Becoming an athlete is a lifelong process that requires dedication, focus, and plenty of physical abilities. If you want to be an athlete, you can start by picking a sport that you love, and then practice it to become as skilled as you can be. In addition to playing the sport, athletes also need to eat a healthy diet and lead a healthy lifestyle.

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Practicing Your Sport

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    Get involved in a sport as soon as possible. Most athletes get involved in sports when they’re children, but it’s possible to become an athlete at any age. Pick a sport that you’re interested in, and find a local club, team, or league to play with.

    • When you’re picking a sport, try to choose one that requires skills that you already know you’re good at. For example, if you like to run, you might choose a sport like soccer or track, where running is a main component of the game.
    • If you like lifting weights and have good upper body strength, you might consider a strength-based sport like crossfit and powerlifting, or field sports like discus and javelin.
    • If you are able to catch and throw a ball, you could try football or baseball.
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    Devote 2-3 hours to practicing most days of the week. Becoming an athlete is a huge time commitment, so be prepared to spend a lot of time practicing the different skills that you need. Schedule your practices in 60 minute sessions, and try to do 2 or 3 of them 4-5 days per week.

    • When you’re just learning a sport, more practice is always better for improving your skills.
    • Be sure to take at least 20-30 minutes in between practice sessions to rest your muscles. Ideally, you should space your practice sessions so that you have one in the morning and one in the evening.
    • Many skilled athletes spend 4-5 hours per day on practicing their sport. However, if you have other commitments, this might not be possible. Try to make as much time as you can within your schedule.
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    Focus on getting better at specific skills. When you’re practicing, work on one specific skill at a time. Repeat that movement or motion over and over until you perfect it. Engage your mind by thinking about what you’re doing and where you can improve.

    • For instance, if you play soccer, you might spend 60 minutes working on dribbling. If you play baseball, you might spend 30 minutes working on swinging a bat in the right form without hitting the ball, and then spend 30 minutes hitting the ball.
    • It may be helpful to practice with a friend or coach so that they can observe you while you practice and provide comments on where you can improve your game.
    • Be patient with yourself while you’re practicing. If you continue to mess up a movement, try doing something else and then come back to the skill you’re having trouble with.
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    Take 5-10 minute breaks in between repetitions. When you finish working on a skill, step away from your workout to rest and rehydrate during a break. Spend time stretching your muscles or jogging in place to keep your heart rate up.

    • If you’re in a rush, don’t skip your break, as this can cause an injury. Instead, spend less time on your workouts and keep the rest the same amount of time.

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Eating a Healthy Diet

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    Make sure that 55-65% of your calories come from carbohydrates daily. Make meals that include healthy carbs, like fruits, whole grains, rice, beans, and whole wheat pasta. For an athlete, carbohydrates should make up the majority of your caloric intake for the day, since they give you the most energy for working out.

    • Try to stay away from refined grains and processed carbohydrates, which are low in nutritional value and fiber.
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    Eat protein for 10-15% of your calories each day. Protein is important for repairing and building muscles, so try to eat foods like eggs, vegetables, and meat, like chicken, pork, and beef. Incorporate nuts, like almonds and cashews, in your snacks, and eat fish, like salmon, tuna, or tilapia, for a leaner protein with your meals.

    • You don’t have to eat protein at every meal, but it should be an important part of your diet when you’re regularly working out and practicing.
    • If you’re more muscular, you might need more protein in your diet to maintain your muscles.
    • It’s important to get protein from a variety of sources, like meat, vegetables, and nuts, to get more nutrients for your body.
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    Avoid unhealthy fats and greasy foods. Stay away from trans fats, and avoid fatty foods in general before a workout, practice, or game. When you eat fatty foods, you can become tired and feel less alert, which can hurt your performance.

    • For instance, you should generally avoid fried foods, like french fries, or greasy items, like pizza.
    • Some fats from foods like avocado, olive oil, nuts, and even dark chocolate can be healthy in moderation.
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    Drink 64 fluid ounces (1,900 mL) of water every day to stay hydrated. Hydration is important for maintaining your energy and health throughout the day, especially as an athlete. Carry water with you throughout the day, and while you’re working out or playing a game, aim to drink every 15-20 minutes.

    • Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink water. Normally, this means that you’re already dehydrated.

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Living a Healthy Life

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    Do 60 minutes of cardio or weight lifting on days without practice. Keep your body moving, even on days when you don’t have a scheduled practice or game. Try to go for a walk or jog, swim a few laps, or do body weight exercises to keep up your energy.

    • On days where you have practice, try not to schedule an additional workout. Too much cardio or weight training can lead to exhaustion, which can negatively impact your game.
    • If you stop working out regularly, try to ease back into a routine slowly to avoid overexertion.
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    Get adequate rest after practicing or working out. Movement can quickly cause you to become tired, and it’s important to listen to your body. Aim to get at least 8 hours of sleep per night, especially if you’re going to be working out or playing a game the next day.

    • If you get too little sleep, you can harm your focus and motor functions, causing you to mess up during the game.
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    Visit a medical professional as soon as possible if you’re injured. Sports injuries are extremely common among athletes. Make an appointment to see your doctor if you’re injured during a game or practice, and tell them exactly what happened. In some cases, waiting too long after an injury can cause permanent damage.

    • If you’ve had a previous sports injury, be careful when using that part of your body, and let your coach know about the injury.
    • Most injuries, like sprains or cuts, are easily treated. However, there are some injuries, like ligament tears and concussions, that are more serious and require immediate attention.
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    Take a break from practicing if you feel overwhelmed or stressed. Maintaining your mental health is important for being the best athlete you can be. If you’re feeling like you aren’t enjoying playing your sport, experiencing stress outside of your sport, or feeling pressured by your coaches or teammates, take a step back and focus on yourself for a while.

    • If possible, talk to your coach about what’s going on and explain to them why you’re taking a break.
    • If you’re playing a sport in high school or at the collegiate level, make an appointment with the school counselor or the wellbeing center. There, you’ll be able to discuss how you’re feeling and make a plan for how to improve your mental health.