One of my favorite sayings is “If you do the little things right, the big things will fall into place.” I thought about this saying a lot during my time as an athlete, and I’ve also used this saying in a professional setting when I have managed teams. I’ve found this saying to be true time and time again. All of the little things you do or don’t do add up.
Too many times as athletes we can get caught up in focusing too much on the big picture. It’s important to take a step back now and then to make sure you are doing the little right so that the big picture will fall into place. The following are geared a little towards track and field, but they are some of the little things that I noticed are important:
Dressing Properly For The Weather
This is something that I always laughed off or didn’t give much attention to. In high school, I always hated wearing my warm-ups. I don’t know if I thought I was too cool or what but this was a mistake, especially growing up in Iowa.
Making sure that you wear clothing appropriate for the weather (especially during the cold) is extremely important for making sure your body is ready to perform at the highest level and avoid injury.
As a sprinter, this was by far my least favorite part of practice. I would always jokingly talk about how I was adapting the lifestyle of a cheetah to run fast (cheetahs spend most of their time sleeping when they aren’t running 60 mph).
Warming up by skipping/jogging will help get the blood flowing and warm up your muscles, so you’re ready to go. It also helps get your central nervous system warmed up so that your reactions are quicker.
There are different schools of thought on stretching before your activity, but I always found that active stretching before activity worked best for me. I felt like active stretches helped prepare my body to perform quick and explosive movements. While static stretching made me feel too relaxed.
Active stretches are things like leg swings, hurdle mobility for your hips, and hurdle rollovers. This help prepare your muscles for explosive movements and help to get your central nervous system firing.
Giving Your All Every Rep in Practice
It might seem obvious but giving your all in every single rep at practice is hugely important, but it’s much easier said than done. Can you think of a time when you truly gave your all for every single rep in practice? All it takes is a little bit of fatigue for our minds to want to give up and not give 100% effort.
If you can dial your mind in and give your max effort on every single rep, you will gain leaps and bounds. Take for example if you were to give 5% less effort over ten reps you’re giving 50% less effort over the duration of the drill! It might help to think of an imaginary (or even real) opponent that is doing the same thing as you but giving 100% effort in every single rep.
Proper Cool Down Jog/Skip
Okay, I might have misspoken earlier. Jogging AFTER practice was my least favorite part of practice. Especially after a super hard practice. There were some practices where after we were done it was hard to stand, let alone jog around the track a few times. In high school, we always called our cooldown jog the “sprinter shuffle.”
We moved our arms as if we were jogging, but we were pretty much moving at a pace similar to walking because we were so exhausted from some workouts. The cooldown jog is very important in bringing your heart rate down gradually. It helps with lactic acid buildup and keeping your muscles from immediately tightening up.
After my workouts were when static stretching came in handy. I would do static stretches holding for 30-60 seconds. Stretching after your cooldown jog will help with muscle soreness and tightness.
I also liked static stretching after cooling down because it gave me a feeling of relief and helped me to calm down. Anyone who has had a good stretch session can tell you how good it feels.
Ice Bath / Training Room
Ice baths were something I didn’t practice routinely until college (we got to the point of doing it at least twice a week). They can be brutal but can help with recovery. Ice baths can help reduce swelling and help with muscle soreness.
The training room is super important in preventing injuries. This is not saying that you should go in and bug your trainer with every single little problem you might have but the training room has tools that are vital to keeping you healthy.
Foam rollers, ice packs, muscle stimulation, massages, and a plethora of other things can be found in the training that can help prevent injury and improve performance.
Eating right is a very important part of high performance. You may have heard “you are what you eat” and that’s true! If you put crap in your body chances are you’re going to perform like crap as well. If you feed your body with high-quality foods, you are going to be far more likely to put out high-quality performances.
Think of it like the three little pigs. You can build your house (body) with straw (bad foods), sticks (okay food), or bricks (good food). Build your house with bricks so the big bad wolf can’t blow it over!
Rest is as important as the workouts! If you are not resting correctly, you will not be able to give it you’re all every day. Your body needs to time to recover and rebuild. In simple terms, training is tearing your body down. Sleep/rest is the chance for your body to repair and build your body back up even stronger.
If this seems like a lot of things to focus on, just pick one to focus on first. Build a habit and repeat the process until you have a good system down. Some of these things might seem minor, but great things happen when a lot of little actions build up. Keep being persistence and work on the little things and the big things will fall into place.