As an athlete you will likely spend a lot of your time trying to improve your physical abilities with regards to your sport. This means dedicating long hours to the gym, practicing lots to improve your technique and generally making sure that you work hard and don’t rest on your laurels.
But actually training for an event isn’t all about putting in hard work – it’s also about rest and balance. With the training being your ying and the relaxation being your yang, it’s crucial that you ensure you rest and recuperate after intense exercise so that you can continue to put in those long hours without feeling the consequences.
Because if you get this wrong – if you push your body too hard and too fast – then it will punish you and you will likely find yourself suffering from a severe cold or general overtraining. While they might seem like a minor nuisance to most people, a serious cold can completely ruin an athlete’s training, particularly if it strikes just before a competition. The unfortunate irony here too is that if you are someone who spends long hours in the gym – trying to become that image of physical perfection – then you are actually more likely to leave yourself open to attacks. Because your body will be tired and your immune system will be busy recovering muscle and rejuvenating energy, you will find that you are less able to fend off colds and illnesses.
This is something that a lot of athletes – particularly newcomers to sports – will forget. Here we will look at how to ensure that your defences are strong even when you’re hitting the weights hard on a regular basis…
Get Your Vitamins and Minerals
The first important thing to remember is that your body needs vitamins and minerals in order to stay strong. These are crucial for a healthy immune system and will help you to combat colds and other illnesses even when you’re tired. Most of us don’t get enough vitamins and minerals as it is, and if you are someone who is training heavily then you are going to need even more than the average Joe.
One way to deal with this is by using multivitamin supplements – but be careful how you use these. The average vitamin supplement won’t actually do much good for a bodybuilder or athlete because a lot of the contents won’t get absorbed. Partly because we absorb vitamins better when we’re absorbing other foods (always take vitamins at the same time as other meals), and partly because some vitamins and minerals can actually prevent the absorption of other crucial nutrients. Products like ‘Animal Pack’ get around this by actually giving you 11 different tablets to take at once which each contain formulas designed to work well together with a ‘time delay release’ so that your body can absorb them in a staggered manner throughout the day.
Animal Pack though is not without its problems – the warnings on the packet itself even suggest that those amounts of vitamin B and zinc can cause problems such as nerve damage and anaemia. Rather then, the best way to get your vitamins and minerals is the old fashioned way: eat lots of fruits and vegetables. It’s cheap too, and if you want to get it out of the way quickly you can always make it into a smoothie.
On top of vitamins and minerals you should also be getting your amino acids/protein. This is what your body uses to build muscle and repair tissue, and the more amino acids are available to it, the quicker you will recover from those particularly heavy workouts and be able to get back into the gym.
As well as supplementing with vitamins and minerals then, you should also take an amino acid tablet and/or a protein shake. This will help you to see faster results and give your body the edge it needs to stay strong.
Rest and Relaxation
The other thing that can help your body to defend itself is getting plenty of R&R. This is where the balance comes in – if you spend longer in the gym, then you also need to spend longer sleeping in and getting your rest. This is something that many people forget: so eager are they to work hard and see rapid results that they ignore the signs their body gives them to slow down. Ultimately this is a matter of tortoise and hare – you can either try to rush to the finish and find yourself halted at the end by severe flu, or you can go slow and steady and win the race in great condition.
And it’s not just physical rest you need either: it’s also mental relaxation. If you are seriously training for an important event then, you should be making sure that you feel relaxed and at ease too. One great way to do this is to join a gym with a hot tub and sauna. After each tough gym session spend a little while in there to just relax and turn your brain off (the heat will also aid in the production of growth hormone). It might feel like you’re wasting time, but actually it’s during this time that your body will grow and heal. And apart from anything else, you’ve earned it…