Every athlete starts somewhere. Being an amateur only means you have nothing but progress ahead of you. At this stage of your game, your top priorities should be establishing a routine, learning your sport, and, most importantly, learning how to properly train and listen to your body.
Many people are often astounded at how much body awareness they develop after they start practicing sports. It’s no surprise — whether you’re running rowing, or playing rugby, sports are a full-body experience that completely changes the way you play, live and workout.
These 10 tips for beginner athletes will help you train like a pro, all while pacing yourself and building a routine that works best for your life.
1. Always Stretch
Stretching before and after any type of physical activity reduces the risk of muscle cramps and injury. It can also help prevent post-sport soreness you have to push through for days at a time.
Stretching improves blood flow, which in turn enhances your flexibility. This can help lower your risk of injury and, in some cases, even improve performance.
Before you delve into stretching, make sure you research different muscle groups or even work with a trainer. Training itself is complex, and your activities will change as your skill improves.
Stretching itself is something separate from a warm-up. It’s best to start with your warm-up, like light jogging or biking, then stop to lengthen your muscles.
After sports, make sure that you also incorporate stretching into your cooldown regimen as well. While some research suggests stretching right before a sport can actually impede performance, the proven benefits of stretching make it a must for every athlete.
2. Practise Relaxation & Muscle Release
When you started practising sports or upped your exercise routine, you likely found that a lot of muscles get stiff and feel much tighter than usual. This is normal as you engage them more regularly, but muscle knots can be painful, and increase the risk of cramping during any physical activity.
Without treatment, tense and taut muscles can lead to myofascial pain syndrome. This is a condition common among athletes who activate the same muscles repeatedly.
The best care approach is preventative; whenever you have tightness or feel a knot, apply gentle pressure to the area until it releases.
You can use a foam roller or even a golf ball to press on a tight area and encourage the muscle to relax. It’s also important to give yourself rest days — even professionals allow their bodies to recover.
3. Target Muscle Groups in Strength Training
Do compound exercises that work different parts of your body simultaneously, like deadlifts, overhead presses, and squats. Compound exercises that keep you in similar positions you’ll be in during sports are especially beneficial.
Some other compound moves you might try are:
- Bench presses
These types of activities engage muscles in various parts of the body, usually the core, arms, and legs, all at once. They help you burn more calories, and build muscle more quickly. Because they also target multiple muscle groups, compound exercises are great for new athletes looking to improve strength, balance, and coordination all at once.
4. Hydrate Like an Athlete
One thing you’ll need to always remember as an athlete: Drink more water. Dehydration is a leading cause of muscle cramps and decreased blood flow. When you don’t have enough H20 in your system, your body shifts into survival mode.
Fixx Nutrition’s Fuel X product is specifically designed to provide hydration for amateur and professional athletes alike and adding electrolytes into your hydration before, during and after sessions more than 60 mins long can assist in reducing instances of dehydration.
Rather than circulate blood to the muscles you’re using most, it focuses on fueling your vital organs. This means your performance decreases, and you’re more likely to cramp up or even experience muscle tears.
Before any exercise, athletes should drink around 235 ml to 475 ml (8 – 16 ounces)
of water before working out, and another 235 ml to 475 ml (8 – 16 ounces) immediately afterward.
During exercise, drink at least 175 – 180 ml (6 ounces) of fluids every 20 minutes.
Afterward, you should replenish your body’s fluid levels by drinking around 475 ml to 710 ml (16 to 24 ounces) of water for every kilo lost.
5. Avoid Inactive Recoveries
One of the most common mistakes new athletes make is using their rest days to simply lounge in bed. Recovery periods are more about helping muscles grow. This usually means engaging them in different, albeit less intense, ways.
Whenever you’re going through a recovery period, do some gentle exercises like walking, yoga, and light, static stretching. This will help muscles heal more quickly and prevent soreness and knots from forming.
6. Know When to Scale Back
Sometimes, athletes get ahead of themselves, because they don’t realize the long-term consequences sports can have on the body. Make sure that you are paying attention to how you feel and how your body functions after exercise or events.
If you find that your muscle soreness is impeding everyday life, or that you are struggling to keep up with any training routine, it’s best to pause and scale back your efforts.
Remember, training is a journey, not a marathon. Even actual marathon runners train for months prior to their event. Slowly building strength will always lead to better performance, and it prevents injuries that could stop you from playing altogether.
7. Find Mentors
Join groups, talk to teammates, and don’t hesitate to ask your coaches or trainers for tips and advice. One of the best things athletes can do is learn from others who have more experience. Mentor-style relationships help you improve your athletic abilities in a natural, fun way.
You’ll also appreciate having others to reach out to with questions, rather than taking educated guesses. It never hurts to seek clarification, especially when it comes to your body and well-being.
8. Time Your Rest Periods
Your maximum output only occurs when conditions are optimal. You can’t be at your best if your muscles aren’t at theirs. So, you need to learn how to pace yourself properly. Rest periods between training sets will vary by athlete and the activity.
Your end goal affects how much you rest between sets, too. Someone looking to build noticeable muscle would likely rest less, because they’re performing hypertrophic training to increase muscle size rapidly.
On the other hand, strength and endurance training is a lot slower. You can usually rest anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes between sets to give yourself the greatest amount of force for your next exertion.
9. Build a Custom Gym Bag
Have a bag that is easy to load and full of everything you need for your athletic events and training. Think a water bottle, foam roller, extra clothes, protein bars, and some cramp-busting products for immediate relief.
Fixx Nutrition offers Cramp Fix mouth spray, shots, and squeeze bottles to rapidly eliminate cramps before they impede performance. It pays to plan ahead, so be sure to regularly make sure your bag has everything you need on-hand.
10. Prioritise Quality Sleep
Muscles repair when they enter an anabolic state. Typically, your body stays in an anabolic phase for 30 minutes after a workout or vigorous physical activity. This is why so many athletes rush to fuel up on carbs or protein immediately after they’ve finished a training session.
Your body also enters an anabolic state when it sleeps. For maximum performance and health benefits, aim for at least 7 hours of restorative sleep each night.
Learn More With Fixx Nutrition
We originally made CrampFix for professional rugby players, and now, our products are used by teams including the Wallabies, Springboks, and UK Cricket & Football.
We might fuel like professionals, but our products are for athletes of every level.
You can learn more about how to train like an expert through our blog*. Click here to explore our posts.
*Please note that this advice should not be treated as medical advice and you should consult your doctor or a sports scientist before implementing any training regime.