Happy New Year! It’s 2016 and this is the time when many people set resolutions for themselves in the new year. This is a time of reflection, as many look back on their past year and make plans for a better, healthier future. This is an excellent time to put a focus on the things you would like to improve or accomplish, so you can make the changes needed that will benefit not only your body but will also improve your overall well-being. As an athlete, having a healthy mind and body is required if you want to perform your best, and make the most of your training.
You can’t perform to the best of your ability out on the court if your body is not healthy and balanced. To aid you on your path to better overall health and wellness, add these goals to your list of New Year resolutions for athletes.
1. Eat Healthier
Aim to eat more real, whole foods this year and stay away from anything prepacked as much as possible. Bad food choices can negatively affect your health, as well as your athletic performance, so it is important that you follow and eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. It is important to cut out or limit your intake of foods high in fat and in sugar. Making better food choices will not only help you out on the court but will also help you live a healthier and longer life. So instead of eating those processed, prepackaged treats reach for some fruit, which is packed with natural sugar and natural fiber. Be sure you are also incorporating a good amount of healthy protein, carbs, and fat into your diet as well; these are needed to help nourish your brain, heart, and cells.
2. Drink Healthier
Aim to limit the amount of soda, sugary sports drinks, and alcoholic beverages you consume this year. Instead of drinking beverages that dehydrate you and add more unnecessary sugar to your body, drink more water. There is no better beverage for your body, and you should be getting, at least, two liters of water into your body per day. However, athletes (especially beach volleyball players!) most certainly need more than this due to sweating. Another good alternative to water would be to drink coconut water; it will not only hydrate you, but it will replace the electrolytes that you have lost from sweating. You will be surprised at how much better you feel by just drinking healthier!
3. Add More Color to Your Diet
By adding color to your diet, you add variety as well. Many of these fruits and vegetables have different nutrient contents, so by adding different colors to your diet, you are much more likely to get the vitamins and nutrients that you need. Aim to incorporate at least three different colored vegetables and fruits a day into your food. Some brightly colored foods that you can add to your diet that is packed with powerful nutrients and antioxidants are potatoes, spinach, beets, carrots, as well as peppers. Remember, many of these varieties (such as carrots) do come in multiple colors, so aim to try them all!
4. Moderation is Key
Seeking balance is what you want to achieve in your diet and in life. It allows you to have the best of both worlds, while preventing you from denying yourself of things you need and from going overboard. Going either direction is no good for your health, physically and mentally, so finding that healthy balance is key. This especially goes for the food that you ingest. This year, aim to eat proper portion sizes, especially when it comes to meat. Once you start weighing your food you might be surprised to see that you have been overeating all along! Also, start using smaller plates, and reduce the amount of certain foods that are not the best for you. Denying yourself completely usually leads to binge eating if you “crack”, so don’t deny yourself (unless it’s really bad for you of course), just simply reduce the amount you eat.
5. Grow Your Own Food
Not only is this a good skill to have, but it will also empower you as well. There is no greater satisfaction than to eat the fruits of your labor, and you will definitely appreciate having fresh, wholesome food around! Growing your own food can save you money, and will dramatically improve your health. Tending a garden can be a great way to relieve stress, and eating fresh food is much better for your health! There is nothing better than eating a fruit or vegetable right off the plant; you will definitely notice the taste difference from store-bought food. In addition, freshly grown food is packed with much more nutrients than what you find at the supermarket. Due to picking, cleaning, packaging and shipping, most of the time that apple is a few months old by the time it hits the shelves.
6. Cook at Home More
Eating out is not only expensive but you never really know what is going into your food. While the convenience is nice, eating out too often is generally not the best decision for your health. If you are new to cooking, seek out the assistance of a friend or family member who has a knack for cooking. Cooking a meal with another person can be a very bonding experience! Not only that but by cooking your own food you save money and you know everything that is going into your food. There is no better way to take control of what you are putting in your mouth.
7. Limit Stress
Limiting stress on the body is vital to your overall wellness. Stress can be triggered by many events so it’s important that you give your body and mind the rest it needs, and get out any additional stress in a healthy manner. Athletes perform better when they are well-rested, so be sure to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night, and don’t turn away a nap if you are having an extra-long day. It’s important to listen to your body; being overtired can increase the amount of stress that you feel. In addition, meditation, tai chi, and yoga are all excellent ways to quiet the mind and body, and can also help your focus and concentration as well.
Remember, you are human and no one is perfect. It is important to not be hard on yourself if you are having issues following your resolutions. If you “fall off the horse”, pick yourself and get back on. It’s not a race, so take it slow and go at your own pace.