The room is filled with all of her teammates, trainers and coaches and all their eyes are on her. If this were a movie, there would be a single spotlight shinning only on Kelly Custer. This is her time to prove to her team how hard she worked all semester.
With all of the people and the commotion going on, Kelly hears nothing at all. But she can see everyone in reflection from the mirror in front of her. Only excitement and eagerness fills their eyes.
Now her focus is solely on the metal bar in front of her. She knows what she has to do to clean press this amount of weight.
As she walks up to the bar, the steady thudding sound of her heartbeat takes over and she can barely concentrate on the steps she is talking herself through.
She tells herself, “Bend your knees. Keep your back flat. Place your hands a shoulder width apart on the bar. Head up, eyes up, shrug, jump and under.”
All the sounds re-enter the room and Kelly is rushed by her proud teammates and by Kilee Taflinger, her Strength and Conditioning coach.
“You did it, you beat your maximum weight from the beginning of the semester,” says Taflinger. “I knew you could do it.”
Being successful in the weight room is only one of the many pieces that goes into being a successful athlete. According to Mike Leonard-Garner, Senior Assistant Athletic Trainer for the football, women’s basketball and women’s lacrosse teams at Towson University, all the different aspects surround taking care and bettering your body on and off the field.
Garner has these tips on how to reach your highest potential as an athlete.
I. Be Mobile and Flexible
It’s not all about being able to touch your toes, but if you cant move your joints, then you can’t move at all.
Garner says, that being able to maintain “appropriate range of motion of your shoulders and hips” allows players to move with fitness and greatly reduces the amounts of overuse injuries.
You can work on improving both of these elements through a proper warm up and cool down before and after you participate in any physical activity. That includes both a stationary and dynamic warm up, to stretch out your muscles.
II. Maintain a Healthy Diet
Like you would put gas in your car to drive it, you have to put the right nutrients in your body to perform at your highest potential. How you fuel your body affects how you perform on a daily basis. From how you play to how your practice and how your brain thinks.
Garner says that keeping a “steady and balanced diet” is an essential part in your daily routine. You can do this by making sure you are getting enough food from all the food groups and eating breakfast everyday. He says that the food pyramid is the best way to make sure of this.
III. Get the Proper Amount of Rest and Recovery
After taking part in any strength training you have to give your body the appropriate amount of time to rest and recovery.
“This means that if you are training for about three hours a day you should then let your body rest for about five hours until you are involved in physical activity again,” says Garner.
You can do this through drinking recovery shakes or milk, icing sore muscles and taking ice baths and last but not least getting a decent amount of sleep. Garner says that every athlete should get between eight and nine hours of sleep a night.
“People underestimate how important sleep is,” says Taflinger. “If you get six hours instead of eight, that can mess up your whole day and make you feel sluggish there for you are not recovering properly.
On days that athletes have off, they should participate in cross training aerobic exercises to stay in shape and work different muscle patterns to help give the other muscles time to recover.
IV. Weight training and Conditioning
You need large muscles in order to generate large amounts of force. Taflinger says, “It’s the basic laws of science; if you are not strong then bigger and stronger competitors will more force will just push you around.”
Fitness plays a big key in your overall success if you are not fit you wont see playing time and injuries will occur. But the strength training has to be relevant to your sport.
”Where as a basketball player would focus on jumping and short quick movements, a lacrosse player would focus on lateral mobility, acceleration and deceleration, and multi pointer movements,” Garner said.
This not only builds a mental toughness, but it is also an important component in injury prevention.
While many athletes don’t focus on the parts that go into being an athlete, Kelly Custer tries her hardest to work all the pieces every day.
“I know how important it is to eat right and get a good nights sleep, so I try my hardest to do it,” says Custer.” I want to be the best lacrosse player that I know that I can be, so if that means making some sacrifices then that’s what I’m going to do.
As Kelly gathers her belongings and gets ready to leave the weight room, Taflinger stops her.
“The strides you have made over the semester and the weight you lifted today is something you should really be proud of. I know that I am.”
Kelly thanks her strength coach and joins the rest of her team.
“Having others notice the hard work that you put in everyday, not only on the field but in all the other aspects, is what reassures me that I have found success.”