Overcoming adversity should be supplemented by nutrition and injury management
Very often I’m asked the same question: “What is Sports Science?” And my answer inadvertently is, “It’s the difference between gold and silver.” Sports Science is the scientific application of all those tiny variables that add up to the 0.5 percent that gives an athlete a competitive advantage in an already high-performing environment. To put it simply, Sports Science is the answer to excellence.
But, if I have to break it down a little further, it’s all about two things—injury management and performance enhancement. It’s about managing pain (because there is always pain) and pushing limits. Simply because in my world—the world of professional sport—you are defined by the limits you set for yourself. Through my association with Herbalife Nutrition, I have also looked deeply into the tenets of nutrition and, more specifically, at supplementation that helps you enhance performance and work harder. After 17 years at the pinnacle of high performance, I have seen it all—the tireless dedication, unwavering discipline, passion, hunger and the will to overcome adversity that seems to become second nature to a professional athlete. Without it, success will forever elude you.
One of the many athletes I’ve trained ‘Consistency over Intensity.’ I’ve always maintained that rushing through training only earns you injuries. Throughout my career, I have believed that if I stick to the basic principles of exercise science, my athletes will remain injury-free and consistently improve on their personal bests. It is this philosophy that has served me well—and I have the results to back this up. Here are five principles that are easy to adopt:
By gradually increasing your training stress (be it weight, intensity, distance, speed or any other variable), your body will, over time, adapt in response to that overload. As a rule of thumb, never increase your weekly workload by more than 10 percent. Most athletes, who play a sport, tend to take strength training very lightly. As the renowned fitness instructor and founder of Strong First, Pavel Tsatsouline, rightly says, strength is the mother quality of all physical qualities.
Everyone’s body responds differently to training stresses and recovery patterns. It’s important to know and understand this. If you listen to your body, you will know how hard to push and when to rest. who managed to exemplify such professionalism was 12-time tennis Grand Slam winner, Mahesh Bhupathi. During his career that lasted over 20 years at the top of the sport, I was fortunate enough to have spent over six of those years with him as the person who was tasked with managing his health—from nutrition and mental conditioning to injury management and competition scheduling. I strongly recommend journaling your training and recovery data. It is the only way to identify trends and allow for precision periodization.
Your body will adapt to the training you subject it to. That’s why in professional sports we say, “Practice like you play.” It’s a pretty good motto to follow, too.
Very simply put, the gains you make can easily be lost if you don’t continue to train. Consistency! Consistency! Consistency! Whilst rest is necessary for recovery, prolonged rest periods will most definitely return you to a pre-training condition. In fact, athletes can even begin to witness de-training effects in two weeks, if not sooner.
Everyone has experienced the phenomenal progress you make when you start training. Diminishing returns means that as you get fitter, those gains get smaller, not to mention that you have to work twice as hard to achieve them. This is why we adopt the principle of periodization as a means of overcoming a plateau in train-ing. Periodization cycles vary depending on the sport, intensity and training zones, but are critical if you want to enhance performance continuously over time.
When I worked with Bhupathi or any other professional athlete, I simply employed these principles in my daily programming. A day in the life of a tennis professional could include anything from two to four hours on-court, one to two hours in the gym, one to two hours of injury management (ice baths, massage, physiotherapy, etc.) and between six and eight structured, balanced meals that are designed to meet their specific energy requirements. This routine applies to most athletes. The important thing to note is that this scheduling never changes—well, not for 20 years. It gets boring but success will elude those who run from routines.
Bhupathi is an extremely disciplined athlete who always pushes everyone around him. The aura around him is one that exemplifies excellence, which also reflects in his career. It’s simply not possible to enjoy a career that spans so long without a high work ethic and discipline. I think the following quote says it the best: “Amateurs practice till they get it right. Professionals practice till they can’t get it wrong.”
Success in professional sport is all about consistency and perseverance. ‘Consistency Over Intensity.’ I’ve always maintained that rushing through training only earns you injuries.
Are there some surefire cool down exercises? I’m always sore post-training.
Personally, the best way to avoid post-training soreness is stretching, ice baths and proper nutrition. All three will help with this but, remember, working through the initial soreness the following day will help your body adapt to post-training soreness. In terms of nutrition, Herbalife Nutrition has excellent energy shakes and Personalized Protein products to help with recovery. In terms of rest, don’t forget the importance of a good night’s sleep before training.