Be Your Own Health Advocate

As a former athlete, current master trainer, therapist, and advocate for health, I think it is crucial to emphasize the importance of being an advocate of your own health … athlete or not. Being an advocate for health is not only important on the field, on the track, in the arena, or on the court; it is even more important in our daily lives. 

Athletes need to be advocates of their own health

As advocates for their own health, athletes need to be mindful and protective of their health during both training season and in competition.  

During training season, athletes must be conscious of their training regimens and the toll that it takes on the body, recognizing when the body can perform at optimal level and when it needs time for rest and recovery. They also must recognize during training and/or competition — upon injury or suspicion of injury — to think both short and long term.  

Short term: ”Is this injury endangering my health now?” 

Long term: ”If I continue, will this injury negatively impact my life later?” 

Athletes also must be aware of their mental state and the mental toll that training and competition takes on the mind, recognizing when the mind is thinking at optimal capacity and when it needs time for rest and recovery.  

Often when athletes are in the “training zone” or “the heat of performance,” stress, mental fatigue, physical fatigue, and injuries are considered a necessary part of the life of the athlete. Even though the life of an athlete appears short-lived, the life of the individual does not stop after the sport ends. Life continues and so does any untreated injury or illness. 

How do you be an advocate for your own health?

You must first make the commitment that you will do what is necessary to take proper care of your mind and your body. 

Then follow these 3 simple steps: 

  1. Begin each day with prayer and/or meditation and make the decision to be committed to your health the rest of the day.
  1. Create and follow a realistic schedule allowing ample time for tasks, unexpected happenings and time for physical and mental health actions and breaks as well as social interactions.
  • A realistic schedule allows ample time for prioritization and completion of tasks as well as unexpected adjustments. 
  • Examples of physical health actions—intentional movement, physical activity, and/or structured workout such as strength training, physical health breaks—scheduled time for consumption of healthy meals, snacks, and beverages. 
  • Examples of mental health actions—meditation, deep breathing and relaxation techniques and breaks, intentional non-movement or inactivity and/or structured workout such as yoga and mental health breaks—scheduled “hard stops” and time for social interactions. 
  1. End each day by creating time and space for meditation and/or prayer, relaxation and gratitude. 

Note: Try to recognize your limits or when you are physically and/or mentally fatigued. Signs may include inability to concentrate or focus, irritability, anxiety, headache, diminishing productivity and performance, headache and/or eye strain, sore neck and back, joint pain and stiffness and muscular discomfort. Also, try to identify when your body feels it best and functions optimally and for how long. 

And most importantly, make sure to properly treat any physical injury or mental illness. It might sound cliche but you only get one body. It is important to take care of it. You must be an advocate for your own health or even an advocate for the health of others. 

Opinions expressed in this blog belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan or its subsidiaries and affiliates. 

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Photo credit: Courtesy of Angela Moore

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