Welcome to our "Like An Olympian" series. During the 2012 London Olympics, HuffPost Healthy Living will take a look at lifestyle and fitness lessons from competitors, coaches and former Olympians alike. We recently had the opportunity to speak with gymnast John Orozco, who will join the U.S. Gymnastics Team in London.
My dad got me into gymnastics when I was eight years old. He came home with a flyer one day. From the minute I went to the gym, I just loved it. I loved the thrill of competing, flying around on a high bar, the different types of routines and events. I’m very competitive, so I just loved it. I also love the different things you can do with the sport -- it's very athletic and very artistic at the same time.
That’s the hard part: making it look easy! It's not like basketball or other sports that every person could play just casually. It's definitely not something every person could do. It’s the toughest sport in the world.
I train a total of five hours a day. I get up in the morning and go to practice from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. and then I have a break -- or physical therapy -- and then I start up again at 3:30 p.m. until 6 p.m. I have the fighter as my alarm clock. Seriously! I get up, it’s a normal day -- I don’t even think about it anymore. I know what needs to be done to achieve my goals. Its not something that I think about.
I also coach -- I started coaching when I was 15 or 16 because, why not? Definitely being an athlete helps me to be a better coach. My kids are doing really great in competition. I'm still young and learning, but they're getting results.
The number one thing I tell them is to make every day count. Get at least one thing done. Make sure you're progressing each day, especially on hard days, when you have an injury or you don't feel like being there. It's really important to always work hard. I mean, the way I see it: if you’re going to start something, you better be committed and stay true to yourself and make sure you make it happen. It has gotta come from within you, the desire to make it happen no matter what.
For me, during training or competition there's not much that I need in the way of motivation. All the high energy is there and I get into competition mode. But in training, when I have tough days, I have to remind myself: "You’ve come this far, there’s no stopping now."
I think the best advice I ever got came from my old coach from Chappaqua. He focused on the fundamental skills in gymnastics and kept the importance on those. He told me to make sure that I always keep working on basics. Without your basics, you can’t succeed very far.
There's also the Team USA passion in the gym, the spirit that bonds us together as a team and gets us motivated. We wouldn’t be as good as we are without that. We're pushing each other every day -- it makes us who we are.
I've also started changing my habits, being with the Olympic Training Committee. Before competition, I didn’t used to eat anything because I don’t want to go in feeling heavy. But now, I have yogurt or something healthy with a lot of protein mixed with carbs. At home in New York, always on the go, I'd get fast food or quick takeout food. I used to order pizza late at night and that was really bad food for me. Now that I’m at the OTC, I have a great plan because nutritionists helped me learn about what portions I need to be eating, proper nutrients.
As told to Meredith Melnick. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity and length.
For more from our "Like An Olympian" series, click here.
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