Athletics - Part 2
Updated: Jan 14
***If you haven’t read Part 1 of the Athletics edition it may be helpful to start there.***
Recovery/Nutrition: Recovery is one of the most important parts of being an athlete as you get older and older. It is mostly affected by how much you rest, the treatment done for your body, what you consume, and how much you sleep. When I was younger (highschool, freshman, & sophomore years of college) I ate whatever I wanted and didn’t need much treatment or rest days. But as I have gotten older, my body has changed and I can no longer just eat whatever I want or take an unlimited amount of jumps at practice. Ladies, as you get older you may start to gain weight or your weight may be distributed differently, but you can’t always control that. (I’m not sure if this happens to men, I just know from my personal experience and other female experiences.) You can only control what you do, not how your body reacts. My solution was to reduce my carb intake (bread, rice, pasta, crackers), especially in season. I also had to find better snacks to eat because as athletes we’re always hungry. My best suggestion is to meet with a nutritionist and discuss fat vs. muscle mass and focus more on that rather than the number on the scale.
Remember that alcohol has calories just like food and is high in sugar. If you’re watching what you eat, also watch what you drink. I understand that a majority of college students and athletes will drink and that’s fine but be knowledgeable about the impacts. Alcohol dehydrates you, causes you to recover slower (which will affect practices days later), & it worsens sleep which is the key to recovery. If you decide to drink that’s your choice but KNOW it is affecting injuries, recovery, practices, and ultimately your success later on. One of my pet peeves is people saying they would “do anything” to be better, yet still don’t take care of their bodies. Alcohol 100% affects performance and if you’re injured it is in your best interest to not drink any. Even if not injured, you can commit to a “dry season” where you aren’t drinking alcohol for a time period (usually during the competition season). Maybe you can ask someone who enjoys drinking but stops during the season when a good cut off point is.
Injuries: I recommend starting prehabilitation with the trainers ASAP. Prehab is simply doing preventive exercises to help with weaknesses, bad habits and other things to reduce the likelihood of injury. I did it 2-3x/week with a trainer and still do. There are parts of your body that are weak or have developed bad habits which make you more likely to injure yourself in certain areas. (For example I am knock-kneed so it affects the way I walk, run, and how my feet hit the ground. If I continue to run/walk without correction it could cause injury.)
This is sad to hear but the doctors and trainers work for the university so when/if you get an MRI / X-RAY/ etc… don’t just let the doctor tell you what’s wrong. Ask to see the actual sheet that specifically lists out what they found in the MRI. If your family has the money, go see your own doctor. Sometimes the doctor will only tell you half of what’s wrong with you because he or she wants you to push through the rest of the season. I know people who have received wrong/watered down diagnoses from the college medical staff and the only reason they found this out was because they took their MRI elsewhere and the second opinion was able to truly identify what the problem was.
When coaches suggest things like pushing through the season, it is because they are worried about job security and making sure the team does well. You know your body and what you’re feeling. Sometimes you can push through pain, other times you can’t. They aren’t thinking about how the injury could affect you later on in life. Coaches will want you to keep competing even when injured because it’s best for their job. This is just the reality of the NCAA being a business. It’s your body, not theirs. Before you get surgeries or procedures or shots, ask to talk to another athlete that has gotten it done. Ask for ALL the options. Make the decision that’s best for you and your body, not what’s best for coach or the team. GET ALL THE FACTS FIRST, make a decision second. Don’t let anyone pressure you into doing something you are uncomfortable with.
Body Image: When it comes to your body, do not compare, do not compare, do not compare. I am 5ft 5in and thicker than most triple jumpers. European jumpers are typically tall and skinny, but I have to remind myself over and over and over again that that is not my body type. I will NEVER look like them. And… does it really matter if I do look like them? If I am performing well and continuing to progress, why should I try to look like them? It’s impossible. So for everyone out there that is comparing themselves... if you don’t look like your competitors that’s ok! Pay attention to your health and stay focused on getting better rather than comparing your body to other people. Again, check with a nutritionist to find the healthy way to get to a goal weight and make sure you have realistic expectations. Sometimes the scale says you’re getting heavier but you are actually just getting stronger. (BTW you will most likely gain weight when you lift in college because muscle is heavier than fat. Say goodbye to that high school weight lol).
Sometimes people think if they starve themselves to lose weight or reach a weight goal that their coach made up or they created, then they will achieve their athletic goal. In reality, that weight loss sometimes negatively impacts your performance despite you thinking it would make you better...and the weight loss definitely wasn’t done in a healthy way.
My personal opinion is a coach should not be weighing you and monitoring your weight loss/gain unless you ask them to be involved in that. Most coaches aren’t nutritionists or dieticians, so it’s best to just speak with a professional. If a coach is weighing you or discussing weight, I definitely think it needs to be private rather than in front of a group.
Mental Health: This is one topic that I really feel unqualified to talk about, but the most important thing when it comes to mental health is remembering that you are not alone in your feelings. Just because no one else told you that they feel that way, doesn’t mean that you are the only person on Earth feeling that way. Everyone has struggled before in different ways. So remember in that moment that you are not alone and other people are going through the same feelings. Second, I feel the best thing you can do is get professional help. Don’t keep all your feelings bottled in. Most colleges offer services to students. Friends can support you but they are not professionals so I think it is best to find professional services offered and talk to someone about what you're feeling.
As always, feel free to leave comments and share your personal experiences as a student-athlete below! :)