How to train like an Olympic athlete

From left, silver medalist Australia\'s Torah Bright, gold medalist United States\' Kaitlyn Farrington and bronze medalist United States\' Kelly Clark pose following the women\'s snowboard halfpipe at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.(AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

Lisa Reed
WTOP Fitness Contributor

WASHINGTON – The athletes are showing off their skill, strength and stamina on the slopes and in the rinks in Sochi.

If you’re envying their athletic build and gold medal-winning drive, know that it’s possible to get as mentally and physically strong as them. You just have to train like them. Here’s how.

Mental toughness separates the extraordinary from the ordinary

When athletes have their eye on the goal, they stick it out when the going gets tough. The will to win and the ability to bounce back after set backs gets them through injuries, tiring training schedules, bad weather, or any circumstances outside of their control. Olympic athletes are also great at staying cool under pressure.

When it comes to training, take a cue from Olympic athletes. Small setbacks should never derail a healthy lifestyle. The key to staying on track is to build your mental toughness and always have another plan.

Working on strength training is a great way to work on building your mental strength. Push yourself to do one more rep when you feel you can’t do any more. Not only will this make your body stronger, it will make your mind stronger, as well.

With mental strength comes discipline. Olympians know no one is going to do the hard work for them. We all have excuses to slack on eating healthy or to skip a workout: We might be too tired, too busy, or simply not in the mood. But what sets Olympic athletes apart is that they never miss a training session or practice. They know it’s the difference between wining and losing.

Don’t let heavy traffic or a busy workload become a constant excuse to skip a workout.


Olympic athletes visualize their performance multiple times a day.

As a former gymnast and coach, I had to stick routines in my head before every practice and every meet. If my live beam routine was 1 minute and 25 seconds, I had to come within the second when I visualized. Today, I use visualization daily to live my life with the intention to achieve my goals.

Just like Olympians, we, too, can visualize our day before it happens. They key is not visualizing what you want to happen, but putting yourself in the present tense and in the actual moment. This bit of advice is not just for the gym — it’s for business meetings, public speaking appointments and more.

Stay focused

Olympic athletes are focused on the moment at hand. Whether it’s hearing a tough critique from a coach or getting advice from a teammate, they are focused and determined to take this moment to improve themselves and ultimately carry out their best performance yet.

In your life, people like your bosses, parents or loved ones may have advice for you. Take a moment, listen, focus and improve yourself.

Don’t ignore pain

It’s not brave to push through an injury, or walk-off a sprain. Olympians respect their bodies and listen when things hurt. When they have an injury, they work to heal their bodies so their injuries don’t come back again later.

Many of us are prone to ignore little aches and pains, thinking they are not a big deal. But taking the time to rest and recover will improve our performance in the long run.

Set goals

Olympians have clear, ambitious and inspiring goals. Setting and meeting short-term goals helps these athletes practice self-control and willpower.

Even if you’ve never tried a sport before, you can set an Olympic-sized fitness goal. Find a sport you enjoy: swimming, biking, skiing or running. Then, make a commitment: join a sports league or sign up for a 5K. Start small and then work toward bigger goals.

Build a support team

Olympians seek experts and those that can inspire them when they are having a tough time.

Surround yourself with those that will support you, encourage you and lift you higher. Enlist a positive friend, co-worker, partner or family member to keep you accountable and focused — all while having fun.

Editor’s Note: Lisa Reed, MS, CSCS, is a USA Fitness Champion, IFBB Pro, personal trainer, educator, motivator and owner of Lisa Reed Fitness, LLC, where she leads a team of in-home personal trainers in the Washington, D.C. area. Lisa and her team design online fitness and nutrition programs for clients around the world. She has trained hundreds of elite and professional athletes, including Monica Seles. She was the first female strength coach at the United States Naval Academy, and trained top athletes as a strength coach at the University of Florida. For more information on Lisa, visit her Facebook page, Twitter account, YouTube channel and Instagram account.

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