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Peak Health and Wellness in 2024

Get Insights from Rutgers Athletes to Achieve Your Best Year Yet

When January comes around, we typically recommit to our health and wellness. Putting our health and wellness first is a typical New Year’s resolution that most of us make and yet few of us keep.  Let’s take a page from the Rutgers Athletic program on how we can stay on track for physical and mental wellness. Get ready to unleash the secrets to peak health and wellness in 2024, courtesy of Rutgers Athletics program. From men's football to men's and women's basketball, we're diving into a journey that goes beyond the game.

We first interviewed Adam Pallone, Senior Athletic Trainer on nutrition and recovery tips. Here is what he had to say.

Q: Recovery is a crucial component of overall wellness. Could you share some insights into the recovery techniques and practices your athletes follow to prevent injuries and maintain long-term health?  Recovery is extremely important to all our student-athletes here at Rutgers. It plays a large role in our daily workout routine, and also over the course of a long season of competition.  We utilize a variety of modalities to aid in our daily recovery that are both active (foam rollers, lacrosse ball rolling, yoga, etc.) and passive (heat, cold, vibration, compression, electrical stimulation, etc.) ways to help with our day-to-day recovery for each individual student-athlete. We have an overarching philosophy that prioritizes adjusting the workload of how and when we train (avoiding high intensity workouts on consecutive days) and the holistic approach of how sleep, nutrition, and hydration play such an important role in our recovery throughout the year.

One of the best ways we emphasize recovery is by teaching our student-athletes that the hormone responsible for muscle growth is produced in its highest amount during sleep. We also teach them about the importance of hydration and nutrition and the roles those two things play in muscle growth, preaching that muscle strength is best developed from the combination of work plus rest along with ideal nutrition and hydration. All parts of that equation are viewed as equally important, and failing to maximize sleep, nutrition, or hydration will drastically decrease the effectiveness of the workout they just performed. So, if our student-athletes are going to dedicate themselves to their workout in the weight room or on the field, they should also dedicate themselves to how they hydrate, eat, and sleep.

A substantial part of our overall health and wellness in 2024 is how we manage our mental health and our resiliency to the unexpected things that may come our way. We reached out to Dr. Peter Economou, Director, Rutgers Athletics Behavioral Health, who had great insights for us to share with you.  

Q: How do you incorporate mental health and resilience training into the athletes' routines to help them stay mentally strong and focused throughout the season? It is imperative that it becomes lifestyle rather than a fad, so we work to integrate the practices into daily routines, just like brushing our teeth. Resilience is somewhat abstract and what makes one sibling more resilient than another? We do not fully understand it, but we can teach resilience and I consider resilience to be just like another muscle that can be trained. 

Q: In the face of adversity and setbacks, resilience is key. Can you provide some advice on building mental resilience and facing challenges head-on, which could benefit readers in their personal and professional lives? Resilience needs exercise and this can be done through emotional intelligence training, vulnerability, and naming adversity. I use this definition of mental toughness: it is the refusal to be intimidated, to remain determined, to manage emotions, and stay focused when under pressure. 

Q: How do you promote a culture of teamwork and support within your athletic programs? What lessons can the everyday person take away from these strategies to enhance their own social and emotional well-being? We are better in numbers and surround yourself with people that are smarter and work harder. That is what makes us better. Competition is healthy for sure, but it is most important to celebrate differences, notice implicit biases and judgments, and encourage one another to be our best version. 

Q: What's the most important piece of advice you can give to individuals looking to achieve a healthy balance between physical fitness and mental well-being in the year 2024? Just make a commitment in this moment and make it small. For example, I am going to walk today for 10 minutes, or I am going to open a book, or I will do 3 minutes of meditation twice this week. We fail these goals when they are too big, so consider writing down SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound. 

As we charge into a new year, I encourage you to take a few tips from Rutgers athletes and their athletic program and let their advice serve as your guiding star to a healthier, more balanced 2024. With their insights, you can unlock your potential and aspire to be the best version of yourself. Get ready to set new goals, conquer challenges, and ignite your physical and mental well-being! I am ready. Are you?

 

Recovery is extremely important to all our student-athletes here at Rutgers." Adam Pallone

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