In case you hadn’t heard…opening ceremonies for the 2012 London Olympic Games begin tomorrow! If the sports chatter is inspiring you to step up your athletic performance, here are three strategies that may help you become a better athlete:
Have the Right Fuel
When you plan to work out longer than an hour, have a snack before you begin. Sports nutritionist Barbara Lewin, RD, LD, recommends maple rice pudding for the right start. According to Lewin, this snack is high in carbs, moderate in protein and low in fat and fiber food, giving you energy without weighing you down.
For less intense workouts, snacks with low-glycemic-index carbohydrates help burn more fat than carbs of high glycemic indexes. These snacks often include dairy products like cottage cheese with fruit or cherry-almond yogurt parfait.
Get with the Rhythm
According to a 2004 study, music can influence athletic performance in five key ways:
- Diverts the mind from sensations of fatigue
- Alters emotions and can be used as a stimulant or sedative to dispel anxious feelings before a performance
- Sets a repetitive pace to prolong athletic performance
- Reinforce or enhance motor skills (e.g. Salt n’ Peppa “Push It” to reinforce the idea that a shot put is pushed, not thrown)
- Improve motivation and flow during the athletic performance
A recent study from Ohio State University also suggests that exercising to music boosts brain power. Researchers tested individuals’ verbal fluency before and after each exercise session by asking participants to generate lists of words in specific categories. Though most participants reported feeling better emotionally and mentally after working out regardless of whether or not they listened to music, their improved verbal test score more than doubled under the music condition.
There are many playlists, including Michelle Obama’s top 10 workout songs, that suggest workout tunes for you to try. However, one online tool, jog.fm, creates a perfect playlist based on your running pace. By entering your average mile time, the website or app creates song suggestions for you to include in your account’s playlist.
Switch It Up
Cross training helps you develop skills that supplement your regular exercise activity. For example, runners can alternate workouts to include biking and swimming to strengthen different sets of leg muscles that are not often used when jogging, like inner thigh muscles. Mixing it up not only reduces the risk of injury, but it also helps keep you motivated to stick with your exercise program.
You may not be training for the Olympics, but it’s good to be inspired every four years to focus on improving your own athletic performance.