It’s common thought that to become a better athlete you simply need to train more and push harder to be successful.
Many athletes are familiar with the 10,000 hour rule which states that it requires 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to obtain elite level proficiency in your sport. In many ways this concept holds true; you need to put in the time for your body to adapt to and learn the skills and movements required to perform at a high level of sport. However, we have found that there is more to the equation of improvement in sports than simply just training more. You certainly can and do become a better athlete simply by doing more of what you are striving to improve; more hours on the bike, more miles on the run, or more time in the gym. Assuming you have the time and fitness to spend 5+ hours a day training your sport, in time, you will become highly competent in your sport, allowing you to compete at a very high level.
There’s no question that if you put in the time, you will improve. But is this high volume, single-focused training approach the right way to maximize performance? Maybe, maybe not. Is it the only way to maximize performance? Definitely not.
Then what is the ‘right’ way or ‘best’ way to improve as an athlete?
There are many theories out there to follow, however we have found the answer to be: “It depends.” It depends on who the athlete is. How old is the athlete, what is the athlete’s background in sport, what is the athlete’s lifestyle, do they have a job, do they have a family, do they have the time, energy and physical capacity to allow them to train 30+ hours a week, week in and week out? If you’re a 20-something year old, athletic individual with minimal life stress and plenty of financial backing then it’s time to put in the big volume. However, if you’re over thirty, have to make money to support yourself and/or your family, or are a less than perfect physical specimen, then simply doing more of the same thing is not the best path to follow to reach your fullest potential.
Through working with hundreds of different athletes coming from all shapes and sizes of background in sport, we have found that there are six essential components required to maximize fitness and athletic development.
So how is the aspiring athlete going to maximize improvement when spending endless hours cranking out the effort is not an option? We have found over the years that all athletes must make fitness and sport a lifestyle, much like a professional, focusing on both the large and the small components of fitness to build the best possible athlete they can be. We have identified six key elements that are crucial to athletic success, and they can all be implemented regardless of the individual experience level or the amount of time the athlete has to devote to their sport.
The SIX elements of sport performance that make up the SESSIONS:6 Sport Performance philosophy:
Strength & Stability
Diet & Nutrition
By learning, incorporating and striving to always improve upon these six key components of fitness, an athlete will be better able to reach their fullest potential in sport performance.
The first three components, aerobic conditioning, muscular stability, and skill proficiency make up the physical “training” an athlete with do.
Aerobic conditioning can be achieved by not only spending more time performing their sport, but also through various modalities of cross-training during specific times of the year. Training aerobic endurance by going longer at times, as well as incorporating moderate and high intensity interval training, at and above an athlete’s aerobic and anaerobic thresholds at specific points in their training year, will improve their aerobic conditioning.
Including muscular strength and joint stability training will improve an athlete’s range of motion, application of force, and overall durability. Improper joint mobility and/or joint stability limits nearly every athlete in some manner. Improving these characteristics through proper strength training modalities, an athlete will become more efficient and able to use more of their given maximal aerobic capacity.
Developing the skills to move the body in the most efficient manner is critical to maximizing strength, power, speed and endurance. Wasted energy through improper movements not only slows you down but wastes valuable energy, limiting your performance. By incorporating drills into an athlete’s training program they will be able to maximize gains in strength and power as well as achieve a higher usage of their given maximal aerobic capacity.
The last three key components, diet & nutrition, stress management, and mental fitness are efforts made in between the physical training sessions.
These details require as much or more effort to incorporate into an athlete’s routine, but they can also often yield some of the biggest results.
Most athletes are aware of the importance of nutrition but few actually take it seriously for any length of time. Through optimal nutrition you not only perform better on race day, but you are also able to achieve optimal body composition for improved performance, optimal energy levels to improve training capacity, and optimal hormone operation within the body to improve health and recovery.
Recovery between training sessions is critical to maximize your training consistency and adaptation. Learning and incorporating proper recovery methods as well as recognizing other forms of stress in your your life and adjusting your training accordingly will allow you to train more effectively and get more from each training session.
Finally, perhaps the most neglected and overlooked component of success in sport is the power of the mind. Getting yourself in the right mindset to train to your fullest potential and compete to maximum ability is one of the toughest things for athletes to learn. It is subsequently also one of the most important abilities for athletes to transform themselves into champions. Practicing mental strategies and learning how to train and compete to your true ability will unlock the complete athlete within you.
To become the best athlete you can become and reach your fullest potential in the least amount of time possible, you must address these six crucial components of sport performance development: aerobic conditioning, strength & stability, skill proficiency, diet & nutrition stress management, and mental fitness.
When any one of these components is neglected or underdeveloped, an athlete will fall short of their maximum ability. Don’t fall into the trap that there is only one path to improvement, doing the same thing over and over. Rather, choose to expand your vision and athletic ability by addressing these six components of fitness to allow yourself to continually evolve and improve as an athlete.
By incorporating these 6 components into your daily training and lifestyle you will be able to consistently improve your performance year after year.
Written by Cody Waite, professional endurance athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Sessions:6 Sport Performance. Looking for help with your endurance sport training? Check out S:6’s Training Plans, Team Programs, and Personal Coaching options created to fit your needs and budget.