Train like an Olympian!
Sooo…who’s been watching the Olympics? I know, it’s a silly question. Who can’t resist the urge to get caught up in the competition and emotion that happens when Team USA brings home a gold medal? It’s inspiring seeing the strength gymnasts demonstrate on the uneven bars, and the grace with which swimmers move through the water. These elite athletes got to the top by years of hard work and sacrifice. While the majority of us will never get near an Olympic medal platform, we can still take a page from these inspiring men and women and incorporate some of their training techniques into our workouts.
Michael Phelps didn’t earn 25 Olympic medals (20 of them gold!) by swimming laps alone. In addition to drills (which include kicking and sculling), Phelps makes good use of training gear, such as kickboards, training paddles, and snorkels. Each prop focuses on a different part of the body – legs, abs, glutes – making Phelps’ body stronger, and him a better swimmer.
Mixing props into your workout routine can help improve your performance, too. A BOSU ball can help with balance and strengthen your core; agility ladder drills can boost speed and coordination; jumping rope helps work your upper body. Working with props can also add a fun variation to a workout routine that otherwise feels hum-drum, allowing you to bust the boredom and challenge your body.
Create a Routine– and Stick to it
Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas wakes up at 7a.m. six days a week to train, and it shows: she’s already won one gold medal in Rio. While you may not be chasing Olympic dreams, you can still take a page from Douglas’ book and put yourself on a routine. Establishing a workout routine ensures that you exercise consistently and frequently – two keys to hitting your fitness goals, whether they be losing weight or shaving time off your run pace. Figure out which time of the day (morning or evening) works best for you, and carve out a chunk of time during that period to dedicate to exercise.
Create a Goal – Then Make a Plan to Hit it
Swimming speedster Katie Ledecky’s coach Bruce Gemmell recently revealed that he and Ledecky identified several “big” goals for Rio (which he calls BFHG – Big Fat Hairy Goals). One of those goals? A 3:56-ish time in the 400-meter women’s freestyle, which Ledecky crushed Sunday night. For Ledecky, hitting that goal was a matter of months-long training with her coach. For you, hitting a BFHG will similarly take a well thought-out plan, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Figure out what that Big Goal is, and create smaller, more obtainable goals that will work together to allow you to crush it. Not sure how to begin? Get S.M.A.R.T.
Strengthen Your Core
Gymnast Simone Biles has become a force with which to be reckoned, with her ability to flip and leap on the high beam with great precision and air awareness. One of the ways she attains this amazing balance is by doing ab workouts 30 minutes each day. Indeed, working on your abs will give you more than just a six-pack; it also improves balance and stability, which can help with everything from tying your shoes to sitting upright in a chair. It also strengthens your back, which can be a problem area for four of out five Americans.
Remember: fitness, just like the Olympics, is a journey. How you get to the destination is just as important as the destination itself. While we may not face pressure to break a world record or bring home a gold medal, we can use the techniques Olympians use to help us get to our fitness goals, and make our journey a little sweeter.