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3 Pro Athletes Share Their Self Care Secrets

Learn self-care habits from high performance people.

Courtesy of DisobeyArt / Shutterstock
Courtesy of DisobeyArt / Shutterstock

Professional athletes often push their minds and bodies to the limit in order to stay competitive. To find out how the pros recover their mental health and self care, I asked 3 pros what their habits are.

James Whiteside

Principal dancer at American Ballet Theater.

@enjamesbwhiteside

1) What does “self-care” mean to you?

Self-care means saying “no” sometimes. I am notoriously bad at self-care and would be a hypocrite-and-a-half if I had any tips. Dancing keeps me hustling and sometimes/all the time I forget to stop moving every once in a while. The result is that I get sick and am out of commission for a week or so. I’d be more productive if I slept more and took a day off every once in a while. I’m still waiting on myself to change. 

2) Why is self-care important?

Self-care contributes directly to mental wellness. I’m happier when I take care of myself; my health, my appearance, and my time. It’s important to sprinkle things that make you joyful into your daily regimen. Good food is important to me. Eating to survive is depressing, eating to enjoy is mood boosting! I love cooking or going out to eat with friends. I try to make that a priority. 

3) How do you practice self-care in your own life?

I rarely practice self-care. It’s something I’m working on. There have been times when I’ve threatened to burn out. I’ve managed, just barely, to keep hustling. In the future, I’m going to prioritize self-care in order to continue thriving and serving up fresh dance moves! As a dancer, I’m very in tune with my body and its needs. I’d like to make time for more body maintenance; massages, ice therapy, physical therapy, etc. Self-care is on my to-do list. As the flight attendants say, “Secure your own mask before securing others’”!

Samuel Akins

Professional male ballet dancer.

@samakins

1) What does “self care” mean to you?

For me self care has multiple meanings. As a professional ballet dancer we spend long hours everyday training our bodies for the stage. Rehearsing from 9:00 in the morning till 6:00 at night Monday- Friday. This requires so much mental, physical, and emotional strength. During those top hours you need to be on your A- game at all times. Heading to the stage is a whole other ball game with adrenaline then playing a factor. 

Self care to me means taking five minutes in rehearsal to message my muscles. It means taking time to stop, think, and calm my mind. It also means having a break to eat food that will provide my body with the nourishment it needs to go back into a full day of physical work. 

My definition of self cafe includes any time and effort that you can invest back into yourself.  

2) Why is self care important?

Self care is important, because we need take time to recharge, and fuel our bodies with healthy energy. There is no way we can continue to work in a positive and productive mind set. Without working our ourselves first. 

Ballet is extremely demanding not only physically but emotionally. Taking moments to not only check in on others, but checking in on yourself will make an incredible difference in your day to day work. 

3) How do you practice self care in your own life?

I practice self care in my own life by seeing physical therapists and massage therapists. Both help relive my body of pain and fatigue. 

I take time to do things that I enjoy that are non Ballet related. Things that give me a different perspective on life. I also love to spend time with friends, family, and those that make me happy. Anyone or anything that brings positive energy in my life is a plus. 

I also try to journal and am working on meditation. I enjoy spending time alone to find out more about myself, and know how I can best heal myself. Self care is a priority for me to make sure I am keeping myself mentally healthy and productive. 

Adam Kemp

Professional basketball player and fitness blogger.

@adamkemp50

I am currently about to start my 6th season of professional basketball, where I will be playing for Enea Astoria Bydgoszcz, and again living in Poland.

Prior to my professional career, I graduated from Marist College in 2014 with a Bachelor’s in Sports Communication and a Minor in Psychology.

What does “self care” mean to you?

For me, “self care” is a way of life. The reason being is that since I was 10 years old, I have had Tourette’s Syndrome. Although I don’t have vocal tics like you more-commonly see in the media, I have mild-severe motor tics which significantly impact my quality of life at times.

If I am not regularly practicing “self-care,” I honestly cannot live a normal life.

To me, self-care involves positive actions for both my physical and mental health. Whether it is mantras to reduce anxiety or obsessive compulsiveness, or choosing to drink tea instead of a coffee for the day, self-care takes its shape in many forms in my life.

On a day-to-day basis, I have to care about myself enough to make the proper choices to reduce my tics, or I simply won’t be able to live how I want to.

2) Why is self care important?

Although self-care might be more vital to my day-to-day life than it is for others, self-care is important because it allows you to live and accomplish the things in life that you truly want to do. When you do things which benefit both your physical and mental health every day, you are caring for yourself.

How do you practice self care in your own life?

Although there are tons of different ways I practice self-care, I would like to focus on a few which I believe are the most tangible for most people. The first is making yoga or meditation a part of your life. I am sure every single person can spare 5-minutes per day for meditation, and many others have 30-mins they can spend per day on a yoga practice. Meditation is not only a great way to reduce anxiety and stress, but it can also help you develop goals and a purpose that you would not have otherwise understood.

Yoga is (in my opinion) the best form of physical activity since it not only improves your metabolism and helps shape your body, but it also reduces your risks of injury, joint pain, or other issues which can distract your daily life. Even if you are not an athlete, no one wants to deal with chronic back or joint pain.

Another form of self-care is developing a diet which works for you. You don’t need to subscribe to any specific diet, you simply need to make positive choices for your body each day. For example, could you drink black coffee instead of that sugar-filled Starbucks drink? Could you find one or two days per week to cook a meal at home instead of picking up fast-food?

Self-care is about positive decision making, and you should never “punish” yourself for making the wrong choice on a specific day. Simply use your next opportunity to make a better choice, and remind yourself that every day you will continue to make more positive choices!

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