Among the training principles of the 15th-century samurais was the importance of paying special attention to small details. Samurais believed that the finer points were the most critical aspects to winning any battle or succeeding in any endeavor. Likewise, athletes recognize that to be successful, the little things (food, exercise, and recovery) are important, but they rarely pay proper attention to them. Often times the difference between an ordinary and extraordinary athlete is just the “extra” attention that has been paid to the little things. Unfortunately, this concept of “extra” is often confused with “expendable.”
In particular, there are five areas of training that fighters view as expendable. Don’t make the mistake of overlooking these important details.
1) WARM UP
If your warm-up is simply a lighter first set of the exercise that began your workout or a five-minute walk on the treadmill, you are skipping a vital part of your training. A proper warm-up should increase blood flow, stimulate the nervous system, improve reaction, increase strength, and most importantly prevent potential injury.
Action Step: Complete a 15-minute warm-up routine before every workout that increases your heart rate and cracks a sweat.
2) EAT POST-WORKOUT
After a vigorous workout, your body is starving for the most important meal of the day: the post-workout meal. If you are not taking in quality carbohydrates and protein immediately following your workout, you are increasing the chances of muscle damage. A protein shake is a great post-workout meal because your body can quickly digest the liquid.
Action Step: Drink a post-workout shake within 15 minutes of completing your workout.
Stretching has taken a bad rap lately. Maybe it is because people are too lazy or too pressed for time, but there are important areas of your body you need to keep flexible. In addition to improving range of motion, stretching after a workout can also help to decrease heart rate and relax the nervous system. If you don’t want to complete a full-body stretch, make sure to focus on your ankles, hamstrings, hip flexors, and gluteal muscles.
Action Step: Perform a 15-minute stretch after each workout.
4) DRINK WATER
This one is a no-brainer. However, do you really drink six to eight glasses of water a day? If not, you are leaving both your muscles and brain dehydrated, which increases your risk of injury. In addition to water improving athletic performance, increased water intake also leaves fighters leaner, allowing them to make weight easier.
Action Step: Start consuming at least six glasses of water a day, and cut out the sugary energy drinks.
Sleep is one of the basic necessities of life. An inadequate sleep environment and poor sleep habits will not only cause your training to suffer, but also your job, relationships, and overall health. If you aren’t getting enough restful sleep, your body will have a reduced ability for muscle repair, immune system response, memory consolidation, and the proper release of hormones, including growth hormone and insulin.
Action Step: Turn off your phone, computer, and television and get eight to nine hours of sleep a night.
These tips may seem like common sense, however, common sense is not always common. The challenge is not to comprehend the list but to have the discipline to execute the action steps. Champions, like the samurai, eventually come to realize that there are no little things. Take these five tips to heart, and you will see that your goals will be easier to attain as a result.
For more than a decade, strength and conditioning coach Martin Rooney has prepared hundreds of fighters for the UFC, Pride, ADCC, IFL, and the Olympics, including multiple UFC, Pride FC, and IFL champions. For more information, visit his website:www.trainingforwarriors.com.