How to Train Like a Professional Athlete—Part 2
Training like a professional athlete takes discipline and comprehensive planning. We recently wrote How to Train Like a Professional Athlete—Part 1 and covered some of the essential elements in a rigorous training program.
We also interviewed world champion cyclist, Kristin Armstrong, to glean insights from her on professional training. Now, we’ll finish the two-part series and you’ll be ready to train like pro.
Some athletes work with sports psychologists to help them focus and train mentally in an effort to perform their best. Others, Armstrong included, choose different tactics, mental imagery.
Mental imagery is a practice many athletes use to attain optimal focus. This video from the New York Times shows a professional athlete while using the technique. The athlete in the video not only imagines herself performing an act, but also gets multiple senses involved.
According to Psychology Today, “The best imagery involves the multi-sensory reproduction of the actual sport experience. You should duplicate the sights, sounds, physical sensations, thoughts, and emotions that you would experience in an actual competition.”
Working with a coach or mentor
Coaches or mentors come in a variety of roles but all have one goal—to help their athletes improve. For you, this may be an athletic trainer at your local gym, or a workout buddy to keep you motivated. The higher the competition level usually brings with it a greater need for more coaches acting in different roles.
Armstrong works with a team of people in her training efforts. “I have a coach who writes and analyzes my on-the-bike training, and a coach who works with me on improving my overall strength, which also keeps me injury free.” She continued, “I’ve had many injuries over the years, and worked closely with an orthopedic doctor to ensure I have proper care when needed. I also work with a dietician to help with my recovery and nutritional plan. Most importantly, my husband plays a huge role as my psychologist, keeping me positive on a daily basis, and doubling as my tech and equipment specialist . . .” said Armstrong.
For many athletes, having several coaches with different skill sets promotes the best type of training and performance. You may not need an entire coaching staff or mentors for your training, but finding at least one person that can help motivate and push you to your limits could have an incredible impact on your goals.
Individual or group training
Each sport differs when it comes to team and individual play, but regardless of the sport, the two should cross paths. According to Armstrong, “There is a time and place for both.” She continued, “It takes a lot of focus when you have to go out on your own and create your own hurt through interval training. Group settings are also important because outside of racing it truly is hard to push yourself to the level that others can push you. Finding just the right balance, and including both group and individual training has been an important piece to my success.”
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