If you feel like you're working your hardest, but not seeing as much improvement in the gym as you'd like to, you're not alone. Consistent and excellent performance in the gym requires much more than just working hard for that hour. In this post, we’ll cover what the best athletes are doing that sets them apart and gives them their competitive advantage. Read on to see what to add to your routine that'll help you get on their level.
They warm up, and they do so both generally and specifically.
There is a solid amount of research that shows activating (or warming up) the right muscles can lead to more efficient use of them in the workout. Failure to "activate" certain muscles will lead to compensation from the wrong ones which puts you at risk for injury. You might have even felt this yourself before. Have you ever done your first set in the workout and it feels terrible? Then on your second set or second round, you feel more warmed up and ready for the movement, making it feel easier? That’s muscle activation! Warming up is so much more important than most athletes realize, and all the best athletes are doing it better than you.
Warm up generally to get your blood flowing (rowing, running, biking). Then warm up specifically to the movements and muscles you will be using in the workout (ex: shoulders, scaps, and traps if we’re doing shoulder to overhead in the workout). Shoulders/upper back and glutes are two areas we see need a little more activation before being used intensely. Start slow if you need to by just adding an extra 5 minutes to your warm up routine. You will feel the improvement in your performance!
They take on the responsibility of their weaknesses.
Every athlete has something they can be better at. The difference between the best athletes and everyone else, is that the best ones take responsibility for what they need to spend time working on or learning about, then they do it. If you don’t have dubs down yet, they’re not going to come if you don’t spend time working on them. If you know you should be squatting to a box because a coach has told you to, you should be the one getting the box out when there’s squats in the class. Additionally, there are so many resources out there for whatever your area of weakness might be. If you need to work on Olympic lifts, follow an Instagram page like @hookgrip. If you have mobility restrictions, look for sources like Mobility WOD or ROM WOD to take control of your issues and start working at them. We coaches can only help you for that one hour of the day that you’re with us in the gym. The rest of the day is yours.
We’re not sure when it started to be cool to say you don’t sleep, but that seems to be a thing these days. Simply put, the athletes who perform the best are well recovered and recovery happens while you sleep. Research shows not getting enough sleep literally takes years off of your life! So as your mom used to say, "Go to bed!"
They eat carbs pre-workout.
As always, nutrition preferences and what works best for individuals can vary greatly from person to person. Generally speaking though, we’ve found that most people operate and perform better in their workout if their pre-workout snack/meal has carbs in it. Some people work better off of pre-workout complex carbs (oatmeal, brown rice, sweet potatoes) and some feel better off of simple carbs (fruit, regular potatoes). If you usually eat a protein or fat heavy pre-workout snack, or none at all (yikes), try adding some carbs and see how you feel. It’ll probably be better.
They recover with post-workout liquid protein and maybe even more carbs.
A post-WOD liquid protein source is a must. It is the fastest absorbing food source you can give your starving muscles at that time. You will recover faster and feel less sore the next day. Drink it within 30 minutes of finishing your workout. Additionally, some bulking or high-intensity athletes add post-WOD carbs into their shake to aid in the gains.
They foam roll and cool down (LEVEL 10 EXPERT)
Do you want to really up your game? Do you think you do all of this recovery and protein business, and still don’t quite feel your best? If you want to move your performance game up to Level 10 Expert, add a few minutes of foam rolling, stretching, and a cool down after your workout. This is what all of the best athletes do. Your muscles need a chance to relax from the intensity of being used in the workout, don’t go immediately sit in your car in a tight little ball. A 5-10 minute cool down post workout and 5 minutes of foam rolling will allow your muscles to stretch and breathe. It’s a game changer to put you on the path to becoming the best athlete you can be!