5 Things To Learn From The Olympics

olympics 2012












The Olympics are awesome, I think thats universally accepted at this point.  Every four years the top athletes in the world come together and provide the rest of us with 2 and a half weeks of great entertainment.  As we are all glued to the TV watching world records get set, gold medals won, and olympic dreams achieved, there is a lot we can learn from these world class athletes.


There are five things that I have noticed during this years games that we can all apply to our training to take our own results to the next level, check them out:


1.  Consistent and Persistent


A gold medal opportunity only comes around every four years.  Think about that for a second, four long years of training for as little as 9 seconds of competition.  But what sets these athletes apart is that in those four years they dedicate each and every second to maximizing their olympic performance.  They don’t miss practices, they periodize their training schedules and they maximize their recovery.  Again, this isn’t over some crazy 12 week transformation – this is FOUR LONG YEARS!


This dedication is almost super-human, but if we took even 1/10th of their commitment and applied it to our own goals I am sure that our results would increase.  Stop taking shortcuts and skipping meals, stop half-assing your training sessions, and push with extra strength.  Surely if those athletes are capable of training up to 4 times per day, everyday for four years then you can handle your 1 hour workout for 3-4 days per week.  STOP MAKING EXCUSES and get consistent.


2.  Clearly defining goals and planning accordingly


Usain Bolt knows exactly what he wants – a gold medal.  Beyond that he knows how fast he wants to run.  I am sure that he didn’t come to the Olympics this year saying “I want to run fast.”


Why then do we create goals like “I want to lose weight” or “I want to gain muscle.”  Get real with your goals, how much weight do you want to lose? Maybe you want to get stronger – how strong do you want to be?  What specific lift are you going to increase and how much weight do you want to move?


The second phase of this is designing a program that will effectively help you achieve these goals.  Olympians all have coaches, in many cases several of them.  They train with other Olympians and are always pushing themselves to be better day in and day out.  Do you have a plan?  Do you even know how to make one?  There is lots of information on the internet these days, and while it can be a lot of crap to sift through a lot of it IS useful.  If you don’t feel comfortable or simply don’t want to research and design a program, hire a coach (not a trainer, a coach – there is a difference).  What about your workout partner, do they show up daily?  On time?  Do they shoot the shit and just talk on their cell phone the whole time?  You need someone that is going to push you to be better and wants you to achieve your goals as bad as you want them.  It may be time to review your circle of influence – remember that we are a direct reflection of the 5 people we spend the most time with.


3.  Train to perform, not to look good 


Without a doubt, Olympic athletes have some of the best physiques on the planet.  However, they do NOT train for cosmetic advantage.  If Michael Phelps showed up at the pool in the morning or in the weight room and said “I want my abs to look better”, he would probably be told to go home or shut up.


While these incredible physiques are obviously built with several years of training, I can assure you these programs are designed with function in mind.  Gymnasts need explosive movement, body control, and speed.  With that in mind they are doing lots of bodyweight training, plyometrics, olympic movements, and core work.  When you look at the human movement model you see elements of bending, twisting, and reaching.  These elements must be trained within the program if a carry over is expected in performance.  Sprinting requires lots of flexibility, strength, and power.  Posterior chain work must be the priority along with strict attention to form.


Note I did not say that they stand in the squat rack doing bicep curls or wake up in the morning to do cardio so that they can off set last nights cheat meal.  These routines are built on compound, functional movements that will provide a competitive advantage in their specific sport.


Take a look at your program and get rid of the fluff work.  Train with purpose and bust your ass.  Emphasize compound movements and progress accordingly.  “Curls for the girls” don’t burn many calories.


4.  Train, perform, RECOVER


Recovery is an important, yet overlooked element in any program – especially at the highest level.  If you watch any of the preliminary heats leading up to the finals, athletes will “shut it down” early to conserve energy for the finals.  Regardless of how good your nutrition and training is, we all have our limits.  With this in mind, the athletes choose to expend their energy wisely.  When the events are over they go to sleep – not party.  They stretch daily, get massage, and ice or heat whenever necessary.  They take every step needed to ensure maximum performance.


Are you maximizing your recovery?  Or do you go to the gym hungover on Saturday morning from a long night of partying on Friday?  Do you get your required 7 hours of sleep per night or are you too busy surfing Facebook?  Recovery is NECESSITY.  Sure you can get by for a little while by cutting corners but it WILL catch up to you.  Get your sleep, eat the right foods, get massage or other therapies regularly and do whatever else necessary to keep your body functioning at its highest level.  The better your performance, the better the results will be.


5.  Live it, Love it


When you watch the athletes in the Olympics, you see the joy on their faces.  They are getting to do what they love to do, and to represent their country.  Sure they have all their days where they don’t want to practice or when life is difficult, but there is nothing more they would rather be doing for a living.


Oscar Pistorius, the “blade runner” with no legs is probably the best example of this.  Even though he has no lower legs, sprinting is his passion.  He lets NOTHING get in the way of this.  After winning the special olympics, he decided he wanted to compete at THE Olympics.  Instead of accepting his limitation, he followed his passion and did anything necessary to compete.  A pair of blades later and he ran his way into the semifinals of the London games by WINNING his preliminary heat.  If thats not true passion, I really don’t know what is.


Now we aren’t all lucky enough to get paid to play sports, but we certainly can live our passion.  When finding your workout routine, make sure it is something you will enjoy.  Choosing to train for sprinting when you hate running is likely to lead to failure.  We are all in control of what we do, so choose something you can be passionate about and live to the max!  ACHIEVE YOUR GOLD MEDAL!



Hopefully over the next week of the Olympics you will be able to look beyond the gold medals and see some of the qualities listed above.  Enjoy watching the games, and here’s to taking your training (and life) to the next level!



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