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How to Train Like an Olympic Athlete

August 10, 2012 - Written by Courtney Kirton

Most people think that Olympic athletes are super-human, that they are born to be winners and belong in an elite  group to which the rest of us will never gain access.  While it is true that many Olympians have some physical advantages that give them the edge in their respective sports, there are many other factors that contribute to medal-winning performances.  Want to train like an Olympic athlete?  These guidelines will help you in your quest for personal gold!

Cross-Train

Olympic contenders spend years in specialized training for their particular sport, but they also understand the importance of cross-training.  It is necessary to incorporate weight training, aerobic exercise, and balance activities into any successful workout routine.  Gold medalist swimmer Natalie Coughlin swims every day, but she also does many other fitness activities that help her create a strong, balanced core and build her endurance and lung capacity.  In addition to training in the pool, she regularly runs, lifts weights, and does pilates.

What should you do?  Always do a variety of exercises, alternating between high-impact aerobic activity, weight training, and balance exercises.  If you only choose one form of exercise, your body is not getting the complete workout that it needs to be in tip-top shape.

 

Eat Right

Gold medalist Michael Phelps eats as many as 12,000 calories a day, including an abundance of pasta, fried eggs, and protein   drinks.  This is obviously not recommended for most people, but we can learn something from his eating habits.  If you want to have a fit and healthy body, you must give it the fuel it needs.  Starving yourself or neglecting to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet will make it impossible to build strength and endurance.  Drink plenty of water, eat from each of the food groups, watch your caloric intake and adjust it based on your activity level, and understand that it is acceptable to sometimes splurge on something you love.

Get Enough Sleep

 Competing in the Olympics is hard work, and athletes usually require more sleep than non-athletes. While most people sleep an average of 7 hours per night, most Olympians sleep 8 to 10 hours.  Exercise burns calories and energy, and sleep helps rebuild what was lost in training.  Being overtired and not allowing muscles to rest can be detrimental to fitness success.

 

Set Goals and Persevere

Training with a goal in mind helps you become mentally stronger and be less likely to give up.  Start with small goals and set larger ones as you go; this is a great way to enjoy feelings of success with your workout program.  Olympians not only set short-term goals, but they also look well into the future and have planned their expected paths.

Being an Olympian also means never giving up.  In 1996, Olympic gymnast Kerri Strug severely injured her ankle on the vault, but competed through the pain to help her team win the All-Around Gold.  Having a setback or an injury doesn’t mean you should give up, but that you should fix the problem and continue working toward your goal – just maybe in a different way.

Be Dedicated to Your Dream

Olympic athletes dream of winning a gold medal and everything they do is intended to bring them a step closer to realizing this dream.   Gymnast Gabby Douglas, who was the first African-American to win the Women’s Individual All-Around Gold, has made sacrifices in order to pursue her dream.  While most teenagers are hanging out with friends and involved in school activities, Gabby has lived away from her family for nearly two years in order to train with one of the best gymnastics coaches.

Whether you want to just become fit, compete in a triathlon, improve your golf game, or play baseball in the yard with your children, you have to be dedicated to doing what it takes to get there.  You must visualize your intentions, know what steps are necessary, and follow through.  Sometimes the path of least resistance is easier, but the rewards are greater when you are dedicated to a great cause: YOU.

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