• Bronwyn Tagg

Why ‘athletic performance’ should be a priority for all amateur athletes

Athletic performance is key for professional competing athletes, because that’s why they do what they do – to compete and win. However, there are a few tips that all amateur athletes can take from the pros, whatever your motivations and performance levels.

Tip 1: Making the time to train

An amateur athlete is someone who engages in their sport for the pleasure of it, rather than for financial benefits (such that a professional athlete does). Therefore, by definition, you want to train and to do this, time maintenance is crucial. The number of times you train will be dependent on your sport; endurance athletes like triathletes will train for longer than weightlifters because of the different elements of fitness.

So how do you make time to train?

Put simply a plan! A plan of your work life, social life, nutrition requirements and your workouts should be created so that you can visually see when you are going to fit things in. Building your training plan means building your training into your daily routine. This doesn’t mean you have to train every day, but you should do something towards it; for example, ensuring you eat a nutritiously good meal, reviewing your goals, or ensuring you get a good sleep. Many amateur athletes have full-time jobs, but it’s feasible to put aside part of your daily routine for your training. If you need help putting together a plan, get in contact with our coaching team! Also, go check out our recent blog post on how to stick to those habits and 1%ers. If it's info on how to specifically structure your gym sessions, check this one out.

Tip 2: Take a scientific approach to your training

While the minor gains can be made in your daily 1%s, your major gains come from major improvements in your physiology and physical capabilities. Key physiological athletic performance elements include your body’s ability to:

- clear the lactate from your muscles

- use fats in competition to save the glycogen stores for the end

- produce a certain amount of power when required

- repeat skilful actions accurately

- maintain focus over a period of time

Many amateur athletes take a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to their training, sometimes due to lack of access to scientific equipment, or a closed mindset. If you have this mindset as an amateur athlete, you should drop it now!! The training method that makes one athlete improve, may cause overtraining and decreased performance in another, and may not be enough to stimulate improvement in another. Therefore, personalisation and individualisation is just as key to professional athletes performance, as it is to amateur athlete performance. Scientific testing of physiological and metabolic reactions is the ideal way to tailor a training plan to an amateur athlete. It is key for all athletes to understand this, and for coaches to promote it! If you’re looking for a coach that puts individualised training plans ahead of mass athlete marketing, get in contact with one of the Parfournen team, and we’ll create something that fits you and your goals.

WARNING: this doesn’t mean you hook onto every new trend, or what just one individual study says!!!

“Personalisation and individualisation is just as key to professional athletes performance, as it is to amateur athlete performance”.

Tip 3: Your diet should match your sport

For proper body maintenance, you have to maintain a fairly strict diet schedule. However, your diet should take into account the type of sport you do.

Some points to remember:

- Across the board, most amateur athletes will need a low-fat diet to avoid excess fat being stored in the body. For sports such as gymnastics or endurance running, you don’t want to carry extra weight, therefore this is more important.

- Every amateur athlete needs an amount of protein in their diet to rebuild the micro-damage in their muscles caused by exercise.

- Carbohydrate intake is key for performance. All amateur athletes need to match their carbohydrates, as the main energy source, to their sport. Marathon runners will exert more energy in golfers doing a golf tournament, and therefore will need more carbohydrates in their diet in comparison. If the fact that all pro athletes focus largely on their carbohydrates doesn’t convince you then maybe this will:

A decrease in just 25% in glycogen content (which is far from depletion levels!) significantly decreases your ability to product effective muscle contraction force and velocity for your sporting actions, significant interfering with your power and speed, and therefore your athletic performance.

Tip 4: Understand the importance of rest

Sleep can either help you achieve your goals, marginally miss out on then, or cause you to burnout entirely. Check out our recent article on how sleep can make you a better athlete for more tips and tricks, but basically, regularity and enough sleep is the key to being a successful amateur athlete. However, recovery includes more than just sleep. Recovery should be a time when your brain and muscles are allowed to switch off, which will help improve your awareness and reaction times. The fundamentals of recovery are explained here So, don’t count your working hours as recovery time; you might not be practicing your golf swings, lifting weights, or running intervals, but your body and mind is not resting!

Tip 5: Remember to stretch

Stretching helps reduce injury; while vital for professional athletes working towards a World Championships etc, it is also important for amateur athletes because it will enable you to meet your goals and targets. Static stretching moves the joints to their max ranges of motion, which increases its flexibility and removes stress. Dynamic stretches move your muscles and joints through controlled movements which increases your blood flow to that area, and encourages muscle activations. Professional athletes make this a key part of their warm up and cool down, so there's no reason you, as an amateur athlete, shouldn't do the same!

Tip 5: Don’t underestimate sports psychology

When you are an amateur athlete you are likely participating in your physical activity more than the average person who exercises 3 times a week. Therefore, you are already putting your body under enormous amounts of physical stress. Mental stress can actually lead to fat gains and muscle loss, which could be detrimental to your success! Therefore, exercises like yoga and meditation can help reduce your stress levels and make you a more mentally resilient, stronger amateur athlete. But mental tools don’t always focus on stress. There are certain techniques that can help you increase your focus, mental stability, positivity and confidence levels. Look out for a future article about this on our website!

Tip 6: Monitor EVERYTHING

Overtraining, or not getting enough of x, y or z, is something that pros rarely experience. Why? Because they record everything in some form or another. Most amateur athletes don’t have the correct perceptions of this balance and therefore often become fatigued when they shouldn’t be. Monitoring training with a scientific approach behind you is a great way to avoid all the stress, tiredness and pain. Training platforms, or even a handwritten logbook, are an ideal way to record your daily activities, nutrition and rest. Following this recording stage, feedback can be given to coaching, enhancing the individuality of the training they suggest for you based on your recordings, progressions and feelings. Monitoring your athletic performance also allows for comparison, often useful when you try out different things or when you want to see how far you’ve come.

To conclude, the differences between professional and amateur athletes are not in the marginal gains, but in the basics, the major gains, the ‘ABC’s of training and the entire approach one takes. So, if you’re truly set on improving your performance as an amateur athlete, check out Parfournen, and let our expertise, coaching staff, facilities and opportunities make the ‘backroom athlete performance staff’ available to professional athletes, available to you as an amateur athlete.

By Bronwyn

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