Millions of people rely on sports to stay in shape. They play regular games with friends, family members, coworkers, or local leagues, and get to relish in their competitive side while staying active. But after a while, you may feel like you’ve hit a plateau. You may feel like your performance isn’t improving, or that you aren’t getting as much out of the workout as you used to.
If that’s the case, there are several strategies you can use to get more out of your workout.
Invest in Better Apparel
You might be surprised to learn how much your performance can improve when you’re wearing the right things (and not wearing the wrong things). Investing in breathable, sweat-wicking fibers that fit you perfectly can help you dissipate heat better, and feel more comfortable during long sports games. Investing in high-quality footwear capable of better support can help you run a bit faster—and feel better doing it. You’ll also want to get rid of apparel items and accessories that are standing in your way. For example, if you typically wear jewelry, from earrings to custom gold teeth, you’ll want to remove any items before participating in a game. If you wear glasses, consider switching to contacts, or investing in a pair of protective lenses intended for sports.
Find a Bigger League (or More Competitive People)
If you no longer feel challenged by your current sports workout, it could be because of the people around you, or the nature of this league. For example, if you play basketball one-on-one with someone who isn’t in good shape, you won’t be forced to push your agility to the limit; instead, you can casually move around the court, hardly breaking a sweat. Try looking for some people who are in shape and competitive, or if you’re part of a team, ask your team members if there’s a more competitive, higher-level league you can join.
Spend More Time on Nutrition
Don’t underestimate the impact of nutrition on performance. What you eat, when you eat it, and how you eat it can all factor into your performance. If your team and league are sufficiently challenging, but you just don’t have the energy to call upon your best efforts, nutrition could be the problem.
After every workout, make sure you get a good serving of protein; this will help your muscles recover. Before every workout, preferably an hour before (to limit the possibility of upset stomach), make sure you eat a small serving of both simple and complex carbohydrates. Additionally, before and during the game, drink lots of water; even a small drop in hydration can lead to a massive decline in performance.
Start Tracking Your Metrics
If you’re not sure whether you’re improving, you may want to start tracking your specific metric. Depending on what sport you play, this may be difficult. For example, in running and swimming, you can easily track your times and see if you’re speeding up, but in basketball, tracking your agility is more difficult. In any case, pay close attention to how you’re performing and keep a log of what you notice. You may find that certain circumstances challenge you more than others.
If you want to stay healthy, avoid injuries, and stimulate more muscle growth, you have to rest. Sometimes, sports performance drops simply because a person hasn’t taken enough rest days. If you play matches every day, or almost every day, that could be what’s holding you back. Consider taking more rest days between bouts of extreme physical activity; and if you work out different parts of your body with different routines, make sure you cycle them adequately, giving each of your muscle groups plenty of time to recover. Additionally, make sure you’re getting enough sleep on your off days.
Add New Challenges (or a Post-Workout Routine)
You can also improve your workout by adding new challenges to it, or implementing an additional post-game routine. For example, if you’re swimming, you may try using a different type of stroke, or if you’re playing tennis, you might try playing with your non-dominant hand. After your workout, you can challenge yourself to a few extra laps around the court, or try to get in some weightlifting. Just make sure you don’t hurt yourself; it’s a good thing to challenge your physical limits, but it’s a terrible thing to push yourself past them.
One of the most important qualities of a workout is that it challenges you; you should be pushing the limits of your strength, speed, endurance, or flexibility. If you don’t feel challenged by your sports workout, it’s time to step up your game. You’ll be glad you did.