All eyes are on London as we watch the Olympic Games. It is amazing to see the athleticism of these people from all over the world. They have dedicated their lives to physical perfection and have achieved the dream of competing at the highest level. Their accomplishments didn't happen overnight, but rather a lifestyle they have chosen that has taken years to achieve.
This got me thinking about my own personal exercise routine. What does it take to train like an Olympian? How can I incorporate some of this training into my routine to improve my own physique? I researched a bit about olympic training and want to share what I found.
The first thing to do is to establish a goal for yourself. Where do you want to be? Are you exercising to tone, to lose weight, to build muscle, to maintain? When do you want to have accomplished this goal? Is it 6 months, 1 year, etc? After you have established a goal, make a plan on how to accomplish this goal then track it.
Begin by creating a solid foundation and start slow. It is important to build a good fitness base before you move on to more intense training. This fitness base can take up to 6 weeks to achieve. Focus on building endurance, strength, flexibility & cardiovascular conditioning. Think of it like "boot camp". Push yourself beyond your current rate of fitness. Incorporate higher levels of intensive cardio training, weight lifting, stretching, and interval training to accomplish your fitness base. Try some of these training routines:
Body weight workouts
Equally important to your fitness routine is the food you eat and liquids you drink. Any Olympian knows what goes in to the body will provide the fuel necessary to perform at maximum capacity. The opposite of this is true also. Eating healthy, nutritious, balanced meals and drinking enough water and recovery drinks will not only help you perform better, but you will feel better, attain your weight goals and give you peak performance.
High-Intensity Interval Training
After the fitness base is achieved, begin building in high-intensity interval training to build muscule power and increase your lactate threshold. The lactate threshold is the point during your workout when the muscles can no longer perform and you will be forced to slow down. Lactate builds in the body during exercise and when performing at high levels, it builds faster than it can be released. The more you do high-intensity interval training the higher your lactate threshold will be thus giving you the ability to perform at higher levels for a longer period of time. Try this routine:
Week 1: Do 4, 2 minute hills with 2 minutes of rest in between
Week 2: Do 4, 3 minute hills with 2 minutes of rest in between
Week 3: Do 4, 4 minute hills with 2 minutes of rest in between
Week 4: Do 3, 6 minute hills with 2 minutes of rest in between
Week 5: Do 3, 7 minute hills with 2 minutes of rest in between
Week 6: Do 3, 8 minute hills with 2 minutes of rest in between
The next level is sports-specific training. This is where you isolate specific movements relating to your sport. If you are a biker it is important to have balance for those corners in a pack of cyclists. If you are a runner try plyometrics (jump training). You can research more about this at about.com/sports medicine.
Rest & Recovery
Equally important to the physical side of Olympic training is rest and recovery. This is where you take some down time, you stretch to keep your flexibility which prevents injury, you get a massage to relax the muscles and you get a good nights sleep (8 hours is preferred). Without rest and recovery your body will become burned out and fatique faster.
Get a Coach/Trainer
A good way to keep you on the straight and narrow is to find yourself a coach or a trainer to push your limits and keep you accountable. If you are competing, this is important, otherwise a good exercise partner will do just fine!
Mix It Up
One key to maintaining a good workout is to mix up your workouts. Over time the body becomes used to the routines we do and the workout becomes lessened. By mixing up the program you cause muscle confusion which causes the body to be in a constant state of performance. Besides that, it makes it easier for you to enjoy your workout and not become boring!
Mind over matter. This is where many of us fall short. We talk ourselves out of our routines before we get started, or we could be half way through a routine and talk ourselves out of the finish. Training your mind to be in it all the way is a key to success. Work to improve your focus by using imagry and positive thinking such as, "I can do anything for 5 minutes", or seeing yourself at the top of the hill with a smile on your face because you finished it in record time! It is amazing to see how our minds can affect our bodies. Try it!
Once you have done all this, maintaining is vital. Continue your endurance training 1 - 2 times a week and increase the pace. Add in high intensity sprints at the end of your workout to help you have that back-end burst to cross the finish line with strength!
Follow these few steps daily and you will achieve your fitness goals! I plan to begin my Olympic-style training today - not tomorrow, because we know tomorrow never comes! Will you join me?!