It's funny when I workout i try to focus on how i feel. If i notice i feel good i continue to feel better though my workout. My good feeling just increase. I also feel i feel better if i eat right all day before working out. Proper fuel
When the Beijing Olympic games ended four years ago, I cried. And then I began counting down to this year’s Olympics, which are now just 19 days away. I’m a sucker for the spirit, camaraderie, stories of beating the odds, and—let’s be honest—lingering screen shots of nearly naked hotties. (I see that Michigan “M” tattoo peeking out from your Speedo, Michael!)
But watching the Olympics can also be a big hit to your ego. That hour you just put in at the gym? A mere warm-up for those athletes. Those abs you think you saw in the mirror when you sucked in and flexed? They’ll never ripple under a leotard like Gabby Douglas’s. And your career accomplishments? They’re nothing compared to the four Olympic medals that Shawn Johnson added to her resume at age 16. What an overachiever.
But though the gold may be out of reach, medal-worthy health isn’t. Here are five important fitness lessons that we can all learn from Olympians.
1. Focus on How You Feel, Not How You Look
Competitive athletes’ achievements “rest on something different than the scale, or a certain pair of pants,” says Heather Guith, a personal trainer and fitness instructor in Washington, DC, who’s worked with triathletes. “If you tell them something will make them faster or boost their endurance, they listen—while your advice might not show up in the way they look standing around, it will make a difference in how they feel while performing.”
You won’t drop a dress size after one workout (and you won’t grow a muffin top if you skip it)—but if you focus on how that workout makes you feel, you do get immediate results. The better bod that comes with time? An added bonus.
2. Get Your Head in the Game
Because the Summer Olympics only comes once every four years (tear), Olympians need to play mental games to keep their goals in sight. Some visualize race day, others recite mantras, and most establish some sort of ritual that focuses their minds. And they all keep that competitive drive alive. “No matter the situation, an athlete’s nature is to compete—not only against others, but [also against] themselves,” says Tom Corradino, an athletic trainer and director of sports performance at Absolute Performance Training in Western New York.
So whether your own end-goal is running a 10K or looking awesome in your wedding dress, awaken your inner competitor to keep your workouts on track. During spin class, imagine yourself in the Tour de France. While running around the neighborhood, pick pedestrian “targets” to pass. And, when you’re about to skip your workout, tell yourself your rival has been at the gym for hours.
3. Think About Food as Fuel
It would be a luxury to be able to eat upwards of 8,000 calories a day like Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte without worrying about your waistline. Of course, if you’re not exercising vigorously for six-plus hours a day, you can’t. But you can approach how you eat your share of calories like an Olympian.
“An athlete understands that food is not just food, it’s fuel,” says Corradino. When you think about food as a source of energy—not as comfort, a reward, or an enemy—you’re less likely to consume more than you need. (You wouldn’t try to put more gas in the tank once it’s already full, would you?) The “food as fuel” mentality can also influence what you eat. If your goal is to charge up for your afternoon run, for example, a protein-rich omelet is a better choice than a sugar-packed pancake stack. But if you’re only aiming to silence your growling stomach, you risk letting the pancakes win.
4. Find the Right Coach
The search for the right coach or trainer is “like dating,” says Guith. “Not everyone is going to be right for you, but when you find that trainer you click with, you’ll know.” So don’t be afraid to shop around. Look for someone who understands your goals and how you’re motivated. Ask about her background and make sure she’s passionate, adds Corradino.
If a hiring a personal trainer isn’t your thing, find a fitness role model. Olympic athletes have idols, and so should you. Choose a friend, family member, or yoga instructor whose style you admire, and you’ll gain an accessible example of real-life fitness.
5. Don’t be Constrained by Stereotypes
If you have a wingspan like Michael Phelps, swimming the butterfly might be worth a shot. On the flip side, those of us who still shop in the Junior’s section should probably steer clear of the basketball court.
But lots of Olympians—like Dara Torres, the oldest Olympic swimmer, and Cullen Jones, the second African American to win a gold medal in swimming—show us that there’s more to the game than fitting the mold. “I would rather have people move than have them avoid the gym or exercise altogether because what they enjoy doesn’t fit what’s ‘hot’ or acceptable,” says Guith.
Bottom line: Get up and do whatever kind of sport or activity you like—whether or not you match the stereotype.