An extreme athlete can have all the talent in the world and follow the perfect skill development program, but their performance may still decline for other reasons. Even the toughest individuals who play the most extreme sports are vulnerable to slumps.
With that in mind, here are five factors that might be affecting your athletic performance.
1. Mental State
An extreme athlete’s mental state can also significantly affect their performance. If they’re not in a positive state of mind, they can lose focus and confidence. Many external influences in an extreme athlete’s life can harm their mental health:
- Relationship troubles
- Family disputes
- Death of a loved one
- Contract negotiations
- Verbal abuse from fans
You often see extreme athletes withdraw from a game or event because of these reasons. They might be physically healthy, but they’re not mentally prepared to play at a high level. Some players even develop a case of the yips and forget the fundamentals of their sport. Sometimes it’s best to take a break and regather your thoughts.
Aside from mental factors, the most likely culprit of an extreme athlete’s declining performance is a poor diet. If they don’t get the necessary nutrients to fuel their lifestyle, they won’t get the results they want in their respective sport. This fact especially applies to the most physically demanding sports. Martial artists and other extreme sports athletes need strict eating schedules to compete at a high level.
All experienced extreme athletes know they need a healthy diet, but some people misconstrue what a “healthy diet” means. They might try a diet fad, cut out specific food groups or stuff/starve themselves in an attempt to change their body composition. None of those methods are necessary.
Your diet should have enough calories to sustain your daily routine and contain plenty of nutrient-dense foods, including carbohydrates, proteins and fats. If the bulk of your calories come from artificial sugars and processed foods, you won’t see good results. Sugary drinks and alcohol are especially terrible for athletes. You need to consistently eat the right foods in the right quantities to see the best results on the field.
Body composition is an important part of an extreme athlete’s success, but it doesn’t matter if they don’t have the conditioning to match the muscles. For example, professional bodybuilders have significant muscle mass and the cardiovascular capacity to execute pose after pose. There are two types of conditioning an extreme athlete should develop:
- Aerobic conditioning: endurance-based conditioning that increases a person’s heart rate and breathing rate over long periods.
- Anaerobic conditioning: interval-based conditioning that improves a person’s performance in short bursts of intense exercise.
You need to work on long-term and short-term conditioning to become a well-rounded extreme athlete and perform well from start to finish. Make sure you include a healthy dose of sprints and distance running in your training routine.
An extreme athlete’s flexibility (or lack thereof) can also impact their performance, especially extreme sports professionals who put themselves in dangerous positions and often need to contort their bodies. If you can’t execute specific movements that your sport requires, your ceiling is limited and you won’t be able to play with the best.
Some people are naturally loose and bendable, while others need to work harder to develop their flexibility. Incorporate some calisthenics and plyometric exercises into your workouts and do static stretches every day. These activities will improve your short-term performance and long-term health.
Fans and analysts use the phrase “fall off a cliff” to describe athletes who reach a certain age and suddenly become terrible at their sports. You might not have realized it, but you could be one of these extreme athletes. If your physical capabilities and fundamentals have sharply dropped in recent years despite a healthy diet and training program, you’ve probably gotten too old for your respective sport.
On the flip side, some extreme athletes are too young and physically/mentally immature to consistently perform at a high level. We often see extreme athletes in their teens and early twenties struggle to adapt to the demands of college and professional sports. Their minds and bodies are not developed enough to keep up with the hectic pace and high expectations.
Be Honest About Your Performance
If you’ve noticed a recent decline in your athletic performance, one or all of the above factors could be the source of your problem. Be honest about your physical and mental state. If you don’t think you can compete to win, an extended break might be the best solution.
In any case, don’t be so hard on yourself. Even the top-tier professionals go through slumps. Go back to the drawing board and see what adjustments you can make to optimize your performance.