The Healthy Athlete: By Dr. Rachel Hoeft

Being a successful athlete on the field is the result of hard work across multiple disciplines off the field. Those disciplines include mindset, fitness, and diet, and each of them play an important role in the healthy athlete’s performance.  

In this month’s newsletter I’ll cover my most successful tactics for helping your athlete perform at their best across these 3 disciplines. 

But first– You are invited to join me for a FREE workshop on how to support injured athletes! Being an athlete means accepting the possibility of sustaining a sports-related injury. 

My colleague, Marisa, and I will educate injured athletes and their support network on how to prepare for and manage athletic injury, as this is something where most families don’t know where to get started. 

Join us February 6 at 8pm EST/5pm PST for a FREE Workshop on Creating a Mental and Physical Game Plan for Athletic Injury. Register for the workshop here.

We’ll be offering a full course beginning the week of February 20th. Learn more here

And now, onto the healthy athlete. Keep on reading!



The way we choose to interpret the world impacts our emotions, which impacts our actions, which impacts our performance. Crafting a mindset with purpose requires effort because we’ve been set in our ways of thinking for years–our whole life most likely. While this is never an overnight fix, here are some of the most successful key points to help athletes put things into perspective:

  1. Every time you touch the ball is a new opportunity. The last play has nothing to do with what you do next.

  2. Allowing someone else to dictate your value is always an inaccurate representation of you; they don’t know your life experiences, the challenges you’ve overcome, or the energy you still have to put on your best performance. 

  3. Choose how you talk to yourself. At the end of the day, you talk to yourself more than anybody else. If what you’re saying doesn’t resemble the way you would lift up a teammate, then it’s not serving you. Tell yourself what you WILL do, not what you are trying to AVOID. Ex. Don’t miss this shot → Hit it in the bottom corner. 


Every athlete and their supporters know the importance of fitness in competitive sport–It’s part of why we invest so much time into training and practicing each week! Endurance, strength, and the ability to physically outlast your opponent all contribute to the most successful athletes’ high performances. 

We also know that the high intensity of fitness can take a toll on our bodies. Here are some of my most successful tips to keep athletes healthy while working hard on their fitness:

  1. Always warm up. You wouldn’t run a marathon right after getting out of bed, would you? Our body needs time to adjust to exercise and get used to the movements. Always make sure your athlete gets a minimum of 10 minutes of warm up time before getting deep into competitive play. 

  2. Stretch. 

    1. Static stretching (reaching and holding in place) is most effective after our workouts, not before. Static stretching lengthens out our muscles to relieve tension after intense exercise, which prevents compensation in other parts of our body. For example, tight hamstrings left unaddressed can impact our hips, the way we walk, 

    2. Dynamic stretching (using the muscles to move and not hold the position) is most effective before intense exercise. Static stretching lengthens our muscles and decreases power, whereas dynamic stretching uses the muscles to prepare for action. These movements better imitate what will be done in the actual competition or practice. 

  3. Ice vs Heat. Let’s be very clear here: icing and heating your aches and pains do not do the same job. Knowing the difference can make a huge impact on recovery and healing.

    1. Ice should be used first for injuries and after intense workouts to prevent swelling and inflammation. 

    2. Heat can be used before a workout to help the muscles loosen up and increase blood flow. This is helpful for tight muscles that are not related to a direct injury. 


To train properly and utilize the benefits of the energy spent, the body needs appropriate fuel for each exercise type. Here are some simple tips to keep in mind:

  1. Carbs. The body’s main source of energy. Loading up on carbs the day before a game will increase energy stores in the body. Within 30 minutes - 1 hour before the game, athletes should focus on eating only simple carb foods to prevent dipping into energy stores too early. Some easy options are:

    1. Pretzels

    2. Fruit

    3. Granola

  2. Protein. The body’s way of repairing muscles. This is important after intense fitness training and is more effective when paired with carbohydrates. Protein should NOT be consumed less than 1 hour before activity because it takes longer to digest and will not provide the sustenance needed in time. Some easy options are: 

    1. Protein bars and shakes

    2. Cottage cheese and fruit

    3. Eggs and toast

    4. Sandwiches

  3. Fats. Long term energy source. Fats take longer to digest and have higher calorie contents than carbs, so these will provide more energy down the road. It is best to load up on these foods the night before intense activity, but not immediately before. Some easy options are:

    1. Nuts of all kinds

    2. Avocado, avocado oil, olive oil

    3. Salmon

  4. Water. Provides and replaces fluids lost in sweat. At a minimum, everyone should be drinking at least half of their body weight in ounces of water. So a person who weighs 150 pounds should be drinking 75 ounces of water per day. This is critical to provide support before exercise and replenish after the fluids have been lost. Here’s my favorite tips for consuming more water:

    1. Get a larger water container and know how much it holds. The fewer trips to refill, the easier it is to keep drinking. 

    2. Opt for a see-through container so you can see your progress.

    3. Commit to at least 8 ounces of water with every meal.

    4. Create timelines of how much water you will consume by certain hours of each day. Ex. By 12 pm I will drink 32 ounces of water

While each of these components – fitness, diet, and mindset – all play different roles in our performance, they are all intertwined. The beliefs we have about our abilities impacts our actions and vice versa. Choosing to make a difference in any of these components connects to improvements in the others. 

Being an elite athlete is not for the weak-minded, those who give up easily when they face challenges. The ones who make it the farthest are those who take the challenge for what it is, come up with a new plan, and try again. 

If you want to see improvements in your athlete’s overall health and well-being, I encourage you to reach out for a complimentary session with me on their mental performance, as big changes all start with a conscious choice. We’ll uncover the components that are holding them back and create a custom approach for tackling their toughest challenges. Schedule your free session with me here

Also, make sure to save your spot in the FREE Workshop, Creating a Mental and Physical Game Plan and get the info on our full course here.

Wishing you a fantastic February!

Dr. Rachel Hoeft

West-Mont United’s Official Mental Performance Coach