I don’t know about you guys, but I’m crazy excited that the Olympics are here once again.
The amount of talent and dedication that it takes to become an Olympic athlete just blows my mind. From an incredibly young age, Olympic athletes dedicate their entire lives to their sport, sacrificing so much along the way—things that you and I take for granted, like nights out, and hobbies, and not getting up at the crack of dawn every morning of our lives to train.
It’s incredibly inspiring, to say the least.
And while none of us is likely to go to the Olympics any time soon, we can work out more like an Olympian:
Focus on performance, not physique
When Olympic athletes train, they don’t worry about getting too muscular, or losing too much weight, or whether one exercise is going to make their biceps pop more than another.
Olympic athletes only care about how they perform in their sport, nothing else. They get stronger, fitter and leaner because it helps them be a better athlete—and as a result of their dedicated training, their amazing physique occurs naturally.
So start to focus less on your physique, and more on your performance—and the body you want will follow.
Work toward clear, attainable goals
One of the most obvious things Olympic athletes do is creating clear, attainable goals to work towards. They have goals to beat their personal best, to crush their opponent’s time, to beat the world record—and so on.
So if you want to truly train like an Olympic athlete, you need to have something to work for—something that will motivate you to work harder than you ever thought possible during every single workout.
Not only will goals help keep you motivated, they’ll also help you get fitter and stronger faster and help you know when you’re making progress. You can make a quantity-based goal like, “I want to be able to do 5 pistols in a row,” or “I want to be able to hold a freestanding handstand for 10 seconds.” Or, you can also just focus on beating your own personal best within specific workouts. Trying to beat your personal best gives you a clear goal and also a way to compete with yourself, an awesome way to stay motivated and constantly challenge yourself.
No matter what their sport, Olympic athletes need to have an incredibly high level of conditioning in order to make it through their countless grueling practices and events.
Because the last thing any Olympic athlete wants is to simply get tired in the middle of a race, game, or event. Being properly conditioned means they can give proper focus to their particular skill, rather than worrying about how tired they are.
So they put in their conditioning time. No matter what their sport, they run, they jump, they sweat… A lot.
And it’s pretty easy to see how you can mimic their efforts—just start including lots of jump roping (double unders are particularly great for conditioning), sprints, jumps and squats in your workouts, and you’ll get in great conditioning shape before you know it.
Practice at a disadvantage
One very common training technique Olympians use to improve their performance is to practice at a disadvantage. For example, a sprinter doesn’t just run on the track 100% of the time—he or she will also practice running with cables and bands, which make training significantly harder, but which help stimulate feelings of stress or exhaustion that they’ll inevitably face in an actual race or event.
Similarly, you can make your actual training harder than necessary to speed up progress and make conditions tougher for yourself during training sessions so that when you go and do the same thing in real life situations, it isn’t quite so hard anymore.
For example, if you add a sandbag or dumbbells to your squats, doing air squats or picking up a heavy suitcase will feel like a breeze in comparison. And if you wear a weighted vest during your pull ups, regular pull ups will become no problem for you. The key is to get creative and to constantly be challenging yourself to push harder and faster than ever before.
Sure, there’s no question that Olympic athletes have innate talent—but talent and athleticism alone won’t get you to the Olympics. You have to work really, really hard, for a very long time. No child thinks they’re going to become an Olympian overnight. They know that they’ll need to put in years of hard work—and that in the end, only the hardest working and the most dedicated athletes will get there.
The same is true for all of us. If you want to reach those goals you’re always dreaming about, whether it’s to lose the extra inches off your waist or to do a muscle up or two, you can’t half-ass it. You’ve got to give your workouts everything you’ve got—and then some. And you have to be willing to be in it for life.
Enjoy the journey
If Olympic athletes only focused on the medal every four years, their lives would be pretty bleak. They have to find joy in the practices, the early mornings, the time with their coaches—even the recovery process. They have to enjoy the journey.
And although you should always remember to celebrate your successes, you should never forget to enjoy the journey along the way, too.
So work hard, stay motivated, but always remember to have some fun, too.