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From the Experts

The Everyday Athlete

By Vitality Clinician Jamie Monk
According to research conducted by Vitality, sedentary members who increased their activity levels to align with Government recommendations over a 12 month period increased their life expectancy by 3.1 years1. This insight is at the heart of Vitality’s ‘Everyday Athlete’ campaign.

The life of an athlete is optimised for performance. They live in such a way that they can achieve peak performance in what they do. They live by design, not by default. They have a purpose, they dream, they take action, they have a plan, and they are consistently relentless in trusting this process. If you want to maximise your body’s potential, you must nurture it. Developing good daily habits will support your journey in every way.
Dream big, practise small
Research has demonstrated that those who aspire to achieve their self-described ideal weight loss lose more pounds than those who strive for modest goals2. The theory suggests that when the resulting achievement is lacklustre, the optimism and motivation required to achieve it is undermined. Whilst long-term objectives are important, it’s equally important to focus on each step along the way that’s the end result. By realising that improvements can always be made, you are able to build upon each step gradually, creating momentum which eventually leads to success.  
Set clear goals
Athletes define exactly why they dedicate so much time and energy to their training. Whilst many set broad goals such as “I want to lose weight” or “I want to be healthier”, athletes think “I’m going to shave ten seconds off my next race”. Without understanding precisely what you’re trying to accomplish, it is extremely difficult to maintain progress without becoming demotivated. Everything relates back to priorities, and what you would hope to accomplish in every aspect, whether you make a conscious effort, or rely on subconscious choices. Vitality advocates the use of SMART goals which create verifiable trajectories towards an objective. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time bound. 
Be consistent in your discipline
Habits are helpful. Being predictable isn’t necessarily a negative. Whilst everyone can appreciate and embrace some spontaneity, the most successful athletes have an overriding urge for drive, dedication and self-discipline which is embodied deep within. Fortunately these habits are not restricted to exercise rooms and some can be applied to our daily lives.

Usain Bolt is a nine time Olympic Champion and the fastest man ever to cover 100m and 200m. Notwithstanding his intense training schedule, he attributes much of his success to prioritising sleep. Very often, we tend to focus on our work whilst overlooking rest the fact that adequate sleep is essential to allow the body to repair and recover following rigorous work (both physical and psychological).
Novak Djokovic is currently ranked the number one men’s singles tennis player in the world. Djokovic’s eating habits play a fundamental role in his daily routine. The diet he adheres to provides him with the nutrition, hydration and energy he requires to perform at a consistently high level. Although an elite athletes diet may be a little extreme, fuelling your body with whole and healthy foods whilst avoiding excessively high calorie, low nutritional value foods can have a significant impact upon your professional and social output.

Eliud Kipchoge is considered by many as the greatest marathon runner of the modern era. He is the proud owner of an Olympic Gold medal, several World Championship titles, as well as the fastest marathon time ever run by a male athlete. Yet Kipchoge attributes much of his success to his habit of competing against himself. Other athletes may have more luxurious training facilities, more experienced coaches or the most innovative equipment. This is not of concern. All he can control is improving himself. With the potentially consuming influence of social media, there can be a tendency to exhaust ourselves trying to run other people’s races, constantly looking at their lanes instead of focusing on our own.
Steely resilience
It is not uncommon for the adage “when one door closes, another one opens” to sound cliché or predictable. Adversity is inevitable. Resilience is the mental reservoir of strength which provides the perseverance required to overcome obstacles. The path to winning a gold medal is rarely straight forward, yet champions have been able to develop the resilience required. Michael Jordan famously stated “I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed”. Athletes commonly refer to a four-step process to recover from setbacks. The simple strategy follows: acknowledge, review, strategise, execute. Initially it may appear that this will take time to enact. In reality, the most resilient athletes actualise and implement this process almost immediately after experiencing a setback. The art of resiliency isn’t necessarily innate, with suitable support, it can be a learned trait.

“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny”
-C.S. Lewis-
The 24/7 Athlete
The positive behaviours athletes demonstrate can be incorporated into different facets of life. Nike’s mission statement is to “bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world”. Note the asterisk after “athlete”. Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman added the asterisk explaining “if you have a body, you are an athlete”. Perhaps the difference between a professional athlete and an everyday athlete has nothing to do with fitness level? Perhaps being an “athlete” is not simply a static identity measured in specific accomplishments. Perhaps it is merely a consistently relentless mind-set to achieve a goal.  
References:
1. Vitality. 2018. Britain's Healthiest Workplace. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.vitality.co.uk/business/healthiest-workplace/findings/. [Accessed 20 September 2019].
2. MayoClinic. 2016. Weight Loss: 6 Strategies for Success. [Online] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/weight-loss/art-20047752