Take a lesson from the pros: establish a daily routine

The Healthy Sports “Spring Training Tour” is now in the Florida swing.

Tampa is a leading center for competitive sports. It is not only the spring training home of the New York Yankees, but will also serve as host to the NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four, the first round of the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament and the 2009 Super Bowl.

Access to players, coaches and staff is an added attraction to a spring training vacation. This year I had an opportunity to spend time with Billy Connors and Frank Howard.

Connors is a former major league pitcher and current Yankees vice president of player development. Howard was a major league slugger and now serves as a Yankees spring training instructor.

One conversation centered on the topic of ritualistic behavior by players.

Often these actions are misconstrued as superstitious. Eating the same meal before a game or fielding the same number of ground balls to each side during warm-ups are typical examples. Pre-shot routines are common in basketball when shooting foul shots or in golf before making putts.

In actuality, these actions are not superstition but part of careful preparation and result in added confidence. Following a set routine before each effort leaves fewer opportunities for error. Any successful performer spends many hours practicing so that the final performance seems natural and unrehearsed.

Similarly, a steady routine of daily activities can be beneficial for anyone. Many illnesses can be kept in check by maintaining a regular routine of eating, sleeping, and exercising. This is especially effective when treating migraine headaches, diabetes, and sleep disorders.

A well-established program can often improve cognitive disorders.

Many middle-aged patients present with a fear of Alzheimer’s disease due to simple forgetfulness. This is most often due to multi-tasking. These patients typically do not make lists of necessary tasks and are easily distracted.

A carefully designed routine, including rehearsal and review of daily activities, can significantly improve efficiency and reduce errors. It is worth the investment in time despite possibly being mistaken as superstitious.

Anthony G. Alessi, MD, is Chief of Neurology at The William W. Backus Hospital and in private practice at NeuroDiagnostics, LLC, in Norwich. E-mail him at aalessi@wwbh.org. If you wish to learn more about the Healthy Sports Tour or other sports health topics, listen to the podcast or go to the Healthy Sports blog at Backus Hospital.

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