Factors Affecting Performance
Contrary to what many athletes believe, and contrary to what the media often preaches, athletic success not not solely depend on how hard one works. Hard work is certainly a large portion of what affects performance, but in reality, it is only part of the picture. In order to reach the pinnacle of success in your sport you will have to maximize all of the components that equate to champion status. Unfortunately, some are out of your control--so you can only work on those characteristics you can improve upon. We have listed what we believe are the four key components that dictate performance. Always try to keep these in mind while training for anything.
Genetic Predisposition. This part is simple. If you come from parents that are Olympians, then odds are better that your will be a good athlete. If your parents are short, fat slobs, then your odds are slimmer that you will be great. Keep in mind, however, that genetics is not absolute. Terrific athletic genes that were dormant in your parents might surface in you. It is a case of odds. Just like thoroughbred horses are mated with other top-notch horses to increase the odds of creating great offspring, if your families have good athletic genes, your odds of being a good athlete go up.
Some attributes that could be passed down to you would be a high percentage of slow twitch muscle fibers or innate high maximal oxygen uptake ability, etc. Whatever you end up with, it is sometimes clear to see that some people were just born with certain athletic advantages over other people. And, since sports usually reward athletes that have specific skills, often those with bodies more suitable to perform those skills have an advantage right from the start over everyone else. A perfect example of this would be Rick Smits, the center for the Indiana Pacers. If he had ended up being only 5 feet tall versus over 7 feet tall, odds are, he would have never made the NBA. His genetic disposition gave him extreme height which may compensate for his lack of psychological toughness, or maybe his poor eating habits, or his lack of training, or maybe even his lack of natural talent in other areas. Regardless, his height has helped to make him one of the best. The same holds true in all sports. Some people were just born with advantages for certain activities.
Training Cycle/Rest/Recovery. This component is the one most people associate with success--well, at least with the training part. We have all been raised by the credo that hard work pays off in the end with good performance. While true, this is not an absolute. Sometimes training too hard can actually hurt your performance (see the Archive 'More Is Not Always Better'). Most athletes that have trained around other athletes for a while have seen this happen at least once. Performances begin to stagnate or become worse despite grueling workouts. Often times, they work through it and improvements come. Other times they misdiagnose the problem and train even harder, but performances continue to wane.
The body is an amazing instrument that improves itself to adapt to gradual increases in stress. That is what makes working out work. But at some point, if stresses become too great or increase too quickly, the body can actually start to regress. Athletes and coaches must try to stay tuned in with all of the various stresses athletes face, both in and outside of the sporting environment. If exams, relationships, illnesses, etc. begin to add to the stress of the regular athletic workouts, the body can become overloaded, and 'burn out' can ensue.
Training programs must, therefore, be adjusted to account for as many of these outside influences as possible. To train by looking at the workouts only can lead to a poor outcome. As a result, athletes and coaches must try to constantly monitor these outside influences and adjust workouts accordingly. Use rest and recovery to make as much improvement as the actual workouts themselves.
Good athletes and coaches make well structured, directional, and flexible workout programs that lead to a desired outcome. Athletes must train smart. Pay attention to your body and to all the outside influences acting upon it. Back off when your body is cluing you in to do so and push it when it gives you the green light.
Mental Condition. Again, this one is easy. The mind is a major component of the outcome of any performance. True belief, drive, passion to succeed, and overall mental toughness are some of they key attributes needed to help you excel. If an athlete doesn't believe that he or she can succeed, then it rarely comes. With all other things being equal, an athlete that is mentally prepared for a race and truly believes in his or her abilities will always beat out the competitor who is not psychologically prepped (see Archive 'Visualization' for more on mental prep).
Nutrition. With the food we ingest essentially being the fuel that makes our body go, nutrition plays a large role in how fast our 'engines' will run. Make no mistake about it, nutrition is a large component of our performance. Don't give it foods that produce the right kinds of nutrition and energy during training and you may not be able to train your body to its fullest. Don't eat right around race day and you may be left behind during the race or be knocked completely out of it with cramps and/or dehydration.
Technically, the human body needs a spectrum of vitamins and minerals to perform bodily functions appropriately. Athletes must replace their carbos between each physical exertion. Recent studies have shown that 18-23 ounces of carbos per day are needed to adequately replenish muscle and liver glycogen stores. Athletes training heavily need to consume at least 60% of their total intake in the form of carbos, otherwise they may find themselves 'running out of fuel'.
Keep in mind that there is no formula for optimal success. Every body is different and responds differently. Keeping the key components in mind, practicing what we teach here at Gugly, and listening to your body should help you get close to your optimal formula. Check out the basic illustration shown below of how these components come together to determine performance and use your knowledge and skills to get yourself in the Optimal Performance Zone!