By Michael Mejia
1. Drink more water: By now, this one should go without saying. Water is the number one thing your body needs for survival (not soda, or Red Bull!), so how can you possibly expect to perform at a high level if you’re not drinking enough? How much is enough? Check out the new BASE Resource Page to find out.
2. Form is everything!: Nothing irritates me more than watching motivated athletes throw weights around with reckless abandon. I get that you’re young and feel invincible. I also get that many of you will do whatever is physically necessary to realize your athletic goals. That said, slinging weights all over the place is neither necessary, nor is it particularly smart. Take the time to learn the proper form for lifts like squats, deadlifts, Olympic lifts and overhead presses. Once you have the basic mechanics down, then you can gradually start increasing the weight.
3. Posture is more important than you realize: Besides looking unattractive, poor posture can adversely affect your breathing, your digestion and increase your injury risk by promoting widespread muscular imbalance. By simply trying to stand and sit up a little bit straighter several times throughout the day, you can help undue some of effects of all that constant texting and gaming.
4. Eat more fruits and vegetables: Here’s another area where the average kid’s diet falls woefully short. Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber that are lacking in many of the other foods you guys tend to favor. They’re also a great way to improve immune system function, lowering your risk for developing all sorts of diseases.
5. Want to get faster? Get stronger!: Doing endless speed and agility drills is not always the best way to get faster. If you’re not also working to increase strength through the lower body and core, as well develop good ankle and hip mobility, they’ll be of limited value. Concentrate on imparting force into the ground through a full range of motion and you’ll get fast in a hurry.
6. Don’t rely on supplements: Supplements are something you add to an already sound nutritional program; they’re not some magic elixir. If you think that something with a nice, shiny label, full of ridiculous claims is going to make up for a steady diet of McDonald’s and easy mac and cheese, you’re kidding yourself.
7. Change your internal dialogue: A bit of a change up from my usual advice, but lately I’ve noticed more and more athletes engaging in negative self-talk. When you constantly say things like “I stink”, or “I’m never going to..(insert athletic goal here), how do you ever expect to succeed?
Instead of saying “I’m a lousy free throw shooter”, try “I’m getting better
and better at making free throws”. Or, switch out “I’m not fast enough” for, “My speed is improving every day”. Even if it isn’t true right away, it will start getting you in the proper frame of mind to make those changes a reality.
8. If you can’t see it in the mirror, train it!: Stop focusing on all of your “mirror muscles” with lots of bench presses, crunches and biceps curls. The real key to athletic success (and longevity) lies in training everything on the back side of your body. Strengthening your upper and lower back, glutes, hamstrings and calves will give your body much more balance and stability.
9. Sweat the small stuff: If you’re not making time to warm-up thoroughly, stretch and foam roll on a regular basis, you’re making a huge mistake.
Though frequently glossed over, these represent some of the best ways for athletes to improve performance and reduce injury risk. I for one consider them every bit as important (if not more) than strength training, plyomterics, and speed and agility work.
10. Choose whole grains whenever possible: Minimize your intake of foods made with white flour such as white breads, bagels, white pasta and even white rice and potatoes. They bring about rapid spikes in blood sugar levels, leading to subsequent energy crashes. Instead, try and opt for whole grain breads and cereals, brown rice, whole wheat pasta and sweet potatoes.
11. Give “camp” the boot: Count me amongst those who are not big fans of bootcamp training for young athletes. While great workouts for more experienced trainees who are looking to test the limits of their strength and endurance, they’re seldom a good option for developing bodies. Contrary to popular belief, young athletes tend to do better with lower reps, especially when doing more technically proficient exercises like cleans, plyometrics and other compound exercises. Boot camps tend to feature way too much volume, which only invites fatigue and increases injury risk.
12. Be prepared!: Whether it’s forgetting to bring enough water along to practice, or not having any healthy snacks on hand, your lack of preparation is no one’s fault but your own. Take some time each evening to set up some nutritious meals and snacks for the next day. Here are some ideas if you need help.
13. There are no short cuts: That’s exactly why I’ve presented all of this to you in list fashion- so that you can chunk things down and make gradual, consistent efforts towards achieving your goals. I know all about the impatience of youth. Like it or not, though, if you really want these changes to stick, it’s going to take you some time.