Train Like an Olympian

The Olympic Games have begun!  For the next two weeks we will be glued to the television, mesmerised by the triumphs, defeats and perseverance of the world’s best athletes. It may be too late to become an Olympic athlete, but you can still learn from the best and apply their secrets to your training plan.
1.  Keep you eye on the prize.
To the athletes, the Olympic games begin years before we watch the final performance on television.  Years before the games start, the athletes set their sights on competing in the games, and create an action plan to achieve their goal.  Their four year plan contains smaller goals, such as other competitions, or tweaking a technical aspect of their performance.
To be successful in fitness, it is important to know what being successful means to you.  In other words, you need to have a goal.  If your goal is a lofty one, such as losing 50 pounds, break down the goals to create an action plan.  For example, you might start by walking two miles every day for a month, and swapping mashed potatoes for steamed veggies at supper.  Once you have succeeded, you can work toward the next smaller goal, such as adding swimming into your fitness routine two times a week.
2. Be a part of a team
Even athletes in individual sports such as speed skating are a part of a team.  Athletes have technical coaches, nutritionists, fitness coaches, doctors and others supporting them and helping them become successful.
In your own fitness endeavours, creating your own personal support network will help to ensure success.  You may find that you benefit from working with a nutritionist or personal trainer.  Friends and family can also become a part of your support network.  Having a good workout partner will help keep you motivated as you work toward your goal.
3. Use food to fuel your body.
While I don’t know exactly what every Olympic athlete eats everyday, I can safely bet that they don’t finish a tough workout with a box of donuts. Successful athletes look at food as a way to fuel their body; not as the enemy. They make sure they are getting all the right nutrients to give energy for their workouts.
Instead of thinking as food as a way to distress, reward yourself, curb boredom, or try to avoid as much as you can, think of food as a way to fuel your active lifestyle.  For each meal or snack you plan, think about what the food will do for your body.  When you start thinking about food in this way, healthy eating will be the obvious choice.
4. Train your mind as well as your body
The difference between an Olympic gold medalist and any other athlete may very well be only in the head.  Any high calibre athlete will understand the importance of mental training.  Positive self talk, visualization and ‘getting in the zone’ are examples of using the mind to achieve athletic goals.
Use the power of your mind to improve your own level of fitness.  Positive self talk, such as saying “I look forward to going for a run” or “I am a fit, healthy person who likes to exercise” can keep you motivated.  Phrases such as “I can do this” or “be strong” can help push you through a tough workout and bring your fitness to the next level.
Adopt the strategies of the best athletes in the world to improve your own level of fitness.  Set goals, create a support network and use positive self-talk to be stronger and healthier.
Tanja Shaw is a Kinesiologist and Fitness Coach, specializing in weight loss, group fitness, pre and postnatal fitness, and health and wellness programs.  She owns Ascend Fitness Coaching, home to Ascend Fitness Boot Camp, Stroller Boot Camp, and personal training programs.  For more fitness tips go to

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