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Whether you are going to the gym after a long day at work or just about to participate in your first marathon, the human body relies on sports fitness and athletic perforce to run every mile and complete every curl. From nutritious and healthy diets to personal training programs, athletic performance is only partially based on any aspect of fitness. In fact, it includes multiple factors that affect an individual’s athletic ability.

The term “sports fitness” or “athletic performance” is quite common, and many people may have heard of it in their gyms or offices. However, most of them are yet to fully understand what it entails and the different ways to increase sports fitness.

How to improve sports fitness

What will your answer be if someone asks you to describe your sports fitness? To understand how to tackle this question, it is imperative to clarify your concept of this term. Also known as athletic performance or physical fitness, sports fitness is an expression typically used to describe any efforts a sportsperson or athlete makes to attain certain performance objectives in a set time. It is more than just physical movement but includes the sum of all psychological and physiological factors that affect performance. The duration required to assess the level of sports fitness may also vary depending on the individual in question. Some people measure it throughout a single game, while others may evaluate how an individual performs during an entire season to determine their sports fitness.

Though experts have standards for measuring sports performance, most individuals do so on their terms. For example, a volleyball player may evaluate their performance by the number of times they successfully block the ball at the net. On the other hand, soccer players may do so by calculating the total time duration they spend attacking.

Beyond physical activity, sports fitness also depends on how quickly a person recovers from the activity and returns to the competition of training sessions. For example, an Olympic runner tends to promptly recover in time for the finals, indicating that they have higher sports fitness.

As mentioned before, sports fitness does not encompass a singular definition but includes several factors that may impact physical performance. So for someone looking for different ways to increase sports fitness, it’s imperative to focus on all factors that influence it and work on them one by one.

Some key factors to focus on for improving sports fitness include the following:

Nutrition

The human body needs energy and fuel to compete and participate in sports activities, and most of this energy comes from food. Whether you are swinging a bat or doing strength training, it is essential for the body to keep converting calories into energy to perform to the best of its abilities. Most professional athletes and sportspersons rely on rigorous meal plans and diets. However, it is possible for a common man to get more or less similar benefits by tweaking their daily nutrition without any extreme measures.

So if you are wondering how to improve physical fitness by changing your nutritional habits, try eating foods rich in healthy proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Many falsely believe that the human body only wants simple sugars and energy gels to fuel high-intensity workouts. However, it requires a mixture of fruits, vegetables, and natural foods that influence overall sports performance.

A study performed in 2019 found that endurance athletes who rely on a short-term Mediterranean diet are more likely to notice improvements in their exercise performance. Remember that a Mediterranean-based diet includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and heart-healthy fats like nuts, seeds, and olive oil.

Metabolism

The term ‘metabolism’ describes how the human body utilizes the energy derived from food. It reflects your metabolic health and indicates what happens when you have food or drink. Some individuals have slow metabolic processes which force the energy to be stored away and lead to weight gain. Others with faster metabolism readily use energy as soon as available.

Metabolism also determines how the human body regulates blood sugar. In a healthy sportsperson, the body releases a hormone called insulin that goes into the bloodstream and absorbs all sugars. These sugar molecules are later used by the body for fuel thanks to the action of insulin. In people with poor control over their blood sugar management, the body does not produce enough insulin and is unable to remove sugar from the blood. Hence, it is imperative not only to eat well but also to keep an eye on the metabolism to ensure that the body can use all the energy it derives from food and use it to improve sports performance.

Proper Hydration

An important yet overlooked aspect that determines sports fitness is hydration. Hydration levels must be a top priority for people, whether they are out in the field competing under the scorching sun or working with a personal trainer inside the gym. No matter how one exercise, the body keeps losing fluids through sweat. This is because the muscles are producing extra heat that tends to increase the core temperature. With the temperature rise, the body attempts to turn on the sweating mechanism to provide short-term relief. Research suggests that a person can lose 3 to 4 liters of fluid through sweating every hour.

Considering these statistics, it is imperative to keep replacing the body that is losing by the hour, and a failure to do so can trigger dehydration. Dehydration, in turn, can lead to several side effects, such as an increased risk of injury, reduced muscle strength, and even a heat stroke. As per the American Council on Exercise, aim to drink 8 ounces of water up to 30 minutes before a workout, 7 to 10 ounces every 20 minutes during it, and 8 ounces of water 30 minutes after finishing the exercise.

Recovery

Recovery is one of the most important ways to increase sports fitness that many people tend to ignore. The recovery process not only rids the body of unwanted pains and aches but also prevents injury by giving the muscles a chance to heal. Inside the human body, healing takes place on a cellular level and involves replenishing the depleted energy stores so the body can perform well in the next workout session. The easiest way to improve recovery and sports fitness is by resting all major muscle groups of the body for 1 to 2 days following activity. Some other recovery-focused strategies include stretching, physical therapy, and using recovery tools like handheld percussive massagers or foam rollers.

Endurance training has been regarded as the best way to improve physical and sports fitness. With this type of training, the body becomes better at producing energy through metabolism. It also makes the aerobic energy systems and the cardiorespiratory system better and more efficient at delivering oxygen to all working muscles and converting food to energy.

There are different ways to improve the endurance of the body. Each exercise type varies depending on frequency, intensity, and duration. Moreover, each type focuses on different types of energy systems and combines their results into a well-rounded program that improves overall physical strength. For example, cycling and running increase lung and heart capacity, whereas resistance exercises enhance physical strength. Some of the most famous types of endurance training programs include:

Low, Slow Distance Training

As the most common type of endurance training, low slow-distance training has been serving as the foundation of sports fitness for long-distance cyclists and marathon runners. At the same time, it is also the most accessible type of endurance training for new exercisers.

Pace/ Tempo Training

This type of exercise comprises training at a steady but high intensity. Each session goes on at a steady pace for 20 to 30 minutes.

Interval Training

Interval training includes short, intense, and repetitive physical efforts that usually continue for 3 to 5 minutes, followed by short rest periods. This type of endurance training can provide a good opportunity to mix resistance activities and cardio exercises.

Circuit Training

Circuit training includes a series of exercises that an individual performs for a short duration and rotates through quickly with minimal rest. Traditional circuit training routines involve a combination of endurance exercises and strength training and can be customized to meet any training goals.

Fartlek Training

This training combines other training methods to form one long session. During this workout, athletes tend to add short bursts of high-intensity workouts according to their wishes without any set plans.

Strength Training

Strength training is typically performed once a week to improve endurance and sports fitness. Most experts advise including 30 to 40 minutes of this type of training to get good results.

The athletic performance or sports fitness is a concept that indicates any efforts that an individual makes to reach a specific competitive goal and maintain it. It is influenced by multiple factors, such as the environment and the habits one chooses that improve performance. Fortunately, some easy ways to increase sports fitness include healthy eating, endurance training, keeping the body well-hydrated, and improving metabolic activities. In the end, these activities will not only increase your physical fitness level but also keep the overall body in good health.

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