When I see fitness, I see the limitless possibilities of life. I see strength that reaches far beyond physical. I see potential bursting through preconceived boundaries and I see unending capabilities and power. This is my fitness. Realizing true potential through the simple act of exercise.
While Olympic athletes seem to be superhuman, they all started as regular people who decided to make a firm commitment to training. If you are like me, when the torch marches across continents, there is a surge of inspiration that pours out from the Olympic coverage. Stories of lifelong hardship, impossible training conditions and unthinkable comebacks inspire us to do more with our lives. But before you start hurdling park benches and pole-vaulting over the dog, here are a few points to keep in mind.
Being an an Olympic athlete is a full-time job. Inspiration is great, but dedication and consistency are more important when it comes to winning a gold medal. As an example, Olympic triathlete Jonny Brownlee trains about eight hours a day. Besides the daily time commitment, it's common for athletes to invest four to eight years training in a sport before making an Olympic team. Most of us struggle to find one hour out of our day to exercise, and hardly know what we are doing next Friday. So where does that leave your aspiring inner athlete?
Lesson One: Make a Plan
The first thing you need to do is make a plan. Unless you are a career athlete, making a plan will be a bit more challenging than you think. The best thing you can do for yourself is hire a trainer. It will make you accountable and consistent. Think of a trainer as an investment in yourself. A good trainer will put together a program designed specifically with your goals in mind. Olympic cyclist Kristin Armstrong has said that she believes, "One of the best things I did for myself was hire a coach," because he helped her focus on things she wasn't good at, allowing her to be a well-rounded athlete.
Lesson Two: Commitment
You can always exercise tomorrow, right? Without a concrete schedule, exercise will inevitably take a backseat to happy hour, an extra hour of sleep or the office. Your workout routine will grow into a habit, but the schedule needs to be nurtured and reinforced. If you calendar starts to fail you, try working out with a friend. The added commitment of another person will keep you on track. The time working out can double as a venting session about your annoying boss, or it can be an opportunity to get closer with someone who caught your eye. (I can let you in on a little secret -- exercise can be a huge turn-on. Don't believe me? Just ask my boyfriend. He gave me one piggy-back and I was sold.)
Lesson Three: Be Consistent
Once your plan is in place and the workouts are scheduled, all you need to do is be consistent. Half of the battle of exercise is showing up. Even a bad workout is still a workout. Your routine builds on itself. If you skip a week or two it might not set you back to square one, but it will require a re-start. You want to carry momentum throughout the year so that you only move forward. There will be days or even weeks that you just do not want to exercise. Even Olympic gymnast Alicia Sacramone says she has "days when I really don't want to do anything, but I make it a point to do something physical every day."
In the words of Aristotle, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."
Let's take these lessons as a base for building a Summer Olympics training program. You may have to wait till 2016 to show off your skills, but I created routines to get you started. Over the next few weeks, I will outline themed exercise routines based on our favorite Olympic events. While the workouts might not turn us back into prepubescent gymnasts, it will get us off the couch and into the spirit of the games.
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