How to champion for your health
When Olympic athletes compete for their country – they are at the top of their game. They are prepared not only physically, but mentally to compete on the world stage. We can’t help but wonder how they got there. True, sports like cross-country and ice skating burn major calories—a minimum of 510 and 425, respectively—but is that all it takes to compete?
In short, no. And after we did some digging, we found the best ways athletes physically and mentally stay on top of their game. Here’s how you can medal in terms of your health, too.
1. Eat clean
A majority of Olympians—and athletes in general—follow a strict, low-fat diet. With the exception of Usain Bolt, of course, who has admitted to fueling his run with McDonald’s nuggets. (Seriously.)
However, 95% of those diets are made up of whole, quality foods with cheat days factored in, says U.S. Olympic Committee Nutritionist Jennifer Gibson, RD. “It’s not as sexy as some new seed from the Amazon,” she says, but it achieves balance.
That means replacing processed foods with their more natural counterparts. Think whole apples instead of applesauce, homemade soup instead of canned, whole wheat grains instead of white, grass-fed beef instead of frozen patties, etc.
Still need some inspiration? Check out these 10 Clean Eating Recipes from Cooking Light.
It’s no secret that athletes spend a majority of their time in training—up to eight hours a day, to be exact. But you don’t have to dismiss the idea of achieving their same abs or arms because you can barely find the time to go to the bathroom.
As with any goal, the key is to start small and gradually progress as you get more comfortable. Maybe that’s taking a 10 minute walk on your lunch break or scheduling to stay late for your co-workers yoga class. Whatever it is, commit to the idea of moving more.
There’s also something to competition: Researchers from Michigan State University found that women working out with a friend worked out harder and longer without even realizing.
3. Mental Toughness
A study published in the journal of Personality and Individual Differences found that athletes are mentally tougher than non-athletes. What makes someone mentally tough? Optimism, perseverance and resilience.
A sure-fire way to adopt, or strengthen, these qualities is to say I can do it over How much longer? Researchers from the University of Kent at Medway find that this kind of motivational self-talk can help a person feel stronger, which, in turn, makes exercise easier.
4. Book a massage
Yep, athletes pamper themselves, too. Researchers from McMaster University in Canada find that deep massage after an intense workout causes muscles to enlarge and grow new mitochondria—the cells that convert nutrients into energy. On a more general note, The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) says massage can reduce pain, prevent injury, and reduce stress and recovery time. As if you needed an excuse to go to the spa!
5. Quality Sleep
Low light can disrupt the sleep hormone melatonin, says sleep expert Dr. Robert Oexman. And blackout curtains, available at places like Target, help to keep the room dark.
Other ways to get Olympic shut-eye is to keep your room temperature to 67˚F and making a point to wake up early. “This direct morning light exposure has been proven to align the daily, natural body clock and increase overall energy for the day,” says Dr. Oexman.