The excitement of the Summer Olympics in Rio has ended, leaving us with fond memories and looking toward Tokyo 2020. Watching the greatest athletes in the world performing their sport was awe inspiring. We might not dream of following in their footsteps, but we admire their talent. Michael Phelps dominated swimming, ending his career with a whopping 23 gold medals. Simone Biles soared to Olympic gold on the floor exercise, including leading her team to a Women’s All-Around gold medal. Is there an Olympic sport that makes you want to jump off the couch and participate? Did any of the Olympic athletes inspire you to eat healthier or train harder? You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete, but for health and weight loss it helps to think like one!
HAVE A DREAM AND SET A GOAL
The goal of an Olympic athlete is to master their sport and achieve their wildest dreams. In order to excel on the balance beam, a gymnast must possess superior balance. Marathon runners need to achieve endurance and speed. Volleyball players’ training includes agility and coordination drills. Being an athlete may not be your goal, but in order to feel healthy and be physically fit, exercise needs to be a part of your daily life. Decide what type of exercises you like. Swimming is a very effective workout that strengthens all of your muscles. But, if you wince at the thought of getting into a pool, it’s not the right choice for you. If you’re an outdoors person, you can bike, jog or hike. If you prefer the indoors, fitness centers offer a vast variety of exercise classes. Set short-term and long-term goals using the SMART acronym. Goal setting helps you stay focused and on track.
Depending on the sport, athletes require a variation in the number of calories every day. They require more calories during training due to the long hours they log. Most Olympians are meticulous eaters, choosing clean, natural, and unprocessed foods. During their training they don’t overeat, choosing salads, fresh fruit, yogurt, and lean meats. Nutrition can make all difference when an athlete is at the starting line. Some of the athletes express excitement about being able to eat their “cheat food” following the Olympics. For The Fab 5 gymnasts, that cheat food is pizza. Consistently eating overly processed food will lead to disease, especially in the absence of movement. Choose nutritiously dense foods to keep your body functioning properly. Protein is crucial, as it fuels the muscles and helps increase lean body mass. Lean body mass drives your metabolism and helps with weight loss.
Olympians usually train 4-8 years before making an Olympic team. They plan training schedules up to 4 years in advance. They enlist the help of a coach, exercise physiologist, sports medicine specialist, and a nutritionist. Formulate your exercise plan every day, just like meal planning. Make exercise a priority every day, even if you only have 20 minutes. Quality is more important than quantity. If you struggle with motivation or need that extra “push”, hire a personal trainer.
The definition of determination is “a quality that makes you continue trying to do or achieve something that is difficult.” Olympians are determined to win, no matter how difficult it gets. Cutting back the carbohydrates is difficult and might lead to carb withdrawal symptoms. Push through the difficulties and it will get easier. Walking a mile could be daunting at first, but as your endurance builds a mile won’t seem so far. Exercise is supposed to be challenging. Don’t forget the end prize: losing weight and getting healthy. “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
Olympians have to sacrifice tremendously to get to the top. They miss out on family events, time with friends, holidays, and go into debt. At age 14, Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas had to move 1000 miles away from her mother to train with a world-class coach in order to fulfill her dream. To achieve weight loss goals, you will need to make some small sacrifices. You might have to wake up 20 minutes earlier to fit in your workout, forgo your favorite mixed drink every night, walk/jog during your son’s soccer practice, or be the only person at your birthday party not eating cake. The goal for exercise/fitness is 10,000 steps a day which equals 5 miles. Move your body as much as possible.
STRONG WORK ETHIC/MENTAL TOUGHNESS
Olympians are taught to finish the race regardless of the score. Volleyball player Kayla Banwarth of team USA is on the number 1 ranked team in the world. Unfortunately at the volleyball semifinals in Rio, her team couldn’t pull through and Kayla fought back tears. It was shocking to realize the gold was out of the question. However, they banded together, fought back and took the bronze metal. Olympians are focused and comprehend that success will occur as a result of physical and mental strength. Are you at a point in your life where you are mentally prepared for change? Are you ready to put your health number one and get your priorities in check?
DON’T LET SETBACKS GET YOU DOWN
The Williams’ sisters won gold at the last 3 Olympics. Unfortunately, in Rio they lost in the first round to women from the Czech Republic. Russian diver Llya Zakhavov was the defending Olympic champion in the 3-meter springboard. In the semi-final round he did a belly flop and was out of the competition. French gymnast Samir Ait Said suffered a broken leg during the vault qualifying round, abruptly dashing his Olympic dreams. We’re all going to suffer setbacks and distractions: changing jobs, relocating, marriage, divorce, children, illness, or injury. Perhaps you’re struggling to get the 40 pounds of baby weight off. Maybe your boss is making you work overtime and you can’t get to the gym as frequently. You have bad knees and it hurts just to get out of bed. Or, you’ve gone through divorce and the stress has caused weight gain. First of all, tomorrow is another day to get back on track. Pool exercise is a great choice for bad knees and stiff joints. Try massage, relaxation techniques, or regular exercise to reduce stress levels. And, 20 minutes of body weight exercises at home is effective if you can’t get to the gym. There is no time for excuses when our health is on the line.
Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton said, “Each of us has a fire in our hearts for something. It’s our goal in life to find it and keep it lit.” We’re not all born to be athletes, but we can think like one. Set goals, and turn those goals into action. In order to lose weight and be healthy, you’re going to have to make sacrifices, plan ahead, and be tough mentally. Remember, life is not a destination, it’s a journey.