How to work out like an athlete

I really, truly believe that deep down, everybody is an athlete.

It doesn’t matter if you sucked at sports in high school. Or how uncoordinated you are. Or if you can’t do a pull up (yet).

If you believe it, you are an athlete.

“If you have a body, you are an athlete.” – Bill Bowerman, Nike Founder

But you can’t truly harness your power as an athlete if you don’t act like one when you’re working out. If you really want to be an athlete, you have to train like one.

So here’s how to get started:

Compete against yourself (or others)

One of the things all professional and amateur athletes have in common is that they’re always competing.

Competing against another team, a rival, even their own times/scores/reps.

And while you may not get paid to compete against others, you can still add plenty of competition to your own workout routine.

Go find a buddy or two at a similar level as you and compete against each other. Or, as a default, make sure and write down all your workout times/reps and have a running competition against yourself.

Focus on explosion

Aside from a few exceptions (think marathon and ultra marathon runners and triathletes), one of the biggest markers of an athlete is the incredible amount of explosion the truly dedicated ones bring to their game/match/race/workout.

If you want to work out like an athlete, you have to explode during your workouts. Every single time. 

So make sure to explode during your high knees, your box jumps, your burpees. Give it all you’ve got. Then give it some more.

Crosstrain

Basketball players don’t just play basketball in order to train for the season. They do plyometrics, weights, sprints, and run their hearts out in order to fully prepare.

Likewise, even if your main focus is trail running, or cyclocross, or even ultimate frisbee, you’ll want to bring in variety in order to maximize your performance.

That’s why these 12 minute workouts are so perfect for athletes of all types and levels—with their focus on speed, power and endurance, they’ll prepare you for anything. And they allow you to truly train like an athlete.

Work out with a goal in mind

No professional or amateur athlete goes into a training session without a very specific goal in mind. They may decide to do box jumps to increase their vertical leap, pull ups to increase their upper body strength, or sprints to increase their V02 max.

If you want to truly train like an athlete, you need to have something to work for—something that will motivate you to work harder than you ever thought possible during every single workout.

My goal this year is to be able to do a handstand push up—without a wall. What’s yours?

Forget about appearance

It’s rare to here a sprinter complain about her love handles or a seasoned athlete whine that her thighs are too big.

Athletes only care about how they perform in their sport, nothing else. They get stronger, fitter and leaner because it helps them be a better athlete—and as a result of their dedicated training, their stellar looks naturally occur.

Start to focus less on your looks, and more on your performance—and looks will follow.

Eat to perform

In an athlete’s world, food is fuel. And if you want to work out like an athlete, you’ll treat it like that too.

Treating food as fuel means that you consciously choose foods that will make your body perform better, treating every bite as nourishment that will power you through every single rep.

That means you ditch the donuts for fresh cut veggies, stop eating large amounts of refined carbs and include protein at every meal instead, and make sure to down a protein shake after every workout to repair your aching muscles.

When you eat better, you feel better—and your performance level skyrockets.

(And, as a bonus, you’ll start to look more like an athlete too.)

Make recovery as important as your workout

Every successful athlete knows that in order to get the most out of their training, they have to focus on recovery just as much as they focus on their workouts.

This means getting regular massages, spending time with the foam roller or lacrosse ball, even taking ice baths (brr!) if that helps them recover faster.

If you want to train like an athlete, you need to make sure recovery is a big part of your routine as well.

Go get ’em, tiger

Go crush every workout, every challenge, every rep.

Because deep down, we both know that you’re really an athlete at heart.

So go work out like one.