Chances are if you’re living with harsh winters and warm summers, you’re already better at adapting your routine than you think. It doesn’t matter if you take winter in stride or you spend four months pretending it doesn’t exist. Both approaches come with their own adjustments (or coping mechanisms). Many people will step up their supplements, like taking vitamin D and zinc, when the colder months roll around. Many of us also adapt to the shorter days by tending to sleep more.
While athletes are intense creatures of habit who deeply value their routines, they also face regular disruptions. The Raptors have 12 back-to-back games this season. Like every NBA team, they’ll play half of their 82 regular season games on the road. Travel, often across time zones, compounded with periods of little to no recovery time make it crucial for players to develop flexible responses for disruptions to their day-to-day.
Jen Sygo, Performance Dietitian for the Toronto Raptors, often travels with the squad specifically because it lets her adjust meal plans in the moment. Sygo decides what the team needs to eat and what might be best for them in the short term based on several factors. Things like workout types and times, whether a full practice or pre-game shootaround is needed, , travel time between cities and mood all influence the menu.
If the mood is low after a particularly grueling stretch of games, Sygo’s been known to pass out favourite chocolate bars when the team gets to their next hotel. For elite athletes, this is hardly out of place. Plus, the immediate boost can often be more valuable to athletes who are out of their comfort zones on the road.
The same is true for anyone experiencing the disruptions travel can bring. Sygo recommends packing easy snacks if you know you’re going to get hungry on the go. A well-timed protein bar might save you a sugar crash, or an overpriced airport meal. If you’re driving, the same can be said for sandwiches or pieces of fruit packed in advance. You’ll avoid having to settle for whatever the next rest stop might bring. But like the Raptors, if there aren’t healthier options, it’s better to eat the hypothetical candy bar (or maybe the literal one) and stock up on better options at the next opportunity than feel like travel puts everything out of your control.
Mental momentum is another element that can interrupt and challenge us to adapt our routines. Amanda Joaquim, the Raptors Physiotherapist, sees firsthand what intense periods of competition – like switching from the regular season to the playoffs – means for players' bodies and minds. In sequences of high stress paired with heightened physical production, the overall mood of an athlete might need to be brought down. Massage and stretching, paired with deep breathing and soothing music all help. Amanda Joaquim compares that time with a long stretch of games in the middle of January, when everything feels like it takes that much more effort. For these lower periods, the mental momentum of players needs to be brought up – high energy stretches, music and movement before games are all options.
And then there’s the offseason. When games are over and training takes a break, Amanda Joaquim encourages the Raptors to try new things. Non-basketball related activities like swimming, boxing, yoga and Pilates are all great options. They keep athletes mentally active and adaptable so that they’re ready to get back to their in-season routines when the time comes.
Pay attention to your own mental momentum when your routines are going through a period of change. It can help you figure out how you need to adapt. If you’re feeling stressed out, try and simplify things where you can., If you’re in a slump, borrow a pregame ritual from the Raptors