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ATHLETE DEVELOPMENT

8 Small Changes You Can Do To Improve Your Wellness and Performance



The New Year is weeks away and soon many will be declaring big, bold goals for the year ahead. I challenge you to focus on small changes over time, rather than lofty yearly resolutions that usually fail. By focusing on small changes over time you can accomplish your goals for all of time, this year and beyond. Use these 8 small changes as your guide to improve your wellness and performance this year.


1) Make Sleep a Priority


There are countless benefits to good quality sleep, yet it’s one of the least talked about aspects of wellness and performance. Your body does not function well without enough sleep. A short list of difficulties include not being able to think as clearly, lacking the energy or alertness for sport, more likely to be craving foods that hinder performance and unable to repair or build muscle.


Try this: Plan on being in bed 30 minutes earlier than you usually are. Set an alarm reminder to help you remember your new bed time. Turn off all electronics to help your brain prepare for sleep, screen time negatively impacts your quality of sleep.


2) Socialize (at a safe distance)


It’s easier than ever to stay inside and binge-watch your favorite show, but social health is part of overall health and wellness. Social activity can help to improve quality of life, boost the immune system and encourage healthy behaviors.


Try this: Connect with friends or family on the phone, video call or even email. However you connect, aim to have some interaction with at least one person every day. Meet new people in groups that include workout classes, book clubs, or other social gathers that can occur even while social distancing.


3) Eat meals without distraction


This is simple to talk about, but challenging to do. We often eat in front of a TV, computer or cell phone. Or maybe you are like me and eat breakfast in the car on the drive to work. These are all distractors that we can change. Even just one meal a day without distraction can make a big difference. Eating without distractions allows you to enjoy your food, avoid mindless eating and take control of your intake.


Try this: Set a meal time to eat dinner with friends, family or roommates without TV’s, computers or phones. Try stepping away from work at lunch and eat away from your desk. Even if you are eating alone, be mindful your food. Notice the sight, aroma, texture, mouthfeel, taste and even the plating of the food. These small steps turn food into more than just food on a plate.


4) Eat More Plant Food


There is no magic amount everyone needs to eat. But there is magic that happens when we eat more plant food. Well, not so much magic but actual proven scientific fact! Our bodies perform better when we eat plant foods loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber and numerous phytonutrients – all of which optimizes your wellness and performance.


Try this: Start slow and build to more plant food gradually. Try adding vegetables to a meal that you normally would not, or eat fruit as snack when you normally would not. Think as vegetables as the entrée of your meal rather than the forgettable side dish. Eventually establish a meatless day in your home, such as “Meatless Monday,” or a simply a meatless dinner once a week.


5) Read Labels


Food companies are good at marketing their product, maybe too good. What is usually on the front of the package proclaiming to be a “health food” often times is a glorified way to waste your money. The only way to know truth in marketing is flip it over to read what’s on the back.


Try This: Look at the ingredients list on foods you buy in a package. You’ll be surprised how many seemingly straightforward foods are not so straightforward. Ignore the bold claims on the front of packages. Front of the package claims often range from misleading, to non-regulated terms, to completely made-up non-sense wording.


6) Drink Enough Water


We all need it and not enough of us get it. The exact amount of fluid you need is specific to you and changes based on your activities. Regardless of your goals, staying hydrated is a requirement for success at every level.


Try this: Make most of your daily drinks be water. An easy way to boost water intake is by swapping just one drink a day for water. For example: instead of an extra cup of coffee in the morning, opt for water. Shake up the flavor of water by adding lemon, drink natural flavored seltzer or infuse your own flavors by adding fruit, mint or herbal tea.


7) Be Active Everyday


Saying physical activity is good for body is an understatement. Being active is good for your muscles, bones, brain, immune system, heart, gut, lungs…literally everything in your body. Being active can also build confidence, improve mood, reduce stress, improve attention…literally everything wellness. And strategic physical training, like sport practice or a workout plan, builds muscle, improves reaction time, decreases injury risk, increases strength and endurance…literally everything performance. Is there anything being active can’t do?


Try this: Physical activity is more than going to the gym or working hard at a sport. Physical activity is all forms of movement including walking, hiking, dancing and many more. Even “active recovery” is helpful during your days off between the gym and practice. Aim to be active at least one hour a day.


8) Give Yourself Credit


With all the things going on in our lives, it’s easy to get lost in the process. Sometimes we need to take a moment to look at how far we have come and the progress we have made. Even if you are starting out with the goal of wanting to better your health, that decision is a big step. Take a moment to relax, appreciate the things you are grateful for and allow yourself to be proud of the work you have done and will continue doing.


Try this: When you find challenges in your journey to better wellness and performance, remember why you started and thank yourself for all that you have done so far. You will have setbacks and even failures, but you will learn from them and overcome. Staying positive will make every challenge seem a little smaller.


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