Filed under: Routine
Warfighters especially need the ability to make quick and accurate judgments without having to think about them deliberately. You can hone this skill using techniques employed by top athletes: They use routines to help shift their attention—away from stressful anticipation of how things are going to turn out—to focus instead on what’s most important in the moment. In other words, routines can help reduce anxiety and improve focus.
While routines can improve your performance, it’s also important to be flexible. Overly rigid routines can morph a helpful tool into a superstitious or obsessive ritual. Flexibility and adaptation are crucial parts of even the most finely honed routines. With service members, for whom crises are part of the job, the best teams are able to go “off-script” when needed in order to work together most effectively.
HPRC has strategies to help you focus your attention, so that it goes to the right place at the right time. By honing these approaches, you’ll find that your habits become so well formed that you’re able to focus, guide your actions, and be more aware of your environment. And you’re able to do even more: You can “get out of your own head” so you can make decisions and avoid “paralysis by analysis.” Read HPRC’s “Develop routines to optimize attention” to learn details.
The best time of day to exercise is the time when you can maintain a consistent exercise routine—not necessarily the same time for everyone. You also might experience better training adaptations when you exercise consistently at a regular time. For example, if you work out at noon every day, your body will adapt to perform at its best at noon.
Above all, exercise should be enjoyable. After all, if you don’t enjoy it, you’re less likely to keep up with it. So here are a few things to keep in mind about making exercise fit into your schedule.
Morning. It might be easiest to maintain a consistent exercise regimen by starting your day with a workout. Other things that come up during the day can affect your plans to work out later in the day, and motivation often fades as the day progresses. However, since your body and muscle temperatures are lower in the morning, it’s especially important in the morning to warm up properly before exercise.
Afternoon. Optimal adaptations to weight training seem to occur in late afternoon. Levels of hormones such as testosterone (important for muscle growth in men and women) and cortisol (important for regulating metabolism and controlling blood pressure) seem to be at optimal ratio later in the day. For some people—because hormone levels vary from person to person—lifting later also might be more beneficial because their testosterone can respond better to resistance exercises.
Evening. The biggest caveat about exercising in the evening is how it will affect your sleep. Everyone is a little different. Some people can exercise right before bed and have no trouble sleeping. For others, it can make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. There are lots of factors that can affect your sleep. Experiment to see what works for you.
Remember that other factors such as your work schedule, fitness goals, current diet, and sleep habits also affect your workout routine and physical performance. But whether at the end of the day (or in the morning or afternoon), a consistent exercise routine is the best routine.
Olympians can teach the rest of us how to perform our best during career-defining moments. While we all can’t compete in the Olympic Games, we can relate to those instances when the pressure’s on and it’s time to perform.
What helps Olympic athletes meet or exceed expectations? Successful team members train together, receive helpful support from friends and family, develop sharp mental skills, stay focused, and honor their commitment to the task and each other. Teams that fail to meet expectations lack experience and have problems bonding. And they tend to face planning or travel issues, problems with coaching, distractions, and commitment issues. Often the best you can do is set routines that guide your attention to actions—within your control—whether you’re an Olympian or someone who values achievement.
Just like your career-defining event only happens once or a few times during your career, athletes know the Olympic Games are unique, rare, and unlike other events. They understand what they’re doing is important. And they’re in the public eye, facing new distractions everywhere.
They’ve spent an extraordinary amount of time preparing and planning for these big events too. It’s natural for an athlete to think, “This is the first time I ever...” Being a “favorite” can come with even more pressure and thoughts such as, “Don’t screw up!”
Nearly all Olympic athletes experience nerves. However, they can experience “butterflies” as excitement to some degree, rather than nervousness. Facing nervousness can be more effective than fighting it or pretending it’s not there. When Olympians or you—during career-defining moments—shift focus to little action plans within your control, gold medals and big successes can be wonderful by-products.