Pay attention to the small aches and pains that creep up in your training. Often they are warning signs that some part of your training is not being performed correctly. It may be related to training intensity (over-training), mechanics (compensations), or slight positional faults. Ignoring them can only lead to bigger problems that may significantly impact your training later on.
A long-term goal sets your motivation in place and helps define direction and purpose in your training. But it’s essential to set specific, clear, short-term goals to guide and focus you along the way. Steer clear of ambiguous goals like "I want to lose weight for summer."
Set a specific goal instead, such as, "I want to run a 5K in less than 30 minutes.” Then develop a series of incremental goals that you can celebrate as you improve. At the end of each day, ask yourself, "Did I move closer to my goal today?”
Q: I'm a runner, and I keep getting shin splints. I ice where it hurts, but the pain keeps coming back. What's up?
Q: I'd like to build a home gym, but I can't spend much. What's the most important piece of training equipment I can buy for cheap? — Vincent, Green Bay, WI
Training is a lot like nutrition. Healthy foods never taste as good as fattening ones, and exercise is the same way: The best exercises for your body are the least popular—and they seem to hurt the most.
Several years ago, I attended a workshop by a Harvard professor on the performance mindset. When I signed up for the workshop, I had no idea what to expect, although I had read many books on sports psychology and performance mindset. I figured he would talk about the C's—confidence, calmness, concentration, composure and commitment.
I signed up for the course because I noticed he had studied peak performers from many fields including the performing arts, business and sports. The study of the performance mindset truly interests me, because I have no doubt that we have barely scratched the surface of the mind's potential.
Q: I have a variable schedule based on travel, and I find that most of my workouts are not at the same time every day, and I rarely train the same days every week. Does this hamper my progress in a program?
Getting proper nutrition is crucial, but if you eat a bad meal or even skip a meal, you rarely feel like you are ready to collapse. Regular exercise is paramount, but if you skip a workout, it does not weaken your immune system, decrease your mental clarity, or destroy your mood. When it comes to sleep, there is no substitute. Sleep rebuilds our bodies, replenishes our energy stores, and keeps us alert and functional throughout the day.
Joan Vickers, PhD, a researcher and professor at the University of Calgary, is one of the world's foremost authorities on sports vision. Her new book, Perception, Cognition, and Decision Training: The Quiet Eye in Action, explores this issue.
Vickers found that elite athletes in almost all sports, whether they know it or not, use their eyes quite differently than less-skilled athletes. She refers to this ability as the "quiet eye." The quiet eye is a final fixation or tracking gaze that is located on a specific object or area within the field of vision (no more than three degrees off the target) and is held for a minimum of 100 milliseconds. The quiet eye has been shown to be a characteristic of elite athletes in several sports, including golf, basketball, volleyball, rifle shooting, table tennis and ice hockey.
Q: Are weight vests worth it, and when should they be used? — Hugo, Salt Lake City, UT
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