6 Steps to Becoming a Better Athlete (and Person)
You are an athlete. And you spend more time on your sport than you admit to your friends and family. It’s more than a hobby. It’s a part of you.
When you have a great session, it leaves you feeling on top of the world. And a bad session is one of the only things that can make you feel miserable. Like it or not, your training is part of your moods and feelings, your life, and your identity. Your athletic self is undeniably connected with your human self.
How we feel when we put the bar away after a training session reflects how we feel about ourselves.
Everyone has one or more ultimate goals - whether it’s to be strong enough to carry your loved ones out of danger, move well enough to be independent in old age, or live long enough to see your grandkids grow up. There’s always a deep reason if you look hard enough.
I bet if you connected how important and relevant your sets and reps in the gym are to your deep needs as a human, your progress as a lifter would be easier and more consistent. Motivation to get to the gym would be secured from deep within, and when you have a terrible day at training, you would never question why you do this stuff.
So let’s take advantage of these connections between your athletic self and your human self. Let’s root what you do on the gym floor deep into your beliefs as a person. Here are six ways to be a better person, and lifter.
1. Be an Example (to Yourself)
Don’t just be an example to others. Be an example to yourself. Be the person you want to be. Believe it enough, act it out frequently, and it will become a reality.
"Be your own example, become engaged, keep questioning everything, have deep purpose, and remain grounded."
What’s “it”? Anything you want it to be. Do you want to be that early morning workout person? The one who can start the day with a great session at 6:00am? Then get up and get it done. Sure, it will feel crap and unnatural at first. But then one day, it will feel okay. And then it will start to feel good. Before long, it will simply be part of your daily routine. Create your own reality.
2. Be Present
It’s not enough just to turn up to your sessions, whether they are group workouts, you are training by yourself, or anything in between. Be present in your own training. Be engaged with the class, the coach, and the movements you are performing.
Regardless of the environment, remain focused on the present moment.
And yes, that’s hard work. It’s much easier to just rock up, switch your brain off, and lift. But the more present you are, then the more you will learn - about yourself, about what you are lifting, and about how these relate to each other. You buy books and gadgets to learn more and give you an extra edge. You video yourself to analyze your lifts and understand more. But how about simply being more in the moment when you are lifting?
3. Be a Thinker
I know many top coaches who would disagree with this. They believe the coach should be the thinker and the athlete the doer. But I believe this does a disservice to everyone and most of all you, the athlete. I understand everyone works differently and some people simply like being told what to do. But if you always need to be told what to do, you’re always going to need to be told what to do.
That doesn’t mean stop being coached. It means that blindly following what a coach tells you is not going to be best for you as an individual. Would you like to be able to figure out by yourself how to improve, what is working, what is not working, what you need to do more of, and what you need to do less of?
Always take time to write, reflect, measure, and analyze your training.
Empower yourself through questioning, thinking, making connections, and being in a constant state of learning, refining, and improving. Be fully aware of the whole process so you can continue to progress by knowing exactly what works for you.
4. Be Punctual
Just like being too busy to train is a choice, so is being late. I accept there are going to be occasional times where this is unavoidable. Life happens. But being late on even a semi-regular basis is a choice. You are continually prioritizing something else over your training.
"Empower yourself through questioning, thinking, making connections, and being in a constant state of learning, refining, and improving."
Have you noticed how when you rock up late to a session, you feel one step behind for the whole rest of the session? And a little off-kilter with your training buddies? That’s no way to train. And no way to be present in the session.
Make a choice to prioritize your training. Be on time. You’ll find the focus you are devoting to your training starts to filter into everything, from your nutrition right down to your sets and reps.
5. Be Purposeful
I don’t mean to not do things by mistake. In fact, the process of trial, error, refinement, and retrial is where methods are modified for the better. But this can only happen if you know what your purpose is. For example:
- The purpose of the exercise you are doing - to keep your shoulders healthy.
- The purpose of the training plan - to make yourself bulletproof.
- How your plan relates to your goals and priorities - to not get injured.
- How your plan ties into your life - to be able to play with your kids.
The more deeply rooted your purpose, the more invested you will be in your training. The more motivated you will be without the need for pushing and prodding. Which leads to consistent, super-meaningful training. This gets results.
6. Be Humble
Just because you are a better exerciser than most others doesn’t mean you are better at life. Just because you can lift heavier than others doesn’t give you any entitlement over anyone else. Sport is a small subsection of life, and what you do is a small subsection of sport. Your dominance on the platform does not extrapolate to any kind of dominance or entitlement in life.
Regardless of your ability level, always be a humble, gracious competitor.
If you want to be respected, you need to be respectable. Being respected isn’t about lifting the biggest weight or having the fastest time. Being respected is about the integrity you have as an athlete. That is a deeper, less transient respect. A respect that begins from within. Respecting yourself comes from acting with honor and integrity in everything you do.
Conclusion: Just Train Hard and Be Nice
You are a human being before you are an athlete. Be your own example, become engaged, keep questioning everything, have deep purpose, and remain grounded.
In short, be a better person and you will become a better athlete.
Check out these related articles:
- You Have a Black Belt In Jiu-Jitsu, Not In Life
- Lessons While Shooting - How to Take Aim In Life and Sport
- 5 Essential Tips For Building a Better Exercise Practice
- What's New On Breaking Muscle Today
Photos courtesy of Breaking Muscle.