Breaking Bad! Building Good Nutritional Habits For Your Young Athlete (And You)

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You have a son or daughter and they play sports. And since you do love them and want the best for them, you’ve decided to do everything in your power to help them succeed.

You’ve enrolled them at a Parisi Speed School to ensure they get the highest quality speed and strength training.

You’ve found the best coaches, enrolled them in the best sports camps and made sure they’ve played in the best travel teams.

Now imagine this scenario: After a one hour hitting lesson and an intense strength training class at Parisi,  your child has worked up quite the hunger.

“Okay,” you say and pull into the McDonald’s drive through.

Wait? WHAAT?! All that effort. All that quality training. And you’re going to offset it by feeding them garbage?

If I’m speaking about you in this scenario, then don’t feel bad. Over the course of 18 years of training kids and adults alike, I’ve seen this scene play out time and time again. Time, effort and money is spent on gym memberships, training, coaches, etc., but nutritional choices remain poor.

Why?

Because healthy food choices are still the biggest mystery to the majority of people who begin a fitness regimen and this trickles down to their children. In this article, I’m going to address what to eat, but mainly emphasize creating habits that will keep your children on the path to healthy eating.

Here are three habits you can use to help ensure your young athlete gets the nutrition they need. The good news to this is that since you buy the food they’ll have to follow these habits. The bad news is that you’re also going to have to do the same (which isn’t really bad news because you’ll look and feel better too!)

Habit One: Keep a Clean House.

No, I’m not saying that your living quarters are dirty, I’m saying the contents of your refrigerator and pantry are. So let’s get rid of all that dirty food. Here are some examples:

  • sodas

  • chips

  • cookies, cakes, candy bars, ice cream, etc.

  • processed frozen foods (hot pockets, pizzas, microwave meals)

  • sugary cereals

Remember if it’s not there, you can’t eat it, so go ahead and get rid of all of it. Now we replace the bad with the good:

  • lean meats

  • lean lunch meat

  • complex carbohydrates like rice, oats, sweet potatoes, red potatoes, vegetables and fruits

  • healthy fats like almonds, mixed nuts, real cheese, peanut butter

Now your kitchen is nice and clean with all the building blocks of a healthy nutritious meal. What’s next?

Habit Two: Learn to Prepare Meals.

“Meal prep” is often a stressful term that creates images of hours of cooking packed away in Tupperware to be reheated days later. In actuality, it can be as simple as packing turkey sandwiches on wheat bread with real cheese for your kids to bring to school. Preparing dinner is also very important. Your kitchen is now full of healthy options, so there is an endless array of meals that can be made using combinations of those foods. Just use your imagination (or find recipes online). Make extra and you’ve got leftovers that can be packed for school the next day. Now that your meals are taken care of, you’re probably going to ask, “What about snacking? My kid is still a kid. You expect them to eat chicken breast and rice constantly?” No I don’t. Which brings me to…

Habit Three: Snacking.

If they’re going to snack, then choose healthy ones. There are snacks out there that taste great and are still healthy (in proper amounts). Some examples:

  • Fiber One or NutriGrain bars

  • almonds or mixed nuts

  • string cheese

  • baked chips, wheat thins, rice cakes

These are also good to pack with you for games or trips to games as they are a quick means to provide clean, sustained energy.

There you have it. Try those three habits to get your young athlete eating better for performance, recovery and health. But remember as the parent you have to set the precedent by following them as well. Children pick up habits early and one of the most valuable lessons you can give them is what foods to eat and how they can go about eating those foods every day. Increased performance is valuable, but learning how to live a healthy lifestyle is priceless.


The Secret to Speed ISN’T Your Legs

When people think of getting faster they think of legs, but speed is directly related to what you do with your arms. The arms stabilize your torso which lets power efficiently transfer through your hips and legs. The tempo of your arms controls the action of your feet. Increasing the speed of a correct arm swing will force your feet to turnover faster. And, if your arms cross or “flap” rather than power forward and back, your center of gravity is going to be off, your balance is off, and you lose forward momentum.

To use your arms to produce power and speed you need to maintain a 90 degree elbow angle, which will ensure your power is pushing you forward, not sideward. The hand is open rather than clenched in a fist which reduces resistance. The hand should hit the height of your back pocket on the back swing and your cheek on the upswing, adding the maximum power push.

Get your arms right; you’ll be faster. At Parisi Speed School we know that when we get the arms moving correctly running speed will follow. Learn more about our youth speed training here.

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Don’t Short Change the Warm Up

One play, one hit, one rep is all it takes for an athlete to become injured. One of the ways to help prepare ourselves for sport, or for training, is with a warm up. Unfortunately, while the warm up is one of the most important things an athlete can do, time and again, I see athletes, and teams, going through the motions, and not investing themselves into the warm up. They view this time as social hour, and not as the start of training. Failing to warm up properly, diminishes the effect that training will have on an athlete, as well as diminish their performance on the field of play.

The warm up is goal oriented.

What is the task at hand?

What do I need to accomplish?

What are the consequences if I am not mentally and physically prepared to perform these tasks?

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The warm up is a chance for athletes to work on their biomechanics, and make them more efficient. Athleticism is tied into having the ability to orchestrate a variety of movement patterns. This is a low stress opportunity, especially for young athletes, to make the connection between what their bodies should be doing, and what they actually are doing, and make corrections. Having athletes focused on the inputs of their coaches, and applying their directions, instead of joking with their friends about the most recent gamer video on YouTube, will serve to enhance this connection between body and mind, and the results will show in training and the playing arena.

We train movements. It is the ability by which an athlete can contract his/her muscle fibers to produce accurate and powerful movement patterns which determines how good he/she moves. We have all seen athletes who move with such grace and what looks like ease. This is because all movement is controlled by the central nervous system. If you ever read Daniel Coyle’s the talent code, the premise is the more focused the training or practice, the better that training or practice is.

“Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.”

Focused training does not equate to hours of training. An athlete who during warm ups, focuses in on his/her movements, and performs the warm up with intent, will improve more rapidly, and with fewer sessions than an athlete who just shows up. By failing to be present and focused during the warm up, athletes are failing to be physically prepared for their endeavor.

Lastly, athletic performance depends greatly on a combination of psychological factors. It does not matter how physically prepared an athlete is, if they are mentally weak, they will not achieve the level of play their physical capacities may allow them, as they will fail to perform during high stress moments. An athlete can be their own biggest limiting factor. The warm up is a perfect opportunity to practice concentration and focus, as well as regulating emotion, By using the warm up as a way to stimulate the psyche as well as the body, athletes help prepare themselves for long-term playing arena success.