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  • Elena Elviira

Performance of an athlete

The life of a successful athlete has to be in balance - The Core.

I'm by no means a doctor nor is this years of my research, instead this is something I've been highly interested of and something I've learned more about by reading about Aki Hintsa - a Finnish performance coach (a doctor, a surgeon, a husband, an ambassador of better life and performance, a father, a husband and a doctor for McLaren). Aki Hintsa spend most of his career understanding and developing the core theory for better life and performance.

In a book written about Aki Hintsa and his practices, he tells insights of Formula1 athletes and how he has (like no other coach in his time) understood all things related to better performance. This better sport performance can be achieved through balanced life.

As many of us cannot relate to being a F1 driver, flying from one glamorous destination to another, but what we can relate to, is the importance of time one needs for self, family and work (all three aspects of life needs to be in balance for better performance). Like F1 driver's life, our life too can be quite hectic (too busy) to focus your time and energy on what's truly important. Towards things that matter to you. If life starts to spiral out, out of balance, this way, a burnout is possible. This kind of balance affects massively how well an athlete can perform.

Lately I've started to stumble on few struggling female athletes who have became overwhelmed (burnout) from trying to maintain work-life, social-life, student-life and athlete-life. This book (THe Core) is exactly abou that - the importance of well-being for athletes. It all becomes just too much and time is taken away from rest and recovery (among other things)

Rest and recovery is the most important thing for any individual, and for athlete's development & well-being, it is a crucial part. So by reading about F1 drivers and other athletes, l found many similarities between these two. Sometimes maintaining zillion things is just too much, if not always.

We feel well, when our life is in balance. When life challenges us and feeds us with energy. That is the spiral of well-being.

The reason why l am talking here about female athletes is because they are a good example, because very often they have to financially support themselves outside of their sport and they may often be students/ live abroad so maintaining other parts in their lives can become too stressful. Every person has their limit, and sometimes that limit is lower and sometimes higher, depending how well one's life is in balance. Mental energy needs to receive as much as it gives.

Stress and other pressures, affects athletes not to be able to focus on what's truly important - training. Pressure to perform when exhausted from other parts in life, brings great issues on athlete's development and performance.

To take away this kind of stress and to prevent a total burnout, athlete needs to have a balanced and smooth lifestyle in every aspect of life.

Sometimes this requires intervention (help and support) for other aspects of life. Athletes should be able to focus solely on present. Focusing on small goals, training as well as they can, so the bigger picture won't become too overwhelming. This will allows athlete to perform better (thus guarantees better chances for success). Preparation throughout the whole season allows for the bigger goal to be achieved and allows athlete to maintain a steady peak in performance levels.

It is important to constantly re-evaluate one's mental well-being, in order to know where problems may arise and how do they affect performance in trainings. This can be done by coaches around you, or by your own support group, or most importantly by you. It would be highly important for an athlete to learn and understand oneself, through self-evaluation and -observation. There's no better person to know yourself than you. Knowing who one is as an athlete and as an non-athlete is the whole purpose of The Core Aki Hintsa talks about.

Learning when more rest is needed and when one needs slack in order to save mental energy. This can mean lowering training levels for one session in order to maintain quality in training in the long run and this helps to maintain constant performance levels. This is what keeps an athlete going. Always performing in high-quality is what counts and will lead to desired performance in competitions. This requires discipline and dedication to keep going, but also knowing one's own limits and understanding the balance life needs.

By learning to listen to yourself - body and mind - means knowing who you are as a person ? what is it that matters to you? what are you values? This allows an athlete to fully focus on the act in place and trust the process and guidance of coaches. Athlete should stop having the need to train more and more (overtraining - sometimes more is definitely not 'more'). Athletes should be able to trust their coaches and the small steps needed to be taken to achieve better performance levels (the big goal).

Few things to say about over training - it is very counterproductive and many times linked with a lack of sleep and rest, and can become a vicious cycle before leading to a burnout. Athlete shouldn't take ahead of themselves and should understand the importance of small steps by giving 100% in those. The better athlete can focus on these small steps and develop through them, the better and more balanced athlete they will become.

Athlete's dedication and motivation will grow in the process and one understands themselves better. Some people are born with better motivation, but some people have to find it more and that's ok. Lack of motivation does not mean it's not there, it just means it requires little bit of work and having life more in balance, thus better life.

Better quality of life is reached by being able to recharge and by dedicating energy to things that matter and give energy back. Aki Hintsa believes life should balance between work/family/self in 40/40/20 ratio. Meaning 40% of your mental energy goes to work and family (each) and the rest 20% is dedicated to self.

Of course some athletes have to work and train (in order to financially survive) so it's all individual how you can use these ratios. Part of training can be the time for self and after training energy can be dedicated to social aspects of life (teammates, coaches and the supporting people around your training regime). The idea is simple, but very often the ratio can be far from being in balance. The idea is that you should get as much mental energy from the act in place as you put in. Without this balance, it can lead to troubles of maintaining a good quality in life and in sport performance.

Being successful in a sport and being a world champion should not be the goal that makes one satisfied as human being, but all the other choices made along the way, the hard work, dedication, improving yourself mentally and physically, lots of things are the ones that matter and satisfies athlete's basic human needs. Winning is just a way of expressing that human need and getting some sort of credibility for your actions and choices. But ultimately a balanced athlete (often the most successful ones) is someone who thrives to be better self.

''It is just a sport'' was said by one of the most balanced, and successful athletes. Someone who understood and got their satisfaction from other parts of life and satisfaction from dedicating oneself fully to the sport, but ultimately understanding it is just a sport and someone who saw themselves as so much more than an athlete. Who was this athlete, you can find out by reading this book l highly recommend to all athletes and non-athletes. For me it helped to understand l am not alone with these thoughts by wanting to have life that gives me as much as l give back and by learning that success can be measured in different ways. Also far most that l for one want to live a life that feeds me to be even more passionate and better human being - it is all possible - by learning who l am as a person and what are my values. I hope l am here rightfully writing about what Aki Hintsa has taught me. I aim to understand athletes better and find a way to do that. This is my start and it is a slow start. Taking small steps at a time and finding my true passion and dedication. Not sure where it will lead to but by being true to myself l can only success, just like you


References from a book: The Core Aki Hintsa, Better Life Better Performance, Oskari Saari.



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