The term “sports fitness” is often used interchangeably with strength and conditioning. However, this is not the case. Strength and conditioning are merely complementary factors to sports fitness. Sports actually require an athlete's own special level of skill, knowledge of his or her sport and an understanding of his or her own personal mental and physical needs to be successful. Sports fitness takes place in the mind, body and spirit of an athlete.
For example, consider the example of Wayne Gretzky. He is one of the greatest athletes of all time. However, he never achieved the same level of success without having a dedicated training program that incorporated both upper and lower level conditioning exercises as well as specific sport specific drills. In addition, he religiously follows a strict diet consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables. In addition, he also includes some very specific sleep habits and an exercise routine consisting of running, weight training and stretching. All of these efforts enabled him to reach a higher level of overall fitness than most of his competitors.
Now consider the level of fitness that most recreational athletes have in common. They perform specific exercises and spend hours in the gym working out on a regular basis. They do not eat very many healthy foods or engage in specific sport specific activities. These people typically lack the mental and physical skills that enable them to obtain and maintain a competitive advantage over other competitors.
In contrast, a professional ice hockey player has to work much harder than Gretzky. He must eat a very unique and specialized diet consisting of foods rich in calories yet low in saturated fat. He engages in rigorous sports training to improve his strength and build his aerobic capacity. He runs five to eight miles daily and performs a total of about 250 repetitions of specific muscle-building exercises. All of this increases his caloric intake which supports his diet and helps him to build lean muscle tissue.
The difference between the two extreme examples reveals a important truth about sports training. While it is true that specific sport fitness components are critical to the achievement of maximum results, elite athletes know that overall health and fitness are paramount to their success. In particular, elite athletes know that eating a proper diet that supports their sport fitness goals is just as important as any workout program. To achieve their goals, they make certain that they include all of these components in their lifestyle.
A good diet includes a high protein diet and a low carbohydrate one. Some research indicates that elite level athletes may be prone to certain types of kidney disease. By avoiding high protein and high fat foods, they can reduce their risks of developing certain kidney diseases. In addition, experts believe that a high protein diet is important for building muscle tissue, but they add that there are other important factors that should be considered such as exercise intensity and duration.
Exercise is also an extremely important factor that should be included when considering an athlete's sports fitness goals. For instance, elite level swimmers who compete in events where their arms are under water need to make sure that their muscles are toned. In fact, swimmers who participate in events with short underwater bursts – such as freestyle swimming – will need to incorporate a variety of exercises such as back, leg, buttock, and arm workouts. These workouts are very effective for improving endurance as well as improving muscle tone.
Even elite level athletes must make sure that they receive adequate amounts of rest in between sports training sessions. If an athlete is not properly rested, then his ability to participate in sports becomes compromised. Many athletes think that sports training only includes strength training and endurance training. This is far from the truth. To get optimal sports fitness benefits, athletes should consider adding plyometric exercises to their daily workout routine. Indeed, this is one of the most overlooked but important factors that should be considered when it comes to an athlete's sports training.