By Jason Hildebrandt
Over the past few years, I have discovered a deep passion for anything that could improve my performance as a tennis player. Researching topics from exercise science to sleep and nutrition, I came to realize that there are no quick fixes. Whatever aspect you are trying to improve it will take time and hard work. I found for myself that things get a lot easier once you establish and follow certain routines so that over time it becomes second nature for you to do things in an optimized manner.
In the following, I will introduce two of the drivers of athletic performance and give a few great tips to improve each of them to bring your performance to the next level. One thing I want to note before I start is the aspect of individual variability. What works for me, might not work for you and vice-versa. Everyone has their own specific needs and internal rhythms that are due to differences in genetics or environmental factors. Someone who is working full-time and has night shifts every other day will certainly have different needs and responses to certain things than a professional athlete has. It is also important to emphasize that I am no expert in any of these fields, just an athlete myself who is researching these topics very passionately. Therefore, I recommend consulting with a professional about your personal needs if you have the resources to do so.
Our nutrition is what our body uses as fuel to drive our performance. If you think about it in this way, it seems obvious that it probably has a significant impact on our performance. Nutrition is one of the aspects that interest me the most, but it is also one of the most confusing ones. The number of different diets that are out there is simply incredible- from vegetarian or vegan to the carnivore diet, from paleo to keto. After listening to many different podcasts and the leading experts on this topic, one thing becomes very obvious: One size does not fit all!
Whenever you hear someone say that a certain diet is the best one, that person probably does not know what they are talking about. Sure, some improvements are common sense like cutting out unhealthy things like fast food and snacks that are high in sugar, but in general, everybody responds differently to certain things. To find out what works best for you to bring your performance to the next level, you have to try different things out. Just like improving your service motion or your golf swing, you have to see what works best for you!
Talking about sleep, things become a little more straightforward. Except for the fact that certain people might be destined to be early risers, and some that are night owls, many things are scientifically proven to improve the quality of your sleep. Down below I listed seven tips to improve your sleep.
- Stick with the same routine! Whatever routine you decide to do, it is crucial that you stick to it.
- Go to bed and wake up at consistent times! Do not wake up at a different time on the weekends and also try to always get around 8 hours of sleep.
- Keep your bedroom as a resting place! If you have the possibility, it is really helpful for your brain to compartmentalize your life, meaning that your brain associates a certain place with a certain task. It is best if you never do work in bed so that your bed is always associated with rest.
- Do not eat at least an hour before bedtime. Digestion can disrupt your sleep.
- Take more naps! There has been a lot of research around the recovery from naps, and experts recommend napping 8 hours after waking up. Lebron James takes a nap every day to be ready for his afternoon practice.
- Turn your phone off one hour before bedtime! This is really important so that your mind can settle down.
- An additional tip is that studies have found that magnesium has a great influence on our sleep. Personally, I take a small magnesium supplement every night to enhance my sleep and recovery, but I would recommend reading a little bit into it before deciding if you want to do this since supplementation is a difficult topic in itself.
About Jason Hildebrandt: current University of Pennsylvania team member Jason Hildenbrandt today on our platform! Jason had an illustrious junior career in Germany. Jason was a junior German National Champion in doubles and a runner up in Singles. He played twice in the ATP 500 Hamburg event playing Sergiy Stakhovsky (Career-high of 31) in singles at age 17 and in doubles when he was 18. At Penn, his team won the ECAC championships for the first time in 14 years.