Want to know how to boost athletic performance for free? It almost sounds too good to be true, right? I mean, after all, there’s a supplement for just about everything guaranteed to make you recover faster, jump higher, have more energy, etc. And, if you shell out thousands of dollars, there are plenty of places guaranteeing to make you a better athlete (some of these places are fantastic but most are not). I find that athletes and parents are so willing to spend money but so non-compliant with simple, free ways to boost athletic performance. Well with 100% certainty, I can make the following recommendations to boost athletic performance or I promise I’ll give you your money back!
8 hours of sleep every night
If you don’t know that 8 hours of sleep is extremely important, than I probably can’t convince you of anything. I prefer to see athletes going to bed and waking up at the same time with the same routine to ensure quality sleep. This is no easy task for high school athletes. I also think it’s extremely important to not use electronic devices with blue light or take measures to prevent your intake of the blue light before going to bed as this can disrupt your sleep cycle. Rest and recovery is one of the most underrated and hardest things for athletes to do. For more tips on quality sleep, read one of my former blogs.
Eat more vegetables/fruits
I heard a bicyclist boldly bragging the other day that he could eat whatever he wanted because he burns it all off. My friend, you are terribly mistaken. If you think you can eat anything you want because you will just burn it off, you may as well stop reading as I will never convince you of anything. Food is the fuel for life!!! Do you want to put racing fuel or regular fuel in your race car? I know what I would pick! What would you pick? I always recommend athletes filling at least half their plate with vegetables for every meal.
Foam roll every day
I commonly get asked what I do for treatment for myself. One of my main components of self treatment is a foam roller. Foam rolling decreases muscle soreness, improves muscle activation and increases range of motion. You can read more about foam rollers in another one of my former blogs. A good foam roller costs about $40. A trip to see a medical doctor, physical therapist, chiropractor or massage therapist will set you back a lot more than that.
Fix postural issues
One of the most common postural deformities I see is anterior head carriage. With today’s day and age and electronic devices, it’s becoming more and more common for athletes to have adverse postural defects. Every day when I drive to the high school to coach my track and field/cross country athletes, I see students walking out of school with their heads forward absorbed in their technology. Other postural issues that I commonly see in athletes in my clinic are forward rotated shoulders, hip discrepancies and anterior pelvic tilt. It is hard to biomechanically perform at your best with postural deformities. Imagine driving a Corvette with a smashed front end and trying to drive as fast as one with no defect. Fix the defect and you just might improve performance.
Don’t specialize in one sport
I coach track and field at Plainfield North High School alongside hall of fame coach Tony Holler (you can check out his awesome twitter account @pntrack). If you asked him what he thought about specialization, he might just shake his head at you, then give you about 1000 legitimate reasons why you shouldn’t specialize. I’m with Coach Holler and from my perspective, any time you repeat the same movements over and over, you set yourself up for injury. Specializing at a young age can lead to poor motor development and as tempting as it is to pay club coaches thousands of dollars, you’re better to let your kids play multiple sports to make them ultimately better in one sport.
-Dr. Brian Damhoff