Following a year-long delay, the 2020 Summer Olympics kicked off Friday, July 23 in Tokyo, Japan. For many of us, watching the best of the best compete for the gold is an awe-inspiring journey, not to mention an uplifting sign of progress after a challenging year and a half. And while the Olympics are reserved for the most elite athletes, we could all stand to learn a thing or two from these remarkable competitors.
Are you ready to up your fitness game? Here are six easy-to-adopt Olympian habits that can help to propel you forward.
1. Practice Thoughtful Eating
First and foremost, avoid mindless eating. By simply thinking about and keeping track of what you’re consuming, you can fuel your body properly for whatever activities you challenge it with.
“Enjoying the occasional indulgence is perfectly normal and something you should never feel guilty about,” said Jessica Marshall, Certified Exercise Physiologist with ThedaCare Bariatrics. “But if we eat with intention, we stand a much better chance of maintaining balance and providing our body with the proper nutrients.”
What’s one common theme among most star athletes? A good breakfast. Starting the day off with a nutrient-rich meal will provide the energy to exercise and compete at a high level.
2. Get Plenty of Sleep
Performing at your best means being well rested, and a good night’s sleep requires more than putting in the suggested eight hours.
“Sleep is rejuvenating to the body and mind,” said Kayla Van Handel, Licensed Athletic Trainer at ThedaCare. “Even the best athletes can’t sustain their physical prowess without adequate, high-quality sleep.”
You can improve your quality of sleep by keeping your bedroom dark and cool, storing electronics away from the bed, and sticking to a routine. Have a little extra time during the day? Consider a midday nap. Some of the most well-known Olympians swear by them.
3. Set Goals
Winning a gold medal may not be realistic for many of us, but that doesn’t mean we can’t benefit from goal setting. Challenging ourselves with difficult – yet realistic – goals is critical to staying motivated.
“Fitness goals differ from one person to the next,” said Marshall. “Maybe you want to improve your endurance or flexibility, increase your running mileage or weight-lifting repetitions. Perhaps you just want to fit into that outfit you bought for a special occasion. Whatever it is, visualizing that end goal can be a key differentiator in getting to where you want to be.”
Need help staying motivated? Break up the journey to your long-term goal by setting and writing down reasonable short-term goals, measuring and tracking your progress, and rewarding yourself each time you reach a milestone.
4. Befriend the Competition
A little competitive spirit never hurt anyone, but you may be surprised what the opposite can do. Olympians aren’t just well versed in competing with other athletes – they’re experts in befriending them, too.
“Sometimes having a friend to cheer us on can be the best motivation of all,” said Van Handel. “Building camaraderie with fellow athletes and incorporating a little teamwork brings out the best in all of us. Not to mention, it’s a great way to stay accountable and on track.”
“Building camaraderie with fellow athletes and incorporating a little teamwork brings out the best in all of us.”
Kayla Van Handel, Licensed Athletic Trainer, ThedaCare
Friends, coworkers, family members and neighbors can all make great fitness companions. Work together to achieve your goals, push each other to perform at a higher level, and incorporate a little friendly competition to keep things interesting along the way.
5. Keep Your Mental Health in Check
Adopting an Olympian’s focus, determination and confidence isn’t as simple as staying active. To truly reach your physical best, you’ll need to take good care of your mind as well.
“A healthy lifestyle encompasses much more than physical activity and good nutrition,” said Marshall. “Safeguarding your mental health is a huge part of the equation. Without it, the anxiety and stress that come with pressure-filled fitness goals can deter your progress and overall success.”
Reserve regular time in your day to practice gratitude, meditate, get adequate rest, and socialize. Once your mind is right, your body will be primed to follow suit.
6. Do What Works for You
Keep in mind, no two Olympians are the same. Living by the core habits outlined above is a great way to kick start your fitness journey, but the way you go about them should be specific to your circumstances and preferences.
“What works for one individual won’t necessarily work for the next,” said Van Handel. “Establish a routine that works with your schedule, makes sense for your physical abilities, and supports your unique fitness goals. If you develop habits that are convenient to your lifestyle and tailored to your interests, you’ll be much more likely to stick to them.”
Ready to channel your inner-Olympian? Visit our health library for help designing a fitness plan that works for you.