What is self-care and why is it important?
Self-care is a self-explanatory term – it means caring for yourself. Self-care is a wide concept and it includes any activity you do to keep yourself healthy. Moreover, it not only covers your physical health, but what is also important, your mental strength and health. Paying attention to your own health and taking care of yourself should be a habit built at early ages. Young athletes, including football players, must look after the state of their bodies and build healthy life habits.
Only an athlete knows the unique stressors and tribulations we go through daily. It can take a toll on us mentally, physically and spiritually, but with the right methods we can thrive. I hope these tips help bring light to your life and help you continue on your road to success.
Why is Self-Care so important to athletes?
The sport has changed a lot in the last few decades. All sports, individual and collective, are played today at a more professional level than before. This includes a strict training program, with an intense playing schedule. Football players have several competitions during the year, and training practices almost every single day. With this kind of timetable, it is essential now more than ever to pay attention to the condition of your body. Your physical and mental state can be disrupted if not taken care properly, which can lead to performance drop and other health problems. Every athlete knows the challenges of modern sport. It takes a toll on them physically, and mentally. Muscle burnout, anxiety, depression, stress, lack of concentration, less energy, are just some of the issues you may experience. All these can lead to more serious health conditions. Self-care has been proven to be the way to cope with these potential problems and minimise the risk, as well as experience happiness and living a fulfilled life.
How can you achieve self-care? What are some habits and life routines you should adapt?
Following some essential tips can bring you as an athlete more stability in your life and increase your physical and mental strength level, which is the crucial part of every athlete’s success.
Take enough time for rest
This has to be the number 1 advice. The season tends to be quite chaotic, with an intense training schedule. If you add individual training practice to that, the massive amount of energy is needed to endure the entire season. Sometimes, it will be very little time to rest and refresh between the games. This becomes more complicated for young athletes, as they have to endure training practices, competitive matches, and school obligations. Oftentimes in many sport disciplines, young athletes are encouraged to push beyond their limits. This is done for the sake of faster progress, but pushing to train too hard and too often can result in an injury. Moreover, it can lead to the physical, mental, or emotional burnout. This kind of routine often leads to long nights with around 4 or 5 hours for sleep. Which is not good enough. Overtraining will not help you. Having a proper and active rest and recovery can prevent young athletes from reaching that burnout and risk injury occurrence. Through avoiding unhealthy living style and schedule, together with prioritising rest, you as an athlete can improve your own physical state and mental capacity. To completely restore your body and be prepared for the next day, you need to have 7 to 9 hours of sleep at night. Having enough sleep is mandatory not only to have enough energy for obligations that day, but also to give your muscles enough time to recover. Muscle fatigue will lead to performance drop, and can cause serious problems and injuries. Rest does not refer only to sleeping at night. It also refers to rest during the day. Have enough breaks between your activities. Take a break. Even a 10 minute nap can significantly boost your energy level.
Learn Yoga and Meditation
This is an additional way to have some rest time and time for yourself. Yoga and meditation are extremely helpful tools that can help you relax your mind and manage your stress level. Mediation is an amazing way to become one with yourself and to clear your mind from the entire burden you feel. Not only it will help you with the state of your mind, it will also help you strengthen your body. You will feel calmer and have more energy. Doing yoga will improve your physical condition and your body endurance. Having yoga and meditation as a part of daily routine will do wonders for your body and give you rest and energy lift.
Drink plenty of water
Human bodies are made up of about 60% water. In order for our bodies to function normally, proper hydration is the necessity. That is why it is essential to drink plenty of water, and often, especially between training drills and during matches. Researches have shown that when an athlete is dehydrated by just as little as 2% of his body weight, that can influence his performance. And at the level of 5% of body weight, athlete’s performance drop is staggering 30% than usual. Being hydrated all the time will provide you with much needed energy to endure tight schedules. It will also improve the overall state of your body, through normalising your blood pressure and heartbeat. Water helps carry nutrients and oxygen through the body, including muscles. Having a higher level of oxygen in the muscles makes them more endurable and you will be in better physical shape. Try to avoid soda or energy drinks, and tend to drink only pure water. Proper hydration is essential for playing performance, will improve the overall health situation and well-being of your body.
Have proper stretch
Stretching is often taken for granted. But, in fact, it is quite an easy way to improve your physical state efficiently. It takes only a few minutes to stretch, so you should always have time for it. Establish a stretching routine and you will instantly notice changes in your mood and you will feel more active and awake. It takes just 5 minutes to stretch, and you can do it anywhere and at any time. Stretching will maintain the ability of the muscles to lengthen if needed and stay loose. This will keep you in a more agile state.
Pay attention to your posture
We are all addicted to using our smartphones and other gadgets throughout the day, as well as computers. This means that we spend a lot of time during the day sitting down. In fact, our bodies are not designed to spend much time sitting and being hunched. This is the challenge of modern life. Having bad posture can cause neck, back, hip pain, and other issues. Hunching and leaning forward can cause the imbalance in your musculature, as the muscles continue to strain in order to keep you upright. This imbalance will gradually make your muscles weaker, and that can influence your performance. It also increases the risk of occurring injuries. In order to avoid having poor posture, you should walk around as much as possible, especially after sitting for some time. Walking will keep your posture better and give you much needed break.
Have regular workout
Great training is good for your both body and soul. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. The endorphins interact with receptors in your brain, which reduces your perception of pain. Lifting weights, running on a treadmill, swimming, and pushups; are just some examples of the activities that can greatly affect your mood and lift your spirit. Young athletes should establish a routine of age-appropriate workout, which will aim to gradually improve their strength, speed, and endurance. These aspects are considered the core of not only physical, but also an emotional strength. Regular exercising helps the overall state of the body and mind.
Have a healthy diet
You are what you eat. If you eat well, you will feel better. Food is what gives you energy throughout the day, and if you eat healthy, you will feel a lot better. Well-balanced meals of nutrient-rich foods, with avoiding processed foods will help athletes prevent major health issues. Moreover, appropriate food will enhance your brain function and improve your mood. If you feel better and have more energy, you will perform better. Think a lot about food choices you make. Be curious. Interest yourself about food you eat, about the amount of calories, the way of processing, nutrition value, etc. Take a note about it. Pay attention to your diet and design eating programs that will suit you the best. Consult the nutritionist if needed. Not consuming enough calories per day, may result in problems like muscle fatigue, injuries, even lack of concentration. Increased consumption of natural foods, such as fruits and vegetables, together with whole grains and eggs, can improve the functioning of your entire body. Through consulting with a quality nutritionist, you can get relevant information and make a diet plan that suits you the best. It will definitely reflect on the overall state of your body and your performance on the pitch.
Listen to your body
This is an extremely important part of every athlete’s self-care. As an athlete, you are exposed to training workload and pressure almost every day. This demand from you to keep the track over the changes in your body. If you feel the pain, never walk it off. Especially do not continue playing. If you feel that you may be injured, something is wrong. Maybe nothing is serious and there is no need to worry about, but it is better to stop playing and not take the risk. It is better to miss one game than to jeopardize the entire career.
Spend time with your friends
It is not everything about career. Being a professional athlete demands a lot of sacrificing. But, you have to take some time to spend it with your friends. Have some fun with them. This will help you relieve some stress and ease up a tension. Spending time with people we enjoy, people that make us laugh, that is something that can do wonders for our overall state. Not only that, but this will be useful if you have some problematic situation. Friendly guidance and advice can calm you down and improve your mood. In addition, do not limit yourself on spending time with your friends outside your team. Have some fun with your teammates outside the training sessions. This will influence the locker-room atmosphere and create a connection among team members. This will reflect on the performance of the entire team, and each one’s individual mood and happiness level.
Have some time for yourself
This is necessary. Each one of us has a need for some time for ourselves. Being an athlete requires great dedication and commitment. That reflects on less free time. Not many athletes can pull this off. Being stuck in a world of obligations, without some quality time for our own wishes, can be destructive. The worst thing that can happen is to feel overwhelmed and lose motivation. That is why you have to find some time for yourself. Take a nap, play a computer game, read, walk, spend time on your hobby, whatever fulfils you. Pick the activity that best suits you and gives you the most satisfaction. You will feel better and even more excited about your obligations.
The main goal of self-care is to achieve a healthy state of body and mind. Having a positive attitude and healthy mindset is going to help you in every situation in your life, including your sports career. Bringing positivity will lift up your spirit and give you more energy, which will definitely reflect on your performance. You will feel happier and better about yourself. It would not be always easy, but once you achieve it, it will influence all aspects of your life. You cannot control things that are happening around you, but you may control how you react to them. This is a great strength in an athlete’s career, and it is extremely useful in case of an injury. Having a positive attitude will help you cope with depression from being away from the playing field, and it will give you the will to move on and overcome it.
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