The Importance of Routine in Athletic Performance

“The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine.”

~Mike Murdock

I LOVE routine. I am the kind of person that gets into a rhythm, and I have always found myself to be most comfortable in situations where I am able to develop that. I loved the routine of being in school, with classes in the morning and practice in the evenings, with homework at night. During indoor season, I love the weekly schedules, and knowing what to expect for a given day of the week. Even when I am on the beach, there is something very comforting about having practice in the morning, workout in the afternoon, and the evening free. It’s in the way I’m wired; I like to prepare myself for what is to come, and having a routine takes away the surprise factor that I don’t always enjoy.

I know this isn’t for everybody. There are a lot of people who prefer spontaneity and making spur-of-the-moment plans. Some people find routine to be way too boring, and I totally respect that. I do think, though, that no matter what your nature is, routine plays a critical role in high-level athletic performance.

There are several reasons why routine is important in athletic performance, but here are a few:


1. It centres us and calms our minds and bodies

There are many pressure moments in sports, and having a routine helps bring us back to something comfortable in those times of stress. Going back and doing the same routine can help us focus on something other than the pressure we may be feeling, which will help us calm our minds and bodies, and therefore, better execute a specific skill.

In volleyball, most players have a routine they go through before serving. You see the same thing in tennis. In basketball, players often have a routine they do before a free throw. You can literally pick whatever you want for your routine, but doing the same thing every time will help make executing the skill more automatic and less influenced by external factors. In indoor volleyball, I go back and stand in the same spot every single time I serve. I bounce the ball twice, take a deep breath, and go. It is very simple, but it helps calm me down when the game is on the line. I have been doing the same routine for over 10 years.


2. It gives us something we can control in otherwise uncontrollable situations

In sport, there are a lot of things that are out of our control. I’ve written about the things we can control (attitude, communication, and effort) in the past (check it out here), but a routine is another thing we can add to the list. When we have a routine we do before serve receive or before serving, it gives us added control in an area that is usually dependent on a lot of different things.

Also, as athletes, we almost never decide when or where we are playing. Having a routine for an entire game day, or for an entire warmup, gives us control, and helps us focus our energies on our preparation and on playing well, no matter what situation we may find ourselves in.


3. It trains our bodies what to expect and what it should be doing

By performing the same actions for every single game day, or warmup, or pre-game practice, we train our bodies what for what is coming, and we are better prepared to perform our best. For example, I may have a game at 3 different times on 3 different days, but if I consistently wake up 3 hours before my game and have breakfast, and go to the court 1.5 hours before the game, my body knows that it must be game day, and will be ready to go when I need it to.

I also do the exact same routine for warm up every single game. Why? Because my body knows what it needs to do to perform, and when I do that routine, I know that I have fully prepared to play and my body is ready.

I know that routine isn’t for everyone, but if there is one area that you should try to implement it, it is in sports. Routines help prepare us during variable conditions, and gives us an anchor to centre us when we may be feeling stressed.

Your routines don’t have to be complex. Just find something that works for you, and stick to it. You will notice a difference in your performance. If you want to read more about routine in sports, check out the articles here and here.


About the Author: Olympian Sarah Pavan, is a Canadian indoor & beach volleyball player, who most recently represented her country on the golden beaches of Rio. Sarah has been playing indoor volleyball for over twenty years, and has been representing Canada a the elite level since 2001.  Follow Sarah on her Instagram, on Twitter and online.