As a performance and wellness coach for high-level athletes and individuals, I am often asked the question, "What is the difference between a professional athlete's workouts and a standard workout?" To me, there is only one significant difference between a sports athlete and a lifestyle athlete's workout, the warm-up. This article will discuss how this one significant difference sets the workouts apart and evaluates where you should fall on the sports athlete and lifestyle athlete workout continuum.
Some may be thinking, how much different can a warm-up be? Fair question, let's first examine what a warm-up is and why we even do it. A warm-up is set in place to prime the athlete's body and systems to handle and execute the upcoming training session. Think of it as a baking session or a grilling session. You would be wise to preheat your oven or grill to a specific temperature before you start cooking your culinary masterpiece.
Failing to do so may land you in a guessing state when it comes to how well done the food is, take it out too quick, leave it in too long, or cook it with un-even temperatures, and your food may not perform well on its plate. So, the warm-up is essential for everyone. It is so crucial that if you only had 30 min to workout, going through a warm-up progression would be the best thing you could do for your body.
Now let's discuss how different a warm-up can be; when it comes to warming up a body for a workout, intentions matter. The intention always matters. If the goal were to DRIVE 100 miles as fast as you can, you would not start the journey by walking the first 25. A high-performing, high-octane athlete like a professional football player's million-dollar careers relies on their bodies' structural integrity. Their bodies take on much stress because of what they must do physically during a game or practice. A high-octane athlete's typical warm-up in the off-season would run about 30-45 min depending on what the session required that day. It would start by addressing their muscle/structural imbalances, one of many reasons why stretching is important. You shouldn't build a house on a bad foundation.
From here, they would move to a general warm-up for about 5-10 min on a bike or jump rope, followed by some dynamic stretching. After the body is corrected and warm, they would move into some drills to activate the central nervous system. Finally, they would finish with more intense movements that mimic the upcoming session's skills or lifts. The warm-up is a progression, so it starts light and grows in intensity. Again, intention matters, so this warm-up (or any warm-up) is in place to prime the athlete's body for the more intense session to come with these two things in mind. The safety and security of the athlete, and to maximize the gains!! More intense sessions will require longer warm-ups.
Most of us have hectic lives filled with family, friends and don't have more than an hour to spend at the gym or on our fitness. Not to mention their careers are not too physically demanding, and that is not a bad thing at all! Most people respond well to 45-60 min of exercise when done the right way. On the other hand, athletes make money using the physical capabilities of their bodies. As stated before, their performance relies heavily on how well their bodies move. For them, long workouts are part of the job. If you have a labor-intensive job, you may benefit from a longer warm-up.
Movement and fitness are one of the many ways we are all connected. We need it for longevity and to live whole and happy lives. If you think about it, we all need our bodies to operate with ease and pain-free. It is what gets us through our lives. Sports athletes train to be better in their careers, and so do lifestyle athletes. If you move better, you perform better. As always, make sure you are eating fresh whole foods, drinking plenty of water, and getting as much sleep as possible!!
"Train like an athlete, heal like a hippie, and always trust your gut."
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