At first I was trying to find 5 main differences between elite and non-elite athletes, but quickly came to realise that there is actually only one, and they use that one thing to drive everything they do.
Actually, you have it too, but your current situation may need tweaking somewhat to maximise your true potential. But before I reveal what that one thing is, let’s start by establishing some similarities.
The ONE thing that elite athletes do differently is they never lose sight of their knowledge of themselves…they understand when their own body needs a rest, recuperation or rehabilitation…
In the same way you do, elite athletes often need to hold down full or part-time jobs. These may or may not be sympathetic to their training and competition schedules.
Elite athletes are also partners, husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, brothers, sisters etc. and they have just as many family weddings, funerals, birthdays, anniversaries and get-togethers as you.
Just like you, elite athletes have mortgages/rent, bills, cleaning, washing, cooking etc. to do.
So we’ve established that elite athletes are human beings who despite competing at the highest levels of their chosen sport, have all the same commitments and responsibilities as you. So what makes them so good? And what are they doing differently?
The ONE thing that elite athletes do differently is they never lose sight of their knowledge of themselves. They train at a frequency, duration and intensity that they can cope with, they understand when their own body needs a rest, recuperation or rehabilitation. They know that the training plan is not set in stone and can be tweaked if necessary, and they listen to the advice that professionals give them.
Does this mean they never push themselves? Absolutely not! Knowing yourself means knowing when to push hard, how long to do it for, what your maximum really is and how long it will take to recover from that effort. Knowing yourself also means knowing that it’s not always about the numbers and that sometimes a ‘heavy’ or ‘max effort’ session simply means the heaviest or hardest possible that day.
Knowing yourself is something only you can do and takes time to learn, but doing what feels right is often a good start and learning from mistakes is key.
Does this mean they seek treatment with every little ailment? No! Knowing yourself means knowing the difference between soreness and pain, knowing who to see and when to get issues sorted and knowing when training with injuries or niggles is safe.
Does this mean they change their training plan often? No! Knowing yourself means understanding that ignoring your body and pushing to do a training session that isn’t right for you that day (maybe you’re feeling run down or you can’t quite fit a long bike ride in) is not beneficial in the long run and that you would be better served switching your rest day or doing a short run instead. Knowing yourself also means knowing when you’re just being lazy!
A fundamental part of listening to advice from professionals is using it to figure out whether what they say is right for you and your training. Does this mean that elite athletes think they know best? Far from it, they understand that the professionals they see are part of their team and that the only goal of that team is to maximise their performance. Knowing this means that communication with those professionals is paramount and that the result of this communication is a more tailored, individualised input that maximises all aspects of performance.
Knowing yourself is something only you can do and takes time to learn, but doing what feels right is often a good start and learning from mistakes is key. Your body is more than capable of maximising your performance but learning to trust it sometimes seems too simple. So, before diving right on in to your next training session stop for a second and ask yourself if it feels right for you today. If not, do something that does, if it does, ENJOY!