The lifestyle of a professional athlete, from the outside, has always sounded an enviable prospect. Though I am sure the attention lies outside of what actually qualifies them as professionals in favour of a potentially glamorous social life that is invited. From my research, there seems to be three key aspects to it: training the body, training the mind, and conditioning.
The most obvious requirement for an athlete is to be physically adept in their chosen sport. What is often overlooked, however, is the fact that the body can only withstand so much training. When I was young watching sports, I imagined that professional athletes trained like 8 hours a day i.e. a normal workday. But when I looked into it, football players and basketball players among others, only train perhaps 2-3 hours a day. The risk of overtraining and injury limits the number of sessions they can do and their respective intensities. That changed that game for me, training like a professional athlete did not seem impossible.
The other side of the equation is conditioning. For as much as athletes spend on focussed skill-building and skill-perfecting sessions, they probably spend at least double on conditioning and recovery. In many ways, being an athlete is a 24/7 job. Optimal conditioning and recovery requires sleeping right, eating right, massages, ice baths and probably a million other things. It is no wonder that Lebron James spends over a million dollars a year on maintaining his body for peak basketball performance. It is not so easy to just succumb to temptation and binge on food or sacrifice sleep. It can be done, sure, but at the expense of performance.
Then there is training the mind. Looking at film, seeking advice from coaches and mentors, and thinking about your performance and how you can improve it. This idea of having the most knowledgable mind was popularised by Kobe Bryant with the mamba mentality. The pursuit for greatness doesn’t end with what you can physically do on the court or field, it relies on being able to see what might happen before it does.