7 Great Training Tips from Our Favorite Athletes

training feature image
Image by: Karen Blaha
By Robert Spencer

When you’re training for a competition or a tournament, it can be hard to stay motivated and find the right workout routine for you. Here to help are some of the best Olympic athletes (female and male) and some other figureheads in fitness. Check out these 7 tips to improve your training regimen.

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#1) Stop to Center Yourself

Heather McPhie (a 2010 Olympic moguls skier) knows what it means to train in order to get stronger and faster. However, at the training camp for the 2014 Winter Olympics, she realized just how important it was to stop and listen to your body.

She would stop for 10 minutes each day of the training camp in order to do a bit of centering. She says that she literally set a timer for 10 minutes and did nothing. This “exercise” helped her get in touch with what her body was trying to tell her. For example, she felt the tightness in her right shoulder for the first time. If she had kept going, she might have really strained that muscle and hurt herself.

#2) Scheduling Different Intensity Workouts

Another thing that McPhie can teach any athlete is the importance of scheduling different intensity workouts every day. Otherwise, she would feel bored during days when she had slow and steady cardio workouts. This is also a great way to help your muscles recuperate from high-intensity workouts.

Also, using an assortment of dynamic exercises will help all of your muscles get a workout (especially the ones that you forgot about). For example, when you’re trying to build muscle use both medicine balls and unilateral exercises. An exercise routine that is varied in exercises will help you with a full body workout.

Olympian swimmer Michael Phelps also believes in different exercises. While he does a lot of long swims for improving endurance, he does a lot of other drills in order to better his speed and form. In addition to underwater kicks and other water drills, he incorporates a lot of dry-land exercises (like weightlifting, running, pushups and pull ups.

#3) Sleep Tight

American Council on Exercise spokesperson Todd Durkin suggests that you also get the appropriate amount of sleep every night. He says that high-level athletes (that train hard) need about 9 hours of sleep every night in order to help your body recoup.

He also says to avoid the computer and TV (anything with electromagnetic waves) for 30 minutes prior to hitting the sack, in order to optimize on your sleep. Keep your bedroom as dark as you possibly can in order to help fall asleep faster and deeper.

#4) Make It Count

Sam Dorman is an Olympic diver and while his piece of advice is specifically geared toward divers, it is universally applicable.

“In practice, make every practice count because before you know it you’re going to be diving in that meet that you’ve been practicing for. For competition, focus on what you can control and not what is out of your control.”

Some of you may be training for something specific (baseball or basketball league, that office softball tournament, the golf tournament, the marathon, or the Tough Mudder) and some of you may just be exercising hard in order to maximize your time at the gym. No matter why you are exercising, his advice can apply to whatever you are doing.

When you exercise, it is important to focus on control. Slow controlled movements are more important than getting as many reps as you can because when you hurry, you are more likely to hurt yourself or strain something.

As two-time Olympian Katie Uhlaender suggests in an ABC News interview, “You’ll get better results (and ward off injury) by doing fewer reps correctly than by doing a bunch with poor form.”

#5) Get Your Mind Ready

If you are training for something, one tip that all of the aforementioned athletes also suggested was to get your mind ready for the competition. Phelps was specific in saying “stay focused on your goals and confident in your ability”.

Durkin says that all Olympic athletes spend a lot of time psychologically preparing themselves for the big day. He suggests rehearsing, reading inspirational books, finding mantras that help you focus on your goals, and coming up with a good plan in order to achieve your goal.

#6) Specific Training Regimens

If you’re looking for a specific training regimen to bulk you up, look no further than Gerard Butler’s 300 training routine, which can be found here.

However, I suggest getting a personalized training regimen in order to maximize on your goals and in order to work with what you have. After all, we are all built differently. In order to get a personal training routine, go to your local gym and get together with a personal trainer.

#7) Don’t Become Complacent

This tip comes from 2010 skeleton Olympian Noelle Pikus-Pace but it’s something that we can all relate to: don’t become complacent with your routine. Once you find your stride, you may be tempted to just keep performing your current routine. However, your body/performance will soon plateau and you will become bored with the workout.

Instead, vary up your routine. Supplement your workout with some outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking, and mountain-climbing classes.