How to Train Like an Olympian (Part 2)

Whether you just want to shed a few pounds, run a marathon, or be the best you can be in your sport, these 5 strategies from Olympians can help you reach your ultimate goal.

Ben Greenfield,
August 6, 2012
Episode #101

How to Train Like an Olympian, Part 2

In the last episode, you learned that Olympic athletes not only have natural talent, dedication, and drive, but they devote a great majority of their lives to their sports so that they can be the best in the world. An aspiring Olympic athlete spends an average of 8 hours a day, 7 days a week training their body to perfect their skills and maintain their amazing physical condition and their mind to withstand the pressures of elite competition.>

So check out strategies 1-5, then read on for 5 more Olympic athlete strategies you can use in your own training, whether you just want to shed a few pounds, run a marathon, or be the best you can be in your sport:

How to Train Like an Olympic Athlete

Strategy #6: Build a Team

Olympians don’t simply have a coach or trainer. In most cases, they also have teammates to help them become the best they can be. The phrase “iron sharpens iron” holds true in both fitness and sports – and if you’re always exercising by yourself, golfing by yourself, or hitting a tennis ball against a wall, you’ll never be as successful as you could be if you had others pushing you along the way, keeping you accountable, keeping you inspired, giving you extra motivation to train, and providing a built-in support system. Having a group dynamic to your workouts and goals also naturally ignites a healthy competitive spirit. If you’re training to get a better body, this may mean that you do at least one weekly “group exercise” class at your gym. If you’re training for a 5K, triathlon or marathon, it may mean that you join a local swimming, cycling or running group. If you’re training for a sport such as tennis or golf, it may mean joining a league.

Strategy #7: Cross-train

One of the primary ways that Olympic athletes keep themselves in peak physical condition is by cross-training – which is the practice of including several forms of exercise into your fitness routine that take you outside your comfort zone or work muscles that you aren’t working during your normal routine. This may include extras such as yoga, running, cycling, swimming, and weight training. Not only does cross-training help you to minimize injury, but it can also reduce the injury risks associated with overtraining. This is one of the reasons that I personally compete in and love the sport of triathlon – my body gets a chance to swim as an alternative to running, or run as an alternative to bicycling. Cross-training also helps to keep you from getting bored by doing the same workout or sport over and over again, and offers you a way to condition new muscle groups or develop new skills.

Strategy #8: Train Your Mind

Most Olympic athletes realize that when it comes to getting a competitive edge, training goes above and beyond simply working the physical body. The most successful Olympians also harness the power of the mind. If you watch the Olympics on television closely, you’ll see athletes prior to competition engaging in everything from closed eye mental rehearsal and visualization to meditation, breathing exercises, and even self-hypnosis. If you want an introduction to sports psychology methods and strategies, you should listen to this interview that I conducted with a sports psychologist who has worked with the military, Olympic athletes, and average fitness enthusiasts.

Strategy #9: Intelligent Recovery

Every good Olympic athlete knows that the workout doesn’t stop when the last mile, swing, shot, set, or rep is completed. Immediately after a workout comes the recovery phase – the period of time during which an athlete can enhance the body’s ability to bounce back quickly. These recovery strategies include a good cool-down, ice baths, foam rolling, massage therapy, stretching, and a host of other recovery strategies to allow the body to return to another hard workout as soon as possible. Olympians use intelligent recovery as a way to squeeze in just a few extra workouts every month, which ensures a competitive advantage. You can use those same intelligent recovery strategies to achieve your goals safely, quickly, and effectively.

Strategy #10: Go for Gold

An Olympic athlete doesn’t devote their life to training so that they can come in 10th place, and most are not training to get a bronze or silver medal. Most Olympians arrive at the games with one goal: to go for gold. How about you? How high are your goals? Are you settling for losing 10 pounds when you know you’d look fantastic if you lost 20? Are you just trying to cross the finish line of a 5K when you know you’re capable of setting a speed goal? Are you exercising three times a week when you know you’d get to your goal faster by exercising five times a week?

Use the Olympic athlete’s pursuit of perfection as inspiration to not settle for an average result, but to instead set specific goals that always keep you pushing just a little bit outside your comfort zone. While you should always make sure that you’re not being unrealistic or unattainable with your goals, the opposite is typically true for most people. We tend to avoid setting goals that are high enough!

So ask yourself: are you going for gold?

If you have more questions about how to train like an Olympian or you simply want to talk about the fitness required for specific sports, then join the conversation at Facebook.com/GetFitGuy!

And check out my new book Get-Fit Guy’s Guide to Achieving Your Ideal Body for the ultimate resource to get your dream body fast!

Couple Running and Gold Medal courtesy of Shutterstock