Getting That Mental and Physical Edge

No matter how you compete, you naturally want to perform at your best. Gaining a competitive advantage over your opponents requires a commitment to training both your body and your mind. Read on to learn more about fostering a physical and mental edge in sports.

What Is a Physical Edge?

A physical edge refers to a competitive advantage due to your body. Strength, endurance, flexibility, agility, and balance all play a role in giving you a physical edge. With a mental edge, you are more likely to perform better than opponents at roughly the same skill level as you.

What Is Physical Training?

Physical training is the process of improving your body to achieve a physical edge. Many athletes focus most heavily on physical training during the off-season to gain an advantage from the very first game. Physical training isn't just crucial for dominating your opponents. When you're well-trained, you are less likely to suffer an injury that leaves you sidelined.

What Types of Exercises Are Important for Sports Training?

There are four types of exercises that are key to a sports training regimen:

Endurance Exercise

Also known as aerobic exercise, endurance training helps to strengthen your lungs and cardiovascular system, enabling you to play a sport for longer without becoming winded and fatigued. Any activity that raises your heart and breathing rates can fall under this category. Examples of endurance exercise include:

  • Brisk walking or jogging
  • Swimming laps
  • Cycling
  • Walking up and downstairs

Strength Training

Strength training is the process of building up muscle mass to boost your strength. It involves doing exercises that strain the arms, legs, and core. When you continually make significant demands on your muscles, your body responds by increasing the rate of muscle production. Examples of strength training include:

  • Weight training
  • Squats
  • Arm curls
  • Push-ups
  • Using resistance bands during endurance exercise

Balance Training

Balance training helps you remain steadier on your feet. Improving your balance can help you become more agile because you're less likely to stumble or fall when you suddenly make sharp turns or change directions. Examples of balance training include:

  • Tai chi
  • Standing on one foot
  • Walking heel to toe

Flexibility Training

Flexibility training allows your tendons, ligaments, and muscles to become more flexible so that they can stretch more readily. Increasing your flexibility can boost your range of motion and make you less susceptible to injury. Stretching is the most common type of flexibility training. You can do Pilates or yoga or perform stretches that target each core group of muscles.

Physical Training Tips

When training to get the physical edge in sports, follow these tips:

  • Choose exercises that you enjoy, so you are more likely to stick to a training routine.
  • Avoid over-training by taking rest days.
  • Establish realistic, measurable training goals and strive to meet them.
  • Keep track of your training progress on paper or using an app.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet rich in protein, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables to support your efforts.

What Is a Mental Edge?

A mental edge refers to a competitive advantage that involves your mind rather than your body. With a mental edge, you can better focus on the action of the game and control your emotions. Athletes with a mental edge are less likely to get psyched out and make errors. They're also more resilient and better able to accept defeat.

What Is Mental Training?

Like the body, the mind also needs regular exercise to improve functioning. Mental training is the process of getting your mind into the proper state for success on the field. You will sometimes see it referred to as mental toughness training.

What Types of Exercises Are Important for Mental Training?

Some critical exercises for mental toughness training include:

  • Relaxation. Learning to relax your mind through deep-breathing, alternate muscle tensing, and other techniques can help you remain calm even when the competition gets intense.
  • Mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness meditation can help you tune out distractions and stay in the game.
  • Imagery. Imagining yourself playing at your best can help you maintain the proper form and execute critical strategies to secure a win.

Mental Training Tips

When training to get the mental edge in sports, follow these tips:

  • View a loss as an opportunity to learn, not as a personal failure, and commit to making changes needed to win next time.
  • Get enough sleep nightly to avoid mental fatigue.
  • Maintain a positive frame of mind by restating negative thoughts.
  • Consider seeking the help of a therapist when external stress begins to interfere with your performance.
  • Celebrate mental training successes just as you would when reaching an essential physical milestone.
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