Watching Olympic athletes compete is always so inspiring to me. I’m awestruck by the monumental dedication and elite skill and performance levels of these competitors from all over the world, as well as by the incredibly slim margins by which many win or lose. Naturally, some sports hold more appeal, but both the Winter and Summer Olympic Games tend to hook me to the TV to witness such powerful displays of the multiple, jaw-dropping capabilities of the human body.
In watching Olympians, sometimes I wish I could perform like they do, perhaps because they make it look so easy. Obviously, this is a preposterous notion for most of us, as Olympic athletes typically start training young, have innate talent and dedicate countless hours and years of their lives to perfecting their performance.
And while it may be out of reach to train for Olympic ski jumps, bobsled, or speed skating, perhaps we can train like an Olympian in general. While we won’t compete in a specific sport at an elite level, we can adopt some methods and mindsets of the pros that empower us to significantly improve our fitness or sports performance.
While you may never be an Olympic athlete, you’re only going to get better if you routinely train like an Olympian. Consider implementing the following recommendations:
- Set goals – Virtually every Olympic medal winner says that this achievement was a lifelong dream. Although you may not be aspiring to be a worldwide pro athlete, establish a goal or two for your workouts to stay focused and motivated. Maybe you want to lose 10 pounds, set a PR in a race or squat 300 pounds – whatever your mission, own it, write it down somewhere, remind yourself often and aim high.
- Be consistent – For athletes, training isn’t an option; it’s a lifestyle (and a job for many). We’re not suggesting you quit your day job, but you must fully commit and embrace the mindset that workouts are not optional or when you feel like it; but instead, exercise must be a daily (or virtually daily) habit. There shouldn’t be any “Should I exercise today?” dilemmas in your head, ever. Workouts must be a regular part of your day, like eating and sleeping.
- Seek expert advice – No Olympic athlete has achieved anything totally on his/her own, but worked for years with trainers, coaches, nutritionists and more to continually improve. Rather than habitually hitting the treadmill or spin class, hire a trainer for some new ideas and a personalized workout plan. Share your goal/s and your availability in terms of hours and days to exercise – and encourage your trainer to be creative and perhaps push you out of your comfort zone. Be open to different modalities and exercises to challenge your body. And you don’t have to break the bank by working with a trainer forever – just long enough where you feel like you have sufficient knowledge and expertise to continue the regimen on your own.
- Take care of your body – To perform well routinely, you can’t live on coffee, skip meals, stay up late, overindulge in alcohol on the weekends and neglect aches and pains. You already know this, but it’s important to work with a dietitian to fine-tune your diet and establish regular bed times and wake times to ensure adequate rest. Also, see a chiropractor, acupuncturist, physical therapist or orthopedist as necessary to address potential injuries before they worsen. Don’t ignore pain or work through it! Incorporating regular stretching and foam rolling, along with massage therapy and ice baths or heat treatments, can help you thrive.