Get fit like an Olympian

If you're inspired to shape up by the Olympic teams competing this year, remember it's never too late to get started. Here are six tips to motivate you to get fit.

1. Determine your goals.

Determining your goals is the most important step before you even put on your running shoes. You need to know what you're running to accomplish. When you determine your goals then you'll have a good direction on where you should start.

Do you want to slim down? Focus on nutrition and a routine of steady cardiovascular endurance exercise, with short bursts of speed called interval training.

Do you want to build up your heart health? Try swimming, running, or cycling.

Do you want to feel the thrill of the chase? Try adding sprints to your routine or join a bike or running club.

Do you want to keep your workout quick and painless? Try circuit training, which consists of a series of resistance training exercises performed one after the other, with minimal rest.1

2. Eat healthfully.

Brooke Bennett, three-time Olympic gold medalist in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics – and the current world record holder for the 800-meter freestyle swim – says that diet should be the first focus for anyone hoping to improve physical well-being.

"Nutrition is key in anybody's life, whether we're professional athletes or working at a desk," says Bennett, now a certified personal trainer and nutritionist and a consultant to USA Swimming. "It's about 80 percent of our lifestyle." 1

The former Olympic athlete believes that content, not calories, should be the focus of any "Olympic body" regimen. The thing to remember, no matter which diet you choose, is if you stick to fruits, vegetables, and lean meats and stay away from bad fats and sugars, you'll be well on your way to a better body.

3. Eat frequently, with a mixture of protein and carbohydrates at every meal.

Your body needs a steady supply of fuel if it's going to function at maximum efficiency. Eating frequently also increases your body's metabolism, which means it will burn more calories.

Olympic athletes eat five to six meals a day, with protein at each, to increase lean muscle mass and maintain maximum efficiency. Plan to eat smaller meals, ideally two and one-half to three hours between each.

Balance is important, so if you're working out more you need to eat more in order to fuel your body properly. That doesn't mean you should binge eat your favorite donuts, just be aware of the energy you're using and how to refuel the right way.

4. Watch the mirror, not the scale.

Even if your goal is weight loss, the healthiest of regimens focus on decreasing body fat and increasing lean muscle mass, not a particular number on the scale.1

People tend to focus too much on the number and if it's not what they want, it can be discouraging and you don't want anything to derail your motivation. Think about how your clothes fit, not what the numbers are.

Instead of checking your weight, have someone measure you every two weeks and check your body fat once a month, which will provide a yardstick for how much fat you're actually losing.

5. Drink plenty of water.

The body is made up of 60 percent water, which means it needs a regular supply to survive. According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), a fluid loss of even 2 percent body weight will affect circulatory functions and decrease performance.

The amount of water each person needs will vary depending on many factors such as underlying medical conditions, physical activity level, and environment. The Institute of Medicine generally recommends about 91 ounces of total water (from drinks and food) on average per day for women and 125 ounces for men. Most of the water we consume comes from beverages, but about 20 percent comes from food. Too much water can be harmful.1

6. Ease into new exercises.

If you are going from cyclist to runner or runner to cyclist, you may be pretty fit, but your muscles or skeletal system might not be ready for the new sport. You don't want to overdo it and be unable to work out. So take it easy at first.

7. Vary your activity, but include the weight room.

Olympic athletes spend a lot of time on their primary activity (a cyclist will ride, a runner will run), but for most, varying the activity reduces boredom and uses a variety of muscles which may otherwise not get worked.1

Working out with weights will also reduce the loss of muscle mass that often occurs with aging. Even men in their 70s and 80s put on lean mass in a relatively basic strength-training program.

Also, the NASM says that studies have shown no difference between those who do resistance training three times a week verses those who train five times a week. So you really don't have to train like an Olympian in the weight room. A little goes a long way.

8. Train regularly and consistently.

Every person is different so deciding which program is right for you is dependent on each person. However, what is true for all is that working out consistently and on a regular basis is key to training your body properly. If you only work out one week a month, you're probably not going to see the results you want.

9. Consider hiring a personal trainer.

People are hesitant at the beginning to spend the money with a personal trainer, but having that outside person there to push you and give you direction, you'll likely see results sooner than if you went at it alone.

If you can't afford a trainer, seek out someone who is as dedicated as you are to getting healthy, and train together. It helps to have extra support.

1 http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/10-tips-for-an-olympic-body

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