One of my favourite recent book purchases is called Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. This gem is a compilation of the routines and habits of over 150 of the most successful writers, artists, musicians, scientists, filmmakers and thinkers of all time.
After reading through it a few times, it became clear that almost anyone who has achieved anything of significance has followed a routine. And while some of these high achievers were more rigid with their routine than others, they all had consistent habits, practices and actions that were the secret to their great success.
Among the greatest athletes of all time, a consistent routine is the common denominator. For example, NBA legend Kobe Bryant would religiously show up to the gym at 6am (four hours before the team practice at 10!!) to work on his game and would always be the last person off the court.
Recently retired NFL quarterback Peyton Manning followed the same 90-minute pre-game ritual for his entire 18-year Hall of Fame career. He was also the first to arrive at practice and was notorious for keeping players well after practice to drill the same plays over and over until they became hard wired into their brains.
And 22-time Olympic medalist Michael Phelps is the most decorated medalist in history in large part because of his relentless daily training and diet regimen (six hour practices and a reported 12,000 calories a day!)
The power of routine is that it helps you to focus on what is really important. Life is filled with constant distractions, competing for your attention and time. If you just freestyle every day, very soon you will find yourself off course. A routine will help to keep you on track and move you closer and closer to realizing your long-term goals.
In this Strong Athlete blog post, I’d like to focus on five key areas where establishing a consistent routine can make you more successful and achieve your goals faster:
The alarm goes, you might hit snooze once or twice, and then it’s game time. Not so fast. A common mistake people make is to stumble into the bathroom and start the day. Here’s where I’d suggest taking a moment to pause, gather your thoughts and think about the most important one or two things you would like to accomplish. You could use this time to write an entry into your journal, or just sit and be still for a few moments before the chaos of life starts. The second thing you should do after a moment to yourself is to drink a glass of water. Regular hydration is one of the best practices you can have for long-term health and performance. You can optimize this water by adding some fresh squeezed lemon and a pinch of sea salt. These two habits should be at the core of your morning routine.
As a Strong Athlete, your training is obviously a very important part of your life. The routine you follow before you train can be the difference between a great training session and a mediocre one. One habit you should always follow pre-workout is visualization. Spend a few moments thinking about the training session and visualize hitting a PR and/or doing each movement with perfect technique. This should start on your way to the gym and continue during your warm-up. As far as your warm-up, this should be consistent as well to prepare your body for intense activity. Spend a few minutes doing some dynamic stretches, followed by progressively heavier warm-up sets of the first exercise on your program. A proper warm-up will prime your body for performance and reduce the risk of injury. And don’t underestimate the magic of visualization to get your mind right. Make this a consistent habit and the long-term benefits will be well worth it.
You’ve just finished a great training session. You smashed a PR and feel like a champ. Now what? Far too many times athletes forget to cool down with body maintenance work (foam rolling, static stretching, etc.). Or worse, they will totally skip their post-workout nutrition. Don’t make these common mistakes. Having a consistent post-workout nutrition routine (water, a fast absorbing protein like CrossFuel New Zealand Whey, fast absorbing carbs) is a game changer and is one of the best habits you can have to maximize your performance. And the maintenance work, while not at all glamorous, will literally add years to your athletic career.
In my experience, nutrition is an area that most athletes will have trouble with. They will go to work or school without prepared food and hope for the best. This almost never works out. While their intentions are usually good, lack of a consistent routine is main reason most people fail with nutrition. The most common success habit among athletes who have figured out their nutrition is preparation in advance. This means setting aside an afternoon on the weekend and a night during the week to prepare meals for the week. It means organizing your meals into containers so you can just grab and go in the morning without thinking. The athletes who have their meals prepared in advance win at the nutrition game. Those who don’t fall off the wagon and lose. It’s just that simple. I’ve seen too many examples to be convinced otherwise. Get a consistent routine going in the meal prep department and you will be successful.
Preparation for a successful day begins with what you do the night before. And sleep is a huge part of that equation. Consistently getting 7-8 hours of sleep is another game changer for health, performance and overall success. Throughout the week, you should strive to get to bed at the same time every night. Emails can wait until another day. Netflix is not going anywhere. And for God sakes, get off Instagram and shut it down. Your pre-bed routine should have a few moments of quiet reflection, free from the non-stop chatter and distractions. This is a great time to make another entry into your journal and think about the good things in your life. You can also just relax for a few minutes with calming music. This wind down period will go a long way to setting up a restful sleep. Choose 1-2 relaxing activities (reading, journaling, music) and integrate them into your pre-bed routine every night.
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