Every two years, during the Summer and Winter Olympics, the world watches its greatest athletes compete for recognition as the sport’s best. With the 2016 summer games in Rio beginning this week, many people will feel the urge to be more active or take their exercise to a higher level. Doing so requires harder work, greater focus, and increased resources, yet it’s more complicated than saying simply “I’m going to step it up this year and work much harder.” If you want to strive toward the people you’re watching on TV, you need a plan. You need their plan.
Each athlete naturally specifies his or her plan according to numerous factors, mainly the demands of the sport and the individual’s body. For example, the dietary regimen for Gabby Douglas will look very different from that of Michael Phelps*. Still, there are things every Olympic athlete does that you can do, right where you are in life. Take a page out of the ultimate player’s playbook and get to work this summer!
1. Exercise Routine
Perhaps the most important element here is consistency. You can’t have that perfect, in-the-zone type of workout if you’re not conditioning your body on a daily and weekly basis. Most athletes work out more than once on a given training day, but morning workouts are particularly common. Having the requisite energy to perform at your best is critical, but the earlier in the day you exercise, the more time left in the day you have to supply your body with the necessary nutrition afterwards. Additionally, some Olympic trainers believe physical exertion before competition is better than rest. So don’t take it too easy the day before a race, but also be careful not to overdo it.
2. Resting Habits
Recovery is vital to any kind of physical training, and is key to building endurance. If you cut your R&R time short after a workout, you’re diminishing the effects of your exercise, regardless of how much you may have killed it at the gym that day. Great exercise time and great recovery go hand in hand for any athlete. One of the most important general rules for sleep is to stay consistent. Go to bed and wake up as close to the same time every day as possible. Former NASA scientist Mark Rosekind told WebMD, “There are lab studies that show that if you’re an eight-hour sleeper and you get six hours of sleep, that two-hour difference can impact your performance so that it equates to how you would perform if you had a 0.05 blood-alcohol level.” Depending on your schedule and level of physical exertion, it may be a good idea to get more than the standard eight hours each night.
3. Healthy Diet
By now you’ve probably heard about *Michael Phelps’s 12,000-calorie meal plan. If that sounds like a lot of food, that’s because it is! Nobody said being an Olympian was cheap. One of the perks of being more active is being able to eat more. Now, you don’t want to be powering your workouts with Pop Tarts and Pizza Rolls, but you’re likely to see a spike in carbohydrates, protein, and overall calories should your training get serious. You’ll want to tailor your diet to meet the specifications of your physical goals, but eating like an athlete is a big part of training like one. It takes more work than one might expect (often 6-8 meals/day), but it’s to bring you the energy and motivation you need to keep going!
4. Accept Help From Others
Whether it’s a coach, a partner, or a group, accountability and having another person to push you is critical for maximum performance. Natural human tendency is to get a close as we can to our limits within a certain level of comfort, and then stop. Other people can help drive you beyond what your mind would ordinarily allow, as well as encourage and sympathize with you. The more the merrier when it comes to competition, but if you choose groups over a partner, be sure everyone is on the same page and not leading to unhelpful distraction. Coaches usually aren’t free, but as individuals who have studied a specific field, they are even more aware of the physical expectations that go into the sport’s training. Once they’ve been around you, they’ll also be able to specify and tweak your training as needed.
5. Balance of weights vs. calisthenics
When training, don’t shy away from lifting heavy weights out of fear of injury, bulking, or sheer intimidation. At the same time being able to lift, pull, and push your own body weight with excellence is paramount. Combining traditional calisthenic workouts with weights can be a great way to build muscle. Weighted dips and pull-ups are two great upper body exercises, while dumbbell lunges will engage your entire body and leave your legs really feeling the burn. Implementing/adding incline and decline can enhance workouts such as push-ups and core workouts, like planks and sit-ups.
While training like an Olympian is a great way to stay fit, you need to be on top of your nutrition as well. Find out how WellPath can help optimize your nutrition through customized packages made for you based on a free consultation.
About Zac Howard
Zac Howard is a writer on The Path Editorial Team. He is a graduate of Florida State University and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in magazine journalism at NYU. With his passion for lifting and dieting, Zac enjoys writing about all different kinds of exercise as well as keeping up with the latest news in the world of fitness. For more of his work, visit his website.