Top ten habits of elite athletes (for the non-elite athlete) – part II

If you missed part I of this post, I am using the article Top 10: Habits Of Elite Athletes and putting my own spin on how to adapt these habits for any average Joe (or Jane). This is the second half of the list.

4. Get quality sleep

“Athletes go to bed and wake up at the same times (within an hour) each day.”

Non-elite habit: getting enough sleep is important. We know that. What is perhaps more important is having a consistent sleep schedule in order to take full advantage of the benefits. Instead of rolling out of bed at 2pm 11am on Saturday and Sunday, shoot for going to bed and waking up within an hour of the same time you do so on the weekdays.

Of course, some people have social lives on the weekend and stay out late with their friends, which will mess up your schedule. My advice (from personal experience…yes, I DO have one friends, my husband) would be to get up whenever your body naturally awakes the first time, and then to take a short nap later in the day if you feel drained. Adhering to your circadian rhythm will help you stay on a semi-regular sleep schedule so you can go to bed easily that night. You can help shut your body down for an earlier bed time by devoting 30 minutes to relaxing rituals before you hit the hay: make a cup of tea, read a book, stretch in low lighting, whisper sweet nothings to your cat, visualize floating on top of clouds made of cotton candy, etc.

3. Follow an individualized training program

“It’s human nature to focus on what you’re good at, which isn’t always what you need. By following a professionally designed training program with components of individualization, athletes are more likely to improve their weaknesses and overall performance…”

Non-elite habit: If you are one of the party animals mentioned in the previous habit, then we already know you have friends. If you don’t have unlimited resources like many elite athletes, you can still enlist a friend to help you come up with your training plan. If your friend has your best interests in mind (or is slightly sadistic), they will point out gaps in your routine or suggest ways you can improve your weaknesses.  Having an outside perspective (from anyone) can help keep you honest and ultimately raise your chances of reaching your goals.

2. Set goals

“Setting goals provides athletes with structure and constant motivation, which ensures continual progress.”

Non-elite habit: I touched on S.M.A.R.T. goals in habit #10, but let’s go into more detail by breaking down a specific example. Ensuring that your goals are specific, measureable, attainable, realistic, and timely increases the odds of success (or at least improvement) exponentially by forcing you to come up with an plan of attack. Here’s how you do it:

GOAL: I am going to be awesomer.

….how are you going to be awesome? How do you even measure when you’ve achieved your maximum awesomeness? Why are you using a word that isn’t even real? There are a lot of problems with this goal.

S.M.A.R.T. GOAL: I am going to earn 10 new friends (specific) by introducing myself to one new person in the cereal aisle of the grocery store (non-realistic) each week for the next 10 weeks (timely), and then invite them all to a cereal party at the end of the 10 weeks to see how many of them come and agree that I am awesome (measureable + attainable).

Now go be awesomer and set S.M.A.R.T. goals.

1. Work with coaches

“Coaches help athletes stay focused and keep progressing. They remove many of the “planning” stresses from athletes and allow them to focus more on the implementation side of things.”

Non-elite habit: Again, most of us can’t afford to hire personal coaches for all the aspects of our lives. Coaches are beneficial because they stay in your face and hold you accountable for your training and goals. Here are some alternative ways to give your motivation a swift kick in the tush:

      • Instead of having a coach make up a training plan for you, look up tried and true plans created by experts who are willing to share their knowledge publicly. For example, if you want to run a marathon, tons of runners have followed one of Hal Higdon’s training plans (I am following his Novice I half marathon training plan right now, in fact).
      • Stay accountable by joining a training group that meets once-weekly (or however often you can commit to meeting), downloading an app like GymPact, making a wager with a friend that you will do “x” to reach your goal this week, or by even mentioning to the front-desk personnel at your gym that you want to try to get to the gym three times that week. You will be surprised at how invested others become in your goal and your success!
      • Post your goals and motivational pictures or quotes on your fridge, mirror, husband, have it tattooed on your hand, etc. to be constantly reminded of what you’re working towards.
      • Take advantage of others’ experience by reading inspirational memoirs, picking your healthiest friend’s brain, or following healthy living blogs. Many of these people have experienced set backs and failures, so seeing their ultimate success may motivate you to keep on keepin’ on through your tough times.

And that’s that.

What are your tips for staying motivated? For improving your personal health habits? Goals you’re working towards? I want to be invested in YOU!

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2 thoughts on “Top ten habits of elite athletes (for the non-elite athlete) – part II

  1. That tip about getting up at the same time even if you went to bed late is a great one even if your goals aren’t athletic. It makes work or school way easier if you are used to being awake during the day, ever day, rather than having to totally recalibrate every Monday.

    • Agreed – even though it’s nice to not have to get out of bed at a specific time on the weekend, I always end up feeling lethargic if I sleep too long anyways. PLUS if I just stick to getting up relatively early, I always feel accomplished and like I have more of the day to take advantage of! Win-win.

      Thanks for your comment!

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