To make sure you’re training like a pro, we’ve enlisted the experts to break down exactly how you can emulate your favourite athletes – at your own pace.
Miriam Pollak, a program specialist for athlete performance health for the Australian Sports Commission, explains that in order to train like an Olympian, you also need to fuel your body with the right nutrients pre- and post-workout.
While eating like an athlete “doesn’t have to be fancy”, Pollak says it’s important to consume some carbohydrates half an hour to an hour before training.
“A lot of people tend to think they should train on an empty stomach, but you can’t work half as hard as you would if you’d eaten.”
Many of us have been led to believe that the best thing you can consume after training is a protein shake, but as Pollak explains, “90 per cent of people don’t need one”.
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Instead, she advises having “something that has about 20g of protein as well as some carbohydrates – that might be a tub of yoghurt and a bit of fruit.”
Chocolate milk is actually one of the best post-training food options. “It’s the perfect amount of carbohydrates to refuel your muscles and protein to help repair your muscles.”
“Or it could just be the next meal you’re about to have,” she adds. “If you train in the evening, your dinner is a perfectly appropriate recovery meal.”
At the end of the day, keep in mind that Olympians have a “team of specialists – strength and conditioning coaches, nutritionists and sports scientists – monitoring them every day,” Pollak adds.
“For the home athlete, the main thing is to be consistent and allow your body time to recover. That’s where people go wrong – they overdo it.”
4 ways to train like an Olympian:
Given there’s no equipment required, and it can start the second you walk out the door, a run is one of the easiest ways you can get in a workout.
But as Philo Saunders, a Paralympic coach and senior physiologist for the Australian Institute of Sport, tells Body+Soul, “Strength in the legs, hips and core is required to run with good technique and avoid injuries.”
Irrespective of whether they’re training for sprints or marathons, most runners vary their training to include everything from high-speed intervals to long-duration runs. But in terms of overall technique, Saunders says you should “feel your feet make contact with the ground directly underneath your body – not out in front, as this will increase the braking force”.
Try to stay symmetrical on both sides of your body, and “use your hamstrings and glutes to propel from the ground to generate speed”.
If you’re doing high-intensity intervals, Saunders recommends “a warm-up jog of at least five minutes, plus some dynamic stretches, and running drills”, which will all help get the body ready to run fast.
If it’s a slower run, the warm-up can include “activation stretches and drills – from there you can start slower and build the pace”.
- Walking drills
- Calf pulses
- Glute bridges
The rowing teams gliding across the water might make this sport look effortless, but there’s a huge amount of training required to get to this point.
As Kellyanne Redman, a strength and conditioning coach at the NSW Institute of Sport (NSWIS), tells Body+Soul, “Rowers are aiming to complete the perfect stroke throughout a race and training. In the gym, we seek to complete the perfect repetition throughout each training session.
Key lifts [such as the below] help to increase the amount of force rowers can produce during the drive phase of rowing, [which] will, in turn, increase the average boat distance per stroke.”
- Back squats
- Bench pulls
Whether you’re a spin-class veteran or have only just graduated from your training wheels, cycling is a great low-impact way to get your heart rate up – and it can be done either inside your home on a stationary bike or out on the open road.
To hone your technique, Saunders says you need to work on the core cycling muscles by doing “strength training that activates the hamstrings, quads, glutes and calves”.
You’ll become more efficient and avoid injuries if you can “recruit the right muscle groups” when you’re cycling, he explains.
- Leg presses
- Hamstring curls
- Hamstring extensions
- Calf raises
While you might not be able to give Australian swim star Cate Campbell a run for her money just yet, there are a few key techniques that can help you perfect your stroke.
“The ability to swim fast is determined by the skill of the individual to maximise their propulsive forces (starts/turns, pull and kick) while minimising the negative impact of drag forces (friction, form and wave),” Matthew Woolnough, a NSWIS strength and conditioning coach, tells Body+Soul.
With this in mind, he recommends that you:
Master the pull-up. “Every stroke involves a vertical pulling motion, thus being strong through this movement is imperative. Utilise overhead pulling exercises such as lat pull-downs and pull-ups to improve your strength.”
Mobilise your thoracic spine. “A thoracic spine that’s stiff and immobile can limit your ability to get into streamline [position], compromise your dolphin kick, and increase the risk of injury to your shoulders and lower back. Focus on exercises that target thoracic extension and rotation.”
Nail your dry-land prep. “Due to its highly repetitive nature, swimming can lead to muscular imbalances and movement asymmetries which, if left unaddressed, can lead to injury. An effective and well-executed dry-land program not only counteracts these imbalances and asymmetries, but can also improve joint mobility and stability, flexibility and core strength.”
- Trunk twists
- Shoulder shrugs
- Arm swings