It seems like the whole world is focusing on the elite athletes that competed on the international stage in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Many of the competitors have been training their entire lives to get to that point. They’ve spent years working on their respective sports like it’s a full time job, exercising for hours two or three times a day, eating carefully curated diets and finely tuning their bodies for competition.
While most of us don’t have the time, money or energy to copy their training, there are lots of tips and takeaways from Olympic athletes that we can incorporate into our own health and fitness routines.
With all that exercise, Olympians can basically eat whatever they want, right? Most likely, but they don’t. They understand that the food they eat is what fuels their body, and if they eat a lot of junk, their performances will suffer. A well-balanced diet, with complex carbohydrates, lean protein and plenty of fruits and veggies will fuel your body through all your workouts. Plus, once elite athletes find something that works for them, they stick with it. Many of them eat the same pre-workout breakfast every day for years.
Staying hydrated is key to performing well. In reality, most of us are at least slightly dehydrated a majority of the time. Drinking water consistently throughout the day, before you get thirsty, will help you maintain your energy levels. A good rule is to consume half your body weight in fluid ounces of water. So if you weigh 200 lbs., you should be drinking 100 ounces of water each day. You may need to increase this depending on how much you exercise or sweat. Unless you’re doing long, intense workouts or working out in the hot sun for hours, sports drinks aren’t really necessary.
We all need rest days. We’ll get burnt out and injured if we don’t take some time off. But for the world’s top athletes, rest doesn’t necessarily mean parking it on the couch all day, especially on the road to the Olympics. They do what’s called active rest. Going for a long walk or doing some light yoga on your days off will keep your blood flowing and your muscles loose.
When was the last time you got 7-9 completely uninterrupted hours of sleep? It’s probably not always possible for anyone, but for people whose job is to win medals at international competitions, getting decent sleep most nights of the week is imperative. It’s when you’re sleeping that your cells and muscles repair themselves, so it’s important for building strength and increasing fitness. You’ll also have more energy to power through the workday and your workout. Turn off all screens an hour before you go to bed, and take time to wind down. Wear earplugs or an eye mask if disruptions are a problem for you.
Set A Goal
When you exercise without a specific goal in mind, it’s easy to fall of the wagon and justify it. Who is it hurting? Setting a goal will help you stick to your schedule. While many people aim to lose weight, it’s not always the best motivator since it takes a lot of time and fluctuates frequently. Sign up for a race, aim to lift a certain amount of weight or swim at a certain speed. You may not win a gold medal, but you’ll feel great once you reach that goal!