By Karen Cicero
Sure, you’re not working out to win a gold medal, but you still can pick up a couple of performance-boosting tricks from Olympic athletes. Sprinter Allyson Felix and fellow American taekwondo guru Steve Lopez — who are both going for gold in the London 2012 Olympics — share their strategies to stay motivated, confident and in top shape.
Find a Workout Buddy
“Running is a lot more fun with friends,” says Felix. Plus, it’s a great way to excuse-proof your exercise routine. When you make a plan to work out with your friend, you’re less likely to change it because you know the other person is counting on you. New research at Michigan State University even found that working out with a virtual exercise buddy doubled the amount of time study participants spent cycling.
Make A Doable Plan
Even Olympic athletes don’t want to get up at 4 a.m. every day to hit the gym, says Felix. So making that your goal is just setting yourself up for failure. “Know when you’re realistically going to be able to get in your exercise and stick to that schedule,” says Felix. And if you still feel like blowing off your workout that day? “There are days when I don’t feel like being up and working out, and I just try to smile” says Lopez. “Smiling makes you a happier person and gives you confidence.”
Don’t Get Down on Yourself
Ever have those days when you didn’t finish your run in the time that you wanted, or you couldn’t do as many strength-training exercises as you planned? Don’t beat yourself up. “If you give your workout 100 percent effort, you never lose,” says Felix. “I’ve been in competitions where I didn’t win a medal but gave it my all and have still been proud of myself.” Adds Lopez: “I want to have that perfect day, that perfect performance, and I still haven’t had that. I may never have the perfect performance, but I want to aspire to reach for it.”
“If your arms are tight and tense, the tension will move into your neck and back and make your workout more difficult than it has to be,” says Felix. To prevent this, stretch your triceps before your workout: Extend one arm over your head, bend it at the elbow and gently push that arm behind your head with your other hand.
Change up Your Routine
Five days a week of doing the exact same workout is boring. “I love exercises, like Hula-Hooping, that aren’t sports-driven,” says Felix. Another idea: “Go to a local track and sprint the straightaways and walk the curves. It’s a great cardio workout that can accomplish the same thing as longer jogs.”