Pilates reformer

How to Thrive as an Elite Athlete

Whether you believe high-performing athletes are naturally gifted or simply dedicated to training, elite athletes have to thrive in their sport—both mentally and physically—to truly be successful. Increasingly, however, people relate the idea of thriving under pressure as a natural characteristic for any athlete, believing it to be equal parts natural ability, technical skill, and tough mental attitude.

While elite athletes undoubtedly have some or all of those elements, traditional training tends to exploit these components with little regard for an athlete’s well-being. Coaches and trainers may push hard, be tough, or even cross the line to harassing behavior all with the idea that they are both helping their athletes and believing their athletes can handle it.

Some athletes respond to this style of coaching, and others do not. But recent research is clear that for athletes to truly thrive, they need an environment that supports their physical performance as a whole person, including both mental and physical development, which programs sometimes lack.

So this post takes a look at what makes elite athletes perform at high levels, what they need to create an environment in which they thrive, and how a Pilates reformer enhances an athlete’s development and ability to flourish in elite training.

Pilates reformer

Building Elite Athletes

While the medical community debates whether athletes are born or built, elite athletes may possess certain physical characteristics that help them perform at high levels. However, regardless of how naturally competent an athlete may be, they still train endless amounts of hours, pour their hearts and souls into their sport, and continually integrate mental training to separate themselves from everyday athletes.

Still, many athletes who are considered elite are born with some physical makeup that sets them apart from others. From lung capacity to size, physical attributes can turn an athlete from a weekend warrior to a true competitor.

These differences can’t be ignored because they impact how an athlete trains, but these differences can’t be overstated either. Depending on your sport, these differences can make or break your competitive level.

Just consider:

  • The height of LeBron James allows him to be a force in professional basketball.
  • The extra reach and ability to bend his feet at the ankle several degrees further than other swimmers helped make Michael Phelps net the most Olympic medals of any color as well as the most gold Olympic medals ever.
  • At the other end of the height spectrum, the height of Simone Biles balanced with her strength gives her an edge even in the elitist form of gymnastics—the Olympics.

However, these physical attributes are sport dependent. You can’t have the height of LeBron James and perform like Simone Biles and vice versa. So often, we look at an athlete and stand in awe of one aspect of the physicality as if that one element makes them superior. Doing so diminishes the time they spend training and loses sight of the fact that elite athletes are built, not born.

While athletes may have a physical characteristic that makes them stand out in their sport, their technical prowess, mental attitude, and more still need to be shaped and honed.

To develop an athlete to a level of high performance isn’t simply physical traits or a superior training regimen. You can take someone who is built for the sport and put them in an excellent training system only to lose them if they don’t have certain characteristics.

The success that these athletes enjoy has more to do with what’s inside them than what they look like physically. Many elite athletes share a mindset that is open to developing greatness and a community that helps them develop to their full potential. This mindset and community are made up of the following:

  • Strong focus: Athletes who want to not just succeed but also excel at the highest level have a strong focus on their goals. This strong focus allows them to set aside personal interests or other pursuits to focus solely on their sport.
  • Self-control: When everything you do matters—from what you eat and how much you sleep to how hard you train—you need self-control to keep you on the right track.
  • Motivation: You can be perfectly designed physically to be an athlete, but without intense motivation, you can’t stick to a routine or push through grueling, high-intensity workouts. Motivation works hand in hand with self-control.
  • A high level of optimism: Elite athletes aren’t quitters by definition. You can’t get to that level without being positive. You may see negative circumstances, but you have a positive mindset that you can tackle that situation and push through to the other side.
  • Increased level of self-awareness: When you want to perform at the highest level, you have to be able to critique yourself as well as accept criticism. Just because you’re focused and have an optimistic outlook doesn’t mean you don’t see what you’re doing wrong. You can look at yourself objectively and know what to do to adjust. You embrace failure for the lessons learned and can move forward with a positive trajectory.
  • Has trust in the process: Becoming an elite athlete isn’t an overnight event. It’s a long road riddled with hard work and plenty of ups and downs. Committing and believing in this process enables you to continue through each obstacle to reach your level of success.
  • Enjoys support from family and friends: Rarely do athletes develop into their full elite-level potential without a network of support. The role of coaches and trainers in this support cannot be understated. It can be difficult to maintain the necessary optimism and trust in the process if those around you aren’t supportive or can’t be trusted.
  • Seeks to develop as a whole person, not just an athlete: While elite athletes don’t necessarily execute a perfect balance between their personal and athletic life due to the hectic and full nature of training, it doesn’t mean they neglect other aspects of their lives. As an athlete who seeks an elite level of performance, what sets you apart from other athletes is your development of all aspects of yourself. A strong mindset, confidence in your abilities, and more depend on you developing as a whole person.
  • Copes with stress: High-performing athletes have coping mechanisms for stress. Because you’re in high-pressure situations constantly, from training to competition, you can’t fold under pressure and stress. Healthy and productive coping mechanisms for stress allow you to maximize your athletic potential.

Pilates reformer

While some physical capabilities can give you an edge, becoming an elite athlete isn’t simply superior physical attributes. You need a positive, tough mental mindset as well as excellent physical prowess and superior technical skill, and you, your coaches, and your trainers need to find a way to efficiently balance all of these elements while keeping you free from injury.

Because of the mental and physical stress your training and performance require, you need every tool to assist you in balancing your strength, focus, and mental well-being. Regular workouts on a Pilates reformer can maximize your potential by building further on the physical foundation you already possess It can also increase your focus, flexibility, and mobility as well as relieve stress and reduce your risk of injury.

Building Environments to Support Elite Athletes

Elite athletes are so much more than the physical body and technical skill you see when they compete. To develop athletes to reach their full potential, studies have proven that a holistic approach that builds a positive environment maximizes what level an athlete can reach when training.

Whether you’re an athlete training for a high level of performance or you’re part of the support system for an elite athlete, you have to understand the layers of support needed for development.

Mental health has been a price many high-performing athletes have paid who don’t receive the balanced support they need for development, which underscores the balance every athlete needs between personal and professional pressures.

Building a supportive environment means creating a space that allows for healthy mental and physical development, which requires a delicate balance between pushing through and knowing when to press pause.

If you know your body and mind and what each can handle, you’re well-equipped to know where to draw the line, and if you have a positive support system in place, you’ll be surrounded with the encouragement you need to move forward and develop in a healthy way for both your body and mind.

While nutrition, sleep, hydration, and physical training are all important, allowing athletes the space to develop as a whole person will strengthen their performance at an elite level. This support for all elements of an athlete’s development requires a lot of tools.

From therapists, coaches, and trainers to well-stocked gyms and detailed training programs, high-performing athletes should be given every tool to efficiently and effectively enhance their athletic development.

An indispensable tool, a Pilates reformer not only helps an athlete build themselves physically and mentally but also reduces their risk of injury and helps them to manage stress. Using a reformer also increases body awareness and focus, empowering athletes to have control and confidence in their development toward high performance.

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