Its that time of year again. Student athletes are getting ready to start school. Summer seasons are coming to an end and fall seasons are just around the corner. This time of year, it can be particularly stressful, and overwhelming for young student athletes as they begin a new year of school. There are new teachers, classes, practices, homework, training, priorities, etc. Here are a few basic tips and strategies to help any athlete succeed during the beginning of the school year.
1. Get organized- Organization and time management are two skills that can be helpful throughout your life. On Sunday, map out the upcoming week of things you have to do. Use your phone, the computer, or notebook. Things come up that aren’t planned for, and plans change, but writing things down and organizing the things you can control will help manage stress and promote structure to your schedule.
Here is an example of what a typical high school athlete may look like:
7am -8am– wake up and get ready for school.
Shower, brush teeth, get dressed, eat breakfast,
Backpack, school assignments, stuff needed for practice/training, lunch
8am-8:30 am– Commute to school
8:30am- 3:20pm – School, lunch, time with friends
3:20-4pm- Commute home or to practice/ training, eat snack
4pm-6pm- Training and or Practice
6pm- 6:30 – Commute home
6:30pm- 7:30pm- Shower, Dinner, time with family
7:30pm-9pm- Homework, review agenda for tomorrow, prepare stuff needed for tomorrow
9pm-10pm- Leisure time
10pm- 7am – SLEEP
2. Sleep- One of the most important things everyone needs, especially hard-working athletes is sleep. There are countless benefits to a good night of sleep including improved memory, lowered stress, improved athletic performance, improved attention, weight management, hormonal profile and countless others. Here is a fun finding…
Once study conducted on middle/high school athletes correlated lack of sleep to increase rate of injury in sports. “Athletes who slept on average <8 hours per night were 1.7 times (95% confidence interval, 1.0-3.0; P=0.04) more likely to have had an injury compared with athletes who slept for ≥8 hours.” Milewski, MD (2014) Chronic lack of sleep is associated with increased sports injuries in adolescent athletes. Journal of Pediatric Orthopedics, 34(2):129-33.
Here are the recommended sleep times according to the National Sleep Foundation.
School age children (6-13): 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
Teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)
Adults (26-64): 7-9 hours
3. Nutrition- The cornerstone of health and well-being…and performance! Your diet is directly related to your lifestyle. Before even thinking about how much food you should be eating, start with the quality of the food you are eating. Your body will thank you.
Start with quality natural foods:
Fresh meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts. Naturally occurring food in nature.
Limit packaged, canned, frozen and sugar laden foods/drinks.
Limit eating out 1-2 times/week.
Prepare meals at home
Develop sustainable consistent eating habits
Track/monitor what you eat and drink
Balance the diet according to macronutrients- A general guideline to follow is the 40/30/30 rule developed by Dr. Barry Sears who has published over 15 books related to nutrition. This basically means that:
Carbohydrate – 40% of your daily intake of calories
Protein- 30% of your daily intake of calories
Fat- 30% of you daily intake of calories
This is a very basic sustainable approach to developing a nutritional lifestyle. Percentages to this approach will vary on the individual, but this is a great place to start. I have had numerous athletes track their food for a week and come back surprised about what they are actually eating and how much they are eating. Monitoring everything that goes into your body will start to give you an idea of what you are eating and how it affects you and where there is room for improvement. There are countless apps that can help you track your food. I personally use the app “My Plate.” It is user friendly and breaks down macronutrients into percentages for each day.