelmed by all the fuss. However, when it comes to nutrition keep it simple! For those in the martial arts, taking care of your body is a must. Food is what keeps us energized and fueled. Focus on staying hydrated, steering away from processed foods, and eating foods that are high in protein, low in carbs, and include healthy fats. Try to cut out processed sugar, and instead add in lots of nutrient-rich foods. Limiting drinks such as sodas, alcohol, and coffee can also have major benefits. For those in the martial arts, you are burning a lot of calories when you train, so make sure to eat more when you are working out more.
3.) Relieve Stress
Stress is something that looms over everyone’s life in some way, shape, or form. Stress can weigh us down and prevent us from practicing a lot of the healthy habits we’d like to live out. However, stress can be combated thanks to a few easy methods. Luckily, as martial arts students, you are already acting out one of the top ways to reduce stress: exercise! Exercising is scientifically proven to be a huge stress-reliever because it releases endorphins, which improve your mood, and lowers stress hormones, such as cortisol. Other ways to reduce stress is by finding simple routines to wind down and take care of yourself whenever possible. Whether it is lighting a candle, taking a hot bath, reading, journaling, or listening to calming music, try to find just a few minutes each day to relax.
4.) Set Goals
One of the most effective ways to improve yourself is by setting both long-term and short-term goals. Goals are the perfect way to set a clear path and give focus to all your actions. Achievable goals give direction in your life and also in your training, steering you away from both distraction and procrastination, and forcing you to hold yourself accountable. Although big, long-term goals are extremely helpful, it is just as essential to find small goals to work for each day. These types of goals will help you to push yourself a little harder and motivate all of your actions. It is extremely important to celebrate all your accomplishments, no matter how small, and continue to strive for growth and improvement.
5.) Develop a Support Group
Learning to set goals and hold yourself accountable is great, but it is also very significant that you find people who have your best interest in mind that can help you as well. Finding and leaning on those who look out for you and want what is best for you is the most beneficial habit one can develop. Whether it’s a parent, sibling, best friend, partner, or martial arts teacher, find people who truly care about your well-being and don’t be afraid to go for them for advice or help. In the martial arts especially, it is undeniably vital to have teachers or trainers who can teach and guide you. They will help you make huge strides in accomplishing your athletic goals.
Developing healthy habits in everyday activities is equally as important as training in the gym, studio or dojang. Learning how to take care of yourself will evolve you into a stronger, more well-rounded athlete. By sleeping enough, keeping a balanced diet, taking daily time to relieve stress, setting both large and small goals for yourself, and leaning on those who support you, you are bound to find success in all you do, especially your martial arts endeavors. A healthy lifestyle will keep you more energetic, happy, and motivated in your training. Focus on taking small steps towards a healthier lifestyle each day, and I promise you the results will come sooner than you expect. But, hey don’t take it from me, take it from Buddha – “to keep the body in good health is a duty…otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong a clear.”