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November 17·7 min read

Revolutionize your fitness routine with three small shifts the pros make

These tips show you don’t have to be a pro athlete to make athletic progress.

There’s nothing like seeing a world-class athlete performing at the peak of their powers. Especially if you’re a former athlete, you can recognize the countless hours that went into achieving that greatness, and admire the day-in, day-out dedication it takes to excel at the highest level of competition. 

Anyone familiar with Michael Phelps’ insane training diet or the many facets of Tom Brady’s approach to nutrition and fitness know that the best of the best go to extreme lengths in search of even the most marginal gains. For mere mortals, that kind of hardcore training and insane dedication can be intimidating. Do you have to completely restructure your life to make meaningful progress towards any kind of athletic goal? Thankfully, the answer to that is a resounding no. 

Small changes make a big impact. 

Sure, world-class athletes and their training staff try to control every input that affects performance. But there are absolutely small bits and pieces of their routines that you can incorporate into your own approach to fitness with relative ease. As you read on, remember that the point isn’t to replicate a pro’s exact routine. Instead, think about ways you can integrate these small changes into your own life. 

The best way to kickstart that process is by asking yourself small questions, which you’ll find at the end of each section. Regardless of whether you’re motivated to shave some seconds off your race time or get back to the sport you love after a long absence, these small, manageable shifts can create much larger waves that you can ride all the way to your goal. 

Hydration is a huge help. 

Nutrition is one of the first areas that many aspiring athletes look to as they get serious about health and fitness. But before you start counting calories and measuring macros, start drinking more water. 

It seems like obvious advice, but given that about 60 percent of your body weight exists as water, keeping the H2O flowing is pretty darn important. According to the US Anti-Doping Agency (who know a thing or two about the relationship between what we put in our bodies and athletic performance), dehydration can limit oxygen flow to the muscles used during exercise, leading to exhaustion and diminished performance. Without enough water in the body, the metabolic waste that builds up in the body during exercise stays around to wreak havoc longer than it has to. 

That’s why it’s fairly common for professional teams to have someone on staff who tracks athlete hydration. At a level where the margin between wins and losses is razor-thin, even losing just two percent of your body’s water content can be the difference between making and missing a game-winning shot or holding onto a narrow lead in the final meters of a race. When you consider that athletes often lose more than 2% of their water weight through sweat during serious exercise, the value of hydration is hard to overstate.  

You certainly don’t need to hire someone specifically to track your daily water intake, but monitoring it with an app or even just mentally can make a big difference. If it helps, set a timer to remind yourself to take a few sips every now and then. 

Not only will drinking more water put you in a better position to make your workouts count, but good hydration can help keep your mind sharp throughout the day. And if you are focused on driving better performance through nutrition, drinking water can help you feel fuller between meals so you’re less likely to indulge in spontaneous snacking.

Questions that can lead to change: 

  • When was the last time I took a sip of water? 

  • How many ounces of water have I consumed today? 

  • What’s one thing I can do to stay hydrated throughout the day? 

Get smart about sleep. 

While it’s hard to see the logic in some of the things athletes endorse (looking at you, Shaq), seeing an ad where NFL quarterback Dak Prescott raves about his smart bed makes plenty of sense. Why? Because pros like him know that quality sleep creates a competitive advantage. 

When athletes wake up refreshed, they perform better across many categories. More sleep is correlated with quicker reaction times, better decision-making, improved accuracy, and greater endurance. Sleep also aids recovery between training sessions and consolidates the benefits of the hard work that went into the day’s exercise. Lack of a good night’s rest can also increase the likelihood of injury or illness – both of which can leave you stuck on the sidelines in big moments. 

That’s why athletes looking to perform at the top of their game plot their days and their seasons with sleep in mind. They’ll determine optimal training times based on the minute details of their 24-hour circadian rhythm, which dictates how the body moves through its sleep/wake cycle. They’ll take steps to mitigate jet lag as they travel across time zones. And, yes, they’ll invest in smart beds, sleep therapists, and even tents that simulate the effects of sleeping at high altitude in order to gain a nighttime edge when it’s gametime. 

For more everyday athletes, getting on the path to better sleep starts with small steps to nudge yourself towards dreamland. Focus on creating a cool, dark sleep environment, both of which signal to your mind and body that it’s time to power down. Since blue light can also alter your circadian rhythm, minimize your screen time in the hour or two before bed, and consider investing in blue light blocking glasses. Because caffeine can linger in your bloodstream for up to ten hours, consider skipping that afternoon or evening coffee so your body has time to wind down naturally. Instead, a cup of chamomile tea shortly before bedtime can create a sense of calm, and it’s also been shown to reduce symptoms of inflammation

Over time, creating a consistent bedtime routine will prime your restless mind to hit the hay. A little bit of light movement before bedtime can also ease the transition out of waking life. Adopting a 10-15 minute mobility routine, whether it involves yoga, a little light stretching, or anything else that gets the blood flowing but not the heart pumping will do. This simple step can rid you of any lingering physical tension from the day, and it carves out space for the mind to find stillness. 

Questions that can lead to change:

  • What’s one thing I can do to cut down my screen time before bed? 

  • What physical movements or mindful practice will help me unwind from the day?

  • How much caffeine am I consuming each day, and when? 

Replace your workout plateau with peaks and valleys. 

If you scroll through a pro athlete or fitness influencer’s Instagram, what you’ll generally see is a highlight reel of their biggest accomplishments and most intense training sessions. This can give you the impression that the pros are pushing for a PR every time they work out. 

That notion couldn’t be further from the truth. If you could watch a livestream of every moment your favorite athlete spent in training, you’d see that their overall workout regimen is all about creating peaks and valleys. Some days, they’ll rev up the effort to push past their current peak. On other days, they’ll intentionally dial the effort back because that’s what’s called for in the bigger plan. No matter what’s on the schedule, these athletes have trainers standing by to direct their workouts and keep their eyes on the prize.

Without an understanding of those intentional highs and lows, you’re likely to put forth a consistent level of intensity across every workout, because it seems like that’s the right thing to do. This can stall progress in one of two ways. In the first case, you push too hard too often, which inevitably leads to burnout as your body and mind falter under the weight of an unrealistic workload. In the second case, you’re working at a moderate level every day, never pushing yourself to your peak, but never taking it easy enough to fully recover.

All too often that leaves weekend warriors and everyday athletes stuck in a “gray zone” of fitness. It’s a plateau where the effort is enough to feel like you’re doing something, but you aren’t moving meaningfully towards your goals. Why? You’re not creating growth by pushing beyond your comfort zone, and you’re not doing the lighter work that belongs in any sustainable fitness routine. 

To push past this plateau, incorporate those peaks and valleys. Instead of thinking about the intensity of your workouts as a flat line, think about it as a wave that oscillates from one workout to the next. Your body craves that variance, which is what truly creates positive growth while allowing for proper recovery. 

Trusting a personal trainer to manage that process can pay dividends. By working backward from your bigger-picture goals and taking the time to understand your existing habits, they can devise a program full of workouts that mixes in all the right elements. That means you’ll get workouts that push your limits at the right time, lighter days that help you recover and consolidate progress, and more than enough flexibility to make room for whatever sports and activities you love. Each step of the journey will be a little bit different, but a varied approach is key to turning each day’s effort into long-term progress worth celebrating. 

Questions that can lead to change: 

  • Am I feeling the same level of exertion after every workout? 

  • How much am I varying my workouts from day to day and week to week? 

  • Is there someone whose expertise I can lean on to mix things up? 

Make change by changing how you do personal training. 

If these changes feel easy to make, that’s exactly the point. The easier a habit is to adopt, the more likely it is to stick. And seeing the impact of one small change can inspire you to take the next. You may not make the leap from amateur to professional athlete by rethinking your approach to sleep, hydration, or your workout strategy. But over time, there’s little doubt you’ll look back and see a big difference from where you were to where you are.

If implementing these small steps has you looking for game-changing improvements or you just want someone who can help you plan out your peaks and valleys, putting a Future coach on your team can unlock your full potential. No matter your athletic background or the size of your goal, your coach will work side by side with you to uncover all sorts of opportunities for progress. They’ll craft a completely customized, fully flexible workout plan that pushes you to your peak while keeping your recovery on point. The mix of expertise, accountability, and motivation Future coach will resonate far beyond each individual workout. 

Ready to go? If the answer to that small question is yes, take your first small step for a smaller price with a special offer on your first month of Future coaching here.

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