In spirit of the winter olympics, I’d like to talk about the olympian mindset and what makes these athletes the best of the best. Some people like to think that olympians are genetically gifted. Perhaps some of them do have a perfect genetic makeup for their sport, but what separates one olympian from another? These athletes are the best of the best, there isn’t much difference among them, especially the top 3 in each sport. When the top 3 show up to compete, the athlete that wins by a tenth of a tenth of a second proves that the mindset is even more important.
These principles are from books and interviews with the world’s best olympians. These are principles you can use to be your best self. Even one change can bring you closer to creating the life of your dreams.
1. Build habits for success. Michael Phelp’s swimming coach has him swim without goggles on occasion so that if they got knocked off in a race, he would be fine. When you are in a tough decision, how do you respond? At 3:00 when you get hungry, do you eat unhealthy snacks from the vending machine? If so, change that habit and bring a stick of cheese and apple and stay away from the vending machine.
2. Eat to fuel your workout and keep it consistent. In my studies of many olympians diets, you will see many more vegetables than sweets, but you won’t see many named diets like Zone, Atkins, gluten-free, etc. Every meal is about giving them energy to perform at their top level. They choose foods that keep them mentally and physically strong. Often times they eat the same thing at the same time each day, even when they travel. How does your food fuel your performance? Do you eat at the same time each day? Are you aware of what you eat? Trying keeping a 3 day food log, then review it and determine whether your foods are fueling your performance.
3. Do 1 more. A friend of mine who was a basketball coach told me he had a nickname for one of his players that he brought to the olympics. He called him “mr. one more” because whenever the coach asked him to do a drill, he always gave him one more. Instead of doing 10 four hundreds, he did 11. The next time you are planning to do 20 minutes of cardio, why not do 21? If we all put a little more effort in, imagine how much faster we’d achieve our goals?
4. Don’t let injuries keep you down. Last winter Lindsey Vonn ran into trouble that culminated with a painful crash at the world championships in Austria. While landing a jump in the super-G event there, Vonn blew out her knee, requiring reconstructive surgery. She worked really hard to rehabilitate her knee and is focusing on competing again. What do you do when you are injured? Do you give up or focus on getting yourself stronger?
5. Surround yourself with people who are better than you or at your level. Many olympians train together and they use their peers to motivate them and challenge them to be better. It’s always interesting to me when I see two friends competing against each other in the olympics. Think about the people you surround yourself with. Do they inspire you to be better or do they slow you down?
6. Hire an expert to create a plan. Every olympian has a coach that creates a training plan for their athlete to ensure they are competition ready. Having run 20 marathons, I achieve my best times when I have a running coach and a 3-4 month plan to follow. Hire a trainer, swim coach, tri coach, or other expert to help you create a plan to achieve your goals.
7. Don’t get distracted. Olympians stay focused on the goal and to be the best, there is no other option. There will always be distractions, but you cannot let them impede your progress. I’ve had to spend less time with my party friends at certain times because I know a night of partying would prevent me from performing well the next day. Losing one long run in a marathon season can derail all of your efforts.
8. Build a support system. Many olympians are married or in partnerships with other athletes or care takers because they understand and accept the lifestyle. This is a really important concept. If your spouse or partner doesn’t support your hours in the gym, eating habits, or sleep schedule, it becomes a challenge. I hear this complaint from many of my clients and it will create a lot of stress that will affect your results.
9. Be good to yourself. Olympians train like beasts but they also sleep 8 hours a night, get massages, take ice baths and treat their bodies well. It’s about balance and if you are training a lot, your body needs sleep and massages. Try to incorporate an additional 30 minutes of rest, join a monthly massage program, or spend some time on the roller each night. This part of the process is just as important as the training.
10. Stay positive. Shalene Flanagan is one of the most accomplished American runners in history and absolutely adorable in person. She had an absolutely horrific race where she just felt like walking off the course, but she didn’t. She didn’t place in the top 3 in that race, but she did win the next marathon she did. You’re not going to feel like a rockstar every day, so instead of letting the obstacles get you down, use them to make you stronger.
Your mind is your strongest muscle and the key to your success. I hope you can create a mindset that will help you succeed at whatever you choose to do. You have one life so go ahead, get started!
In Health and Happiness,