Olympic athletes are viewed as superheroes and celebrities; strong, brave individuals at the peak of their career. The words unrealistic or unattainable may have just come into your thoughts; mine too. After taking a step back and thinking about these superstars, there are many lessons we can learn from them. Years and years of preparation go into becoming an Olympic athlete and it is a full time job. What can we learn from these elite athletes, how can we train like them, how can they be role models to us on a wellness journey? Think about the qualities an Olympian possesses and how you can translate these into your life.
- They have a purpose- LoLo Jones will make history as one of 10 athletes to compete in both the Winter and Summer games. Meryl Davis and Charlie White made history by becoming the first American team to win an Olympic medal in ice dancing. These athletes have a PURPOSE coming into the games; they want to make history. Purpose drives people to do great things. What is your purpose? A goal to work towards is crucial to succeeding.
- They don’t allow distractions- Coming out of retirement to compete in these games is women’s skeleton racer Noelle Pikus-Pace. Not only is she racing down the icy chute at 80 mph, she is also juggling her busy life as a mother of two small children. Time, family, work and a personal life can all be distractions and excuses for not working toward your goals. We all have these “excuses”; it is up to us not to use them as an “excuse.” Olympians have these same outside pressures, but stay focused because they prioritize what is important to them. If health/fitness is a priority in your life, you will find time, and your “good excuse” will not be so “good” anymore.
- View food as fuel- Food is used for these athletes as a training tool. The food they eat before/after their workout dictates their performance each day, and how they react to their training. I know it can be hard to think of food in this way; our culture has trained us to think the exact opposite. Food is for enjoyment, even therapy, right? We have to face the facts whether we like it or not what we put into our bodies influences how we feel throughout the day. It stays with us much longer than it takes for us to consume it.
- Track their progress- The journey to the Olympics takes years and years. How do these athletes stay motivated and not lose sight of their goal? They track their progress. They know their purpose; have a plan, and a goal they are working towards. Progress pictures, exercise and diet logs, performing a fitness assessment or health screening may seem tedious at times, but trust me, you won’t regret them! How will you know how far you have come if you don’t remember where you started?
- Don’t let injury derail them- Training for hours each day and the nature of the winter Olympic sports being very dangerous, injuries are part of the process. Yes, this puts a setback in the athletes’ original training plans, but they do not let it become a barrier. These athletes work around their injury and become creative with their training. Hannah Kearney, two time Olympic gold medalist in moguls skiing, lacerated her liver, broke two ribs, and punctured a lung during training in 2012, won gold at the 2013 world championships and is one to watch at these Olympics. Injuries, physical limitations, or illness can feel like a setback in our fitness journey. Working with a variety of clients in corporate fitness, I have found and I think most fitness professionals would agree, there are few if ANY injuries that should prevent a person from not exercising. Don’t think of an injury as a setback, think of it as a challenge to be creative.
- They get professional help- If you are scratching your head after the last point, it’s ok; that’s why there are professionals in the health/fitness industry. Olympians may seem like experts in their sport, which is true, but they have a lot of help. This can be a hard one to swallow. As a fitness professional I have learned that I need help with what is my “expertise.” Just as a physician needs their own physician, a personal trainer can benefit from having their own trainer. Olympians have a team of people helping them. If you are struggling to find balance or with one particular aspect of your well-being, ask a professional. The best of the best need help, and most importantly aren’t afraid to ask for it!
- Have passion- Love what you are doing! At age 37, Todd Lodwick is the first American athlete to participate in six Winter Games. He has made his sport a lifestyle. There are realistically times when these athletes feel overwhelmed or burnt out throughout their journey, but they don’t let this derail them because they have passion for what they do. These athletes have to love the sport to dedicate so much of their lives to it. Find activities and healthy habits that you enjoy that will be sustainable through your whole life.
If you were an Olympic athlete what would be your sport?