Box breathing is a great tool for athletes to have at their disposal. Two main ways to utilize it.
1. During competition - During a timeout, or a break in action, between plays, etc. Using 1-3 box breaths can help calm and slow down the body while delivering more oxygen to the body and enhancing carbon dioxide tolerance.
2. Before bed - Again this will aid relaxation and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system to better prepare the body for sleep. Aim for 10 breaths of box breathing and you'll be well on your way to better sleep.
Nasal breathing is arguably the most powerful thing you can be doing every single day.
We are not meant to chronically breath through or mouths and it has disastrous long-term effects.
As you sit throughout the day and prepare for sleep (and during sleep) we NEED to be breathing through our nose. It filters, warms and moisturizes the air as it passes to our lungs (the mouth does not do this). It also increases nitric oxide (a vasodilator) which helps the passage of oxygen rich blood to our body. Nasal breathing also stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) to allow us to recover and rest better (mouth breathing does the opposite).
Sleep disorders, apnea, snoring are all linked to mouth breathing which obviously disrupts our main recovery tool...sleep. Consider nasal strips or a nasal dilator, both I've used and they really do help with getting air through the nose during sleep.
You train for approximately 1-hour a day, but you may not be getting the fullest results from training if you aren’t taking care of the hours spent away from the gym; something we like to call: The Other 23.
The truth is, you get better between training sessions, not during them. Training elicits a stress on your body and you become better by adapting to those stresses. Training provides the stimulus for awesome results, BUT to fully maximize those results you need to take care of the other 23-hours to maximize the adaptation.
What does this mean?
It’s during The Other 23 that you will truly see the biggest results. Remember - you can’t out train a poor lifestyle.
I often get asked, "What steps should I take during this upcoming season to stay healthy and make sure I perform at my best?".
Staying healthy, performing at your max potential, and keeping energy/strength during a sport season are qualities everybody strives to perfect, but few truly utilize.
During a season athletes get beat-up, worn-down, lose strength, and lose the conditioning they gained during the off-season. It’s natural considering the stress athletes are under on and off the field. In high school/college these kids are under athletic, academic, and social stresses that can add up quickly if not taken care of.
Professional athletes on the other hand, have about every resource at their finger tips, so they will be able to do things above and beyond what a college or high school kid could do.
Things like athletic training, physio, massage, nutrition/supplements, strength and conditioning, and financial advantages are all tools professional athletes have that for the most part are limited in most other athletes.
So I’m going to give you a guide to give you the tools and knowledge that are attainable so you can stay as close to your maximum ability during the season.
I don’t think these are hard to follow, but they will take some discipline and sacrifice on your part. I would expect anyone that is serious about their sport would easily take these tips to heart and be able to perform them.
Let me keep it simple so you can check out our great YouTube Video on sleep.
This is another obvious factor that we need to make sure is in check during the season. What we put in our body and how we nourish it is going to go a long ways in optimal performance.
A priority that needs to made is making sure you are getting adequate amounts of protein during the season. A good rule of thumb is to get at least your body weight in grams protein.
So if you weight 180lbs you should be getting 180g of protein.
Aim to get 1-2 servings of fresh fish per week, 1-2 servings of red meat per week, a dozen eggs a week.
Also aim to get 3-4 big a** salads each week and 3-4 super shakes each week.
Secondly, it is important to get quality carbs in your body so we keep glycogen stores where we want them. This means the majority of your carb intake is coming from a variety of fruits and vegetables. Carbohydrates are the primary fuel you'll use during tough practices and games, so don't be afraid to eat more starchy carbs like sweet potatoes, potatoes, quinoa, oatmeal, and granola as well.
In this same category comes hydration. When I talk about hydration I’m talking about water - not soda, fruit juices, energy drinks, Gatorade, or Powerade. You need to drink water whenever possible, leave the Gatorades and Powerades for especially strenuous workouts, games, or very hot/humid days. The rest of the time these drinks are not warranted and just add excess sugar and calories.
There is no clear recommendation as to water consumption - there are lot of things like body weight, body composition, age, gender, physical activity levels - that effect hydration status. Strive to keep your pee clearish.
Finally, when talking about nutrition and diet, supplementation always pops up. So I will give you 3 that I would recommend. I'm not saying you need these but they are the most beneficial given a restricted budget.
1. Creatine monohydrate- Creatine might be the most studied/research supplement of all-time, and the results are all the same, it works. No creatine will not cause cramps, it is not a steroid, it will not shrink your balls, it will not turn a women into a man, it will not make you lose all your ligaments and cartilage; so get over all those myths. It has been proven to increase gains from strength training, promotes faster recovery, decreases body fat, and increases lean muscle mass. So don’t be afraid of this supplement, and take advantage of the benefits.
2. Whey Protein - Whey protein is the ultimate post recovery resource. Whey gets into the muscles the faster and starts protein synthesis faster than any other source of protein. I also find it very convenient and easy for on the go, which is great for busy individuals.
3. Magnesium - 500-1000mg
3. Movement Quality
When I speak of movement quality in this sense I am talking about maintaining ROM, mobility, and tissue health.
During the season a couple of things happen, athletes become tight and inhibited from equipment (shoes, pads, tape, etc) and from repetitive movement patterns (performing the same type of movements day in and day out). This can create some imbalances, tightness/restrictions in certain areas. So what you want to insure is that you are keep yourself from being tight and inhibited.
So what things do you have to do to prevent this? Easy here a few
4. Stress Reduction
In-season athletes tend to have an incredible amount of stress, from physical, mental, emotional, social, etc. Stress is systemic, meaning our body doesn't differentiate from physical, emotional, social stresses. To the body it is the same - so going through a hard academic portion or having relationship problems will all affect physical performance.
As athletes, we tend to just focus on the physical stresses of sport, BUT need to account for other stresses as well. If we don't, these built up stresses that we encounter everyday will begin to break down the body.
For some this might be meditation, yoga, watching a movie, going on a walk, talking to someone, taking a nap, getting extra sleep, going to the weight room to blow off steam, etc. Whatever it is, you need to figure out what helps you best so you don’t let stress linger.
Overall it is important to do things that give you a break from everything.
Movies and spending time with loved ones do the trick for me - Also my doggo's are extremely stress relieving!
You gotta find what works for you, because it is important to get away from time to time. Enjoy your life, you have it better than 90% people out there, so put that into perspective and have fun.
5. Weight Room
The time you spend in the weight room during the season is very valuable. I think a common misconception is that you cannot get stronger during the season; it’s just a time to maintain as best as you can.
I think that is bull shit.
You can get stronger and improve during the season, as long as you take the right approach. Now I will say it takes some good planning, great recovery, and is more difficult than the off-season, but it can be done.
During the season training has to be altered to fit in with the demanding needs of the sports' practices and games. This means training volume needs to be decreased, but that does not mean the intensity has to be greatly decreased. Also we want our athletes to be fresh and ready for their sports, so some adjustments to eccentric and exercises that put us in a stretched position also need to be adjusted, as these lead to soreness.
So some good ideas are sled or prowler pulls/pushes (no eccentric portion), step-up (no eccentric portion), KB swings, Olympics lifts (just pull), reverse hypers, hip thrusts, and extra core work should be maximized.
This does not mean our base-compound movements such as squats, deadlifts, bench, etc should be eliminated, but they should be altered for low set and low reps and moderate-to-high intensity. The deadlift could be altered to lower intensity with a snatch grip to help groove the movement and get extra work on the hamstrings and upper back. This will allow us to keep our strength levels, and even work to increase it during the season.
Depending on how far out a lift is from a game, it can be wise to avoid exercises that have strenuous eccentric portions or lengthened positions, as these increase the liklihood of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). So typically RDL variations, lunges, bulgarian split squats, high rep squatting, etc.
Also be sure to cut back on overall duration of your workouts, your sets, and reps. Your workout should only be taking about 40-50 min, and much of that should be spent on extra mobility, activation, and recovery, while the rest should be just a few good sets at your big compound lift.
Get in, get after it, and get out should be your motto during the season.
So there you have it, 5 great tips to make this next sport season your best. Stay healthy and stay at your best, and you will see the great benefit in your success.