Take your fitness to the next level.
Before starting any fitness routine, make sure you check with your physician first. I would hate for you to read this article, get really excited, go do a really intense workout, and keel over from exhaustion. That wouldn’t do anyone any good. So, please, make sure you check with your physician and are in good health before attempting a new workout. My lawyer really doesn’t need the extra money.
Olympic athletes train hard several days a week. Few of us will ever achieve the level of fitness of a Oympian; however, that doesn’t mean that you can’t learn to train like one and have fun doing it!
1. Have a S.M.A.R.T. plan
Every Olympic athlete has a plan and sticks to it. They know where they want to go and what to do to get there.
The most fundamental step in fitness (as with most life goals) is to know what you want to accomplish and have a plan to get there. You may have heard about SMART goals. If not, here’s a brief breakdown of what each letter represents:
S - Specific. Each goal needs to be specific. “Get in better shape” is not specific. “Lose 25 pounds” is a much more specific goal.
M - Measurable. You should be able to measure each aspect of your goal. In the above example, you cannot measure “better shape”. But you can weigh yourself and know if you’ve lost pounds (5, 10, 20 etc.) and know where you are and how much more you need to do to achieve your goal.
A - Attainable. You want your goal to be something that is reasonable to carry out. Having a goal to make the 2016 Olympics is probably not attainable. “Lowering body fat by 20%”, however, might be a more reasonable goal.
R - Risky. Others use “Reasonable” for this letter, but I like to push people a bit. Most goals worth their salt are going to push us beyond our normal level of comfort. “Losing 5 pounds in 6 months” might be reasonable and attainable; however, “Losing 20 pounds in 3 months” is more of a risk and will push the limit a bit. What if you don’t make that goal and only lose 15 pounds in a month? Wouldn’t it still be worth the risk?
T - Time-oriented. For all goals, you want to limit the time it takes to complete it. “Lose 25% body fat in 90 days”. The 90 days is an example of a time-oriented goal.
Before beginning a workout routine, make sure you have a plan. Having a SMART plan will help you track your goal and give you ways to adjust it if necessary.
2. Begin with the Basics
Before pursuing a hard-core fitness routine, you want to make sure you have worked out regularly over the last few weeks and get your body used to a workout routine.
It typically takes about 6 weeks to get your body in a routine and to a point where you can step up your workouts. If it’s been a while since you’ve worked out, start with a simple exercise routine. Make sure you include both resistance exercises as well as cardio routines. (If you already have an established work out routine and are ready to step it up, then please read on!)
Basic cardio workout routines can include walking, jogging, treadmill, or elliptical machines. If you are a member of a gym, most of them offer different cardio classes that you can attend free.
If you’ve never done resistance training (work outs with weights, bands, or body weight) before, please start light. Make sure you get someone to help show you the most effective exercises and the right way to lift weights (believe me, there are plenty of wrong ways to do them and hurt yourself). Once you are comfortable with some basic exercises, there are plenty of resources (yes, there are several apps for that) to expand your repertoire of workouts with weights.
You should also set a schedule to make sure you get both cardio and weight training in every week. Both are important to increase strength, endurance, and improve cardiovascular conditioning.
3. Increase Strength and Endurance using Sports-Specific Skill
Once you have established a basic fitness level, you can begin to systematically increase the levels of your workouts to take your fitness to new heights. Depending on what sport or area of fitness you are working on, there are skills that you can add to improve your conditioning and make you a better overall athlete.
Sports-specific skills such as interval training on hills can increase your performance and endurance as a runner or cyclist. To add skills as a weight lifter, try using only body weight exercises once or twice a week. These exercises will build the stabilizer muscles around the major muscles to improve overall strength. Plyometrics can help you as a team-sport athlete. These skills help you improve skills related to quickness and agility in sports. Also, balance exercises are a great addition to any athlete’s workout arsenal. Better balance helps increase performance overall.
4. Eat Like an Olympian
Well, I don’t mean as much as an Olympic athlete. Don’t get too excited. Most Olympic athletes eat thousands of calories a day. The normal male while working out should consume on average (this depends on weight and height and training regimen) about 2000 calories a day. Women will be less than that. There are programs to help you decide what your caloric intake needs to be during your exercise routine.
When you’re working out, you want to make sure you fuel your body for maximum effectiveness. This doesn’t mean you can eat donuts and burgers while you’re in your training program.
You want to make sure and eat lean meats, vegetables, fruits, and limit your carb intake. There are a lot of options out there to eat healthy now. Eat a variety of foods and search the internet for healthy recipes to keep your calorie count in check.
5. Get a Coach
Professional athletes (including Olympians) hire people to help them train. They provide accountability and help in goal-setting. Coaches know how to inspire and can get us going when we don’t feel like working out. They also can push us to new levels and keep us motivated.
Can’t afford a coach? A lot of gyms offer intense workout classes ranging from Plyometric-style workouts to boot camp classes. The local gym where I live offers a hardcore fit class and is a great workout to take anyone’s fitness to the next level. Some of these cost extra money, but is a cheaper alternative to hiring a personal trainer. Plus, you can build new friendships and help keep each other accountable and motivated to reach your goals.
Whether you are just beginning to workout or you have worked out for a while, you can begin training like an Olympic athlete and continually improve your level of fitness. Keep working at it, don’t give up, and who knows, maybe we will see you at the next Olympics.