Going for Gold: Former Olympians Share Tips for Success
As Olympic competition came to a close in Rio last night, CoachUp connected with their network of former Olympians for to discuss training regimens, how to stay mindful before competing, and how to handle the recovery period. Check out the tips below from Carolyn Moos, Eddie Hart, and Tyson Gillies and start training for your own Olympic dreams!
CoachUp: How are athletes behaving as they prepare to compete? What is the best way to prepare before this type of event (nutrition tips, stretches, warm-ups, etc)?
Carolyn Moos, U.S. Junior Olympic basketball gold medalist: Every athlete is different in how they prepare mentally and physically to compete. The standard aspects that are most conducive to optimal performance are consistent sleep patterns, strategic nutrition, strategic cross-training, and recovery. On the psychological side of preparation, I see the power of visualization to be very valuable and having inward focus.
Watching your competition footage and then replaying in your mind how you will compete and what outcomes will occur -- there is nothing better than competition. Having won a gold medal in the Jr. Olympics, it is interesting to see how different countries prepare mentally for competition as well as see their physical presence prior to competition. For me, I believe in letting your game do the talking and just taking care of business.
Eddie Hart, U.S. Track & Field Olympic gold medalist: At this level of competition, I focused on two things; the mental and physical approach to my race. In the 100 meters, my mental attitude plays a major role. My mindset was that I believed I was the fastest human being on earth and that no one could defeat me. The strength of my mental attitude came from the fact that I was physically prepared to negotiate the challenges of my race.
Tyson Gillies, former Canadian Olympic baseball player: It's a different atmosphere being in the Olympic Village. There are many athletes that appear tense and just mentally focused at all times, but then some who go about it as just another day. It's very important to make sure you're eating right and getting the correct amount of sleep. These athletes have been training for their events for years and, for some, all their lives. They will do whatever it takes to have their bodies perform at the highest level possible on those given days.
CoachUp: How do you overcome the temptation to compromise your technique/form when you become tired during the competition? What are tips to stay energized/motivated to perform at this high level for extended periods of time?
Carolyn Moos: Athletes typically become fatigued when (1) they have not prepared properly with strategic cross-training, (2) their competition is in that much better condition, (3) they are not genetically equivalent or better than their competition (environment such as nutrition, training, and sleep can only take genetics so far), (4) lack of proper hydration and replacement of electrolytes. My tips for performing at this high level for an extended period of time is to love what you do, have a training plan that is sustainable, have interests outside of just your sport, training that is fun and balanced -- for example, I like to mix music, write, and paint -- and thrive off competition.
Eddie Hart: At the sound of the gun, there is no time to think about what you need to do. If you think about it, it’s too late, you’ve lost the race. Eventually, you do so many starts that it becomes automatic. At the gun, I am reacting not thinking -- because I have done it over and over, literally thousands of times, my body unconsciously does what it has done countless times before. Previous competition plays a major role in motivating you to do your very best. Just a few weeks prior to the Olympic trials, I had barely missed the World Record by one tenth of a second. This assured me that I was ready to run a great race at the Olympic games, which I did at the trials.
My focus was always on my race -- not the other sprinters. I truly believed that when I run my best race, I would win no matter who else was against me.
Tyson Gillies: In general, sports are very superstitious and every athlete has their little thing to get their minds locked in for competing. These special athletes train hard for years to make sure their bodies can withstand the tremendous level of fatigue that it takes for some of these events. They have built up the tolerance to go beyond what is needed. It takes a lot of mental preparation over years of training to become confident in yourself -- so don't skip over it just for the physical nature of it all.
CoachUp: What are the best ways athletes can refuel their bodies after competition?
Carolyn Moos: Relative to refueling and recovering post-workout, I am a strong believer in strategic nutrition. Post-workout, you want to have a high-glycemic carb such as brown rice, whole wheat pasta, sweet potato, or quinoa and combine this with a lean protein -- non-fat plain yogurt, cottage cheese, egg whites, chicken -- along with a high-glycemic fruit -- bananas are great for potassium, black grapes, pears, and melon also work -- and save the fattier proteins such as salmon for dinner. Save your good fats -- mixed nuts, olive oil, and avocado for example -- for a few hours later and remember that adding legumes and vegetables are key.
Tyson Gillies: It is very important to refuel the body after competition. Finding a healthy intake of proper amino acids and proteins are huge for enabling recovery. Athletes tend to ice, stretch, and massage afterwards to prepare for their next session. There are many different ways to take care of yourself, so don't rush through the process. Ultimately, there are different things that work for different athletes. Athletes spend years finding what works for themselves and their bodies, so be sure to listen to your own! Athletes who are training to compete at a high level can apply these tips to their own training regimens and see improvements very quickly.
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