Being an athlete is hard, challenging, stressful work, especially as one develops and becomes an elite-level or professional athlete. As an athlete grows out of the social playing of a sport and into the competitive mindset, physical training and mental preparation become essential. Some of us are lucky enough to have a high school, college or club team that provides a gym, a field, and a strength and conditioning program. But many of us rugby players, men and women alike, are required to train, eat, and prepare on our own.
I’ve compiled a list of tips and ideas that I use personally while I train for the next Women’s Eagles event this winter.
Strength and Conditioning:
1. Create a space for your training
Find a space that you only workout in. It could be your basement, the backyard, the local gym, anywhere that works for you. For me, it’s always been important that I mentally switch on when I enter that area: it’s time to work.
2. Invest in a few pieces of equipment for training on the go
When you are training on your own, or while you travel, buying a couple pieces of equipment are well worth the investment. Some of the ones I use almost every day: foam roller, various bands (1 light, 1 medium, 1 heavy), protein drink shaker. If you can afford it, a small set of medicine balls and kettle bells are great too. All of these can be traveled and flown with (minus the kettle bells), and can be used for alternative exercises.
3. Get creative when you don’t have the equipment
Wherever you get your workout programs, at some point you’ll find you don’t have the right equipment that the workout requires, it might happen at the gym or in your home workout area. That is the time when you get creative, don’t skip that exercise. Use what you have in your space. For example, I don’t have a 15 pound medicine ball for squat and press exercises, but there’s plenty of thick logs in the woodpile out back. Pick one out and get squatting! Another example, I need to do sled drives, but I don’t have one. But, we have a wheelbarrow and plenty of heavy stuff to load it with. Instead of sled drives, get low and sprint with a weighted wheelbarrow.
1. Find the right food research
There is an overload of information available about nutrition these days, and one of the hardest parts is finding the most relevant data for you. As a rugby athlete, we aren’t looking to have the same diet as the average person, even the average athlete. Skip the fad diets, tips and tricks and simplify your diet needs. Vegetables and fruits are a must at every meal, along with lean meats and proteins and the occasional starches and carbs. You can start by looking at some of the videos in the Rugby Portal under Nutrition.
Here’s some great articles to get started on your nutrition research:
Team USA Nutrition Guide: http://tinyurl.com/kaaeryz
Australia Springbok Nutrition Guide http://tinyurl.com/nln2bhg
2. Create your own food prep system
For all athletes, food preparation is key. Unless we are in-residence and food is constantly provided, we are responsible for getting ourselves the right food intake. There are many ways to do this, but this system works for me. Plenty of fruits, berries and fresh greens and vegetables all the time.I make sure I have at last 3-5 ready to eat snacks like pretzels, almonds, or soy nuts when I’m hungry or need to bring something with me. In the freezer, I keep plenty of lean meats, fish and pre-cooked meals. Once every week I cook a huge portion of rice and pasta, meat and fish and freeze them for the week ahead. Whatever system works for you, use it! Just make sure it keeps you eating right, you can workout all you want, but it means nothing without the good energy sources you are consuming.
3. Track your food intake
There’s a ton of research about how elite athletes create and maintain an nutrition regime, and one of those habits is tracking the food the athlete consumes daily. This helps an athlete to know what kinds of food they are consuming and why. For example, lots of protein intake is essential just after a training session or game. Start taking a look at what kinds of fat, carb, sugar and proteins levels are in your food. You can track this in a log or journal, or using one of my favorite apps MyFitnessPal (https://www.myfitnesspal.com/).