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Make Sure Your Pre-Game Ritual Includes These 4 Things

December 09, 2022

If you’re an athlete, chances are you have a pre-game ritual that helps you get ready mentally and physically for the big game, match or race.

“Successful athletes master the routine leading up to and surrounding the game. Each aspect, including nutrition, hydration, sleep, stretching and warm-up, is crucial to preparation and performance,” said Jordan Gruskay, MD, a sports medicine specialist with the Connecticut Orthopaedic Institute at St. Vincent’s Medical Center and MidState Medical Center.

Could your pre-game prep use some finetuning? Dr. Gruskay shares four of the most important preparations for optimal athletic performance.

> Connect with the Connecticut Orthopaedic Institute at MidState Medical Center

Proper nutrition

“Everything the athlete eats before a game can factor into their performance,” says Dr. Gruskay. “It is for this reason many have a staple food or routine in the meals leading up to game day.”

Dr. Gruskay recommends carbohydrates such as pasta and grains before running and endurance sports, but be careful not to overeat. A light meal 90 minutes to two hours before your game is advisable.

> Connect with the Connecticut Orthopaedic Institute at St. Vincent’s Medical Center

Sleep is crucial

An athlete should aim to get eight to nine hours of sleep every night, but that’s even more important the night leading up to competition.

“Some athletes also spend time before bed visualizing the game, this can be effective to get in the right mindset,” says Dr. Gruskay.

Don’t skip warm ups

It might seem like a lot, but athletes should warm up at least 30 minutes before a game.

“Especially in cold weather, increasing muscle compliance and core temperature is important to avoiding injuring and loosening up,” says Dr. Gruskay.

Dynamic stretching, which involves moving through a dynamic range of motion, is a better choice than static stretching and can include:

  • Heel kicks
  • Walking lunges
  • Squats
  • Leg swings

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Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

Waiting to hydrate during your competition might not be enough to get you game-ready. Hydration should start the evening before a game. Dr. Gruskay recommends two glasses of water before bed.

“Typically two glasses of water several hours before activity and then a glass of water every thirty minutes during a game is appropriate,” says Dr. Gruskay.

Most hydration should come from water, although sports drinks can provide an additional boost as long as the carbohydrate amount is not excessively high.

While rare, it is possible to overhydrate which can cause dangerously low levels of sodium in the bloodstream.

“This can be avoided by intentional and progressive fluid intake,” says Dr. Gruskay.