The 2012 London Summer Olympics definitely lived up to the hype! London and the entire UK did a fantastic job hosting the events. Team USA ended on top in the overall medal count after closely trailing China for most of the games. News from the games saturated almost every conceivable media and social media outlet for weeks. With a public reunion and big finale performance by the Spice Girls during closing ceremonies the 2012 Summer Olympics have now sadly come to an end. The stories and struggles of some of the amazing Olympians and the many World and Olympic records broken in London were incredibly motivating and empowering. Are you inspired in your personal fitness by these great athletes? I know I am! This prompted me to find out more about the fitness routines that got them to the very top of their game – literally to the pinnacle of their sports.
Train with Strength!
To be at the top of their game to qualify and compete in the Olympics these dedicated athletes spend countless hours practicing a specifically designed fitness routine to achieve peak performance. They train hard to compete with the best athletes in the world and know the value of rest and recovery. What I find interesting in the Olympians’ fitness routines is the variation of training to build strength and speed to compete at the highest level. It may seem that that if you are going to compete as a distance runner you would only focus on running…for a long time. It would make sense to train the leg muscles to go as fast and for as long as possible. Interestingly enough most Olympic athletes also perform a great deal of cross-training and resistance training in a balanced fitness routine for a strong balanced physique.
It is human nature to critique and judge ourselves. You might say “I want to run my 5k faster” or “I want to improve my cycling distance.” When you set fitness goals for yourself you have to make sure to include other aspects of your physical fitness. This is why you often find runners who only perform cardiovascular training but neglect traditional resistance training. While increased muscle tone may seem counterproductive for a competitive cardiovascular-endurance based athlete there are four reasons that even these athletes should engage in resistance training.
By strengthening the muscle around the joints and ligaments you will be less prone to injury. This will also improve overall body flexibility.
Increase and Maintain Muscle Mass
As we age our muscle mass naturally decreases. Resistance training adds definition to your muscles as well as maintains muscle mass. But don’t worry you will not turn into the “Incredible Hulk” overnight. It takes years and extreme weight lifting to put on muscle mass that will make you seem bulky or interfere with your running goals.
When our muscle fibers contract they are using Adenosine Tri Phosphate (ATP) as the main source for energy. The more muscle mass in your body the more ATP storage your body will have to use as fuel. The ATP from your muscles also allows you to exercise longer and faster without feeling fatigue. You must also have the proper nutrition and hydration for resistance training to be beneficial. Running on an empty stomach can cause fatigue and cramping before your run is over. Would you try a cross-country drive with only a quarter tank of gas? Obviously you will not get very far. The same thing goes for your body. . After your workout your body craves a source of complex carbohydrate to refill your glycogen stores and help repair your muscles.
Burn more calories!
Who doesn’t like the sound of burning calories? Since resistance training helps burn fat for fuel and strengthens muscle fibers you get a calorie deficit from adding resistance training into your fitness routine. Fat burns little or no calories each day. Muscle on the other hand burns calories even when we are not physically active. While you are at work sitting behind the desk your muscles are burning calories in order to maintain their current state.
Go for the Gold!
Before you get too inspired and decide to hit the gym for five hours a day to gain Olympic speed and strength think about setting realistic and attainable goals. It is important to establish goals to guide your fitness journey.. Keep in mind focus on smaller short-term goals is easier to maintain and progressive goals are easier to achieve along the journey to your ultimate goal. Strong muscles will not develop overnight and there is no use trying to be a hero and lift more weight than you can handle. An injury will only stall your progress. Slowly add the resistance training into your fitness routines to get all the added benefits of strength training for your chosen sport and for your own overall fitness health.