It's time again for the Summer Olympics, and if you're like most
people, watching athletes from around the world go "faster, higher,
stronger" in pursuit of a medal is awe-inspiring and inspirational.
While Olympians compete at a level most people can't imagine, they
do have some winning strategies anyone can emulate when it comes to health
Michael Stouder, MD, a board-certified family medicine physician at
Mission Heritage Medical Group, recommends these suggestions and gold medal tips:
Set a goal--and stay focused on it: Most of us have a dream we want to achieve--but how many of us have the
determination to stick to it when obstacles are put in our path? Usain
Bolt's Olympics debut in 2004 was inauspicious--he didn't make
it out of the first round of the 200-meter event because of an injury.
But at the next Olympics in 2008, he set world records in the 100-meter,
200-meter and 4x100-meter relay races. At the most recent Olympics in
2012, he won gold in those three events again--and hopes to achieve that
"triple triple" feat in Rio as well. He overcame that initial
injury and once he achieved his goal, he set new ones and focused on them.
That's something that can be helpful in many areas of life, which
includes setting goals to improve your health, such as lowering your cholesterol
or eating better.
GOLD MEDAL TIP: "Many Olympic athletes say a positive attitude helps
them over the humps of training," Dr. Stouder says. "Set some
affirmations you can reflect on in times of struggle, and visualize yourself
achieving your goal. It also helps if you build a support network of people
who will cheer you on."
Food is fuel: Top athletes know that they are what they eat--and if their diet is poor,
so is their athletic performance. Fresh, colorful produce, lean proteins
and healthy carbs ensure a balanced diet that helps the body during activity,
and rest and recovery. And don't forget the water--staying hydrated
is a must for everyone, athlete or not.
GOLD MEDAL TIP: "Athletes' diets are strictly regimented, so carefully
plan out your meals," Dr. Stouder says. "Know what you are eating
for each meal of the week and make sure you have healthy snacks on hand--especially
carb-and-protein combos, such as almond butter and whole-grain bread or
a protein shake, for post-workout recovery. That will curb impulse eating
and potential poor food choices."
Practice stress management: In the world of elite, Olympic-caliber athletes, the desire to excel in
competition can mean high stakes and high pressure. It's important
to cultivate an outlet to deal with that stress. Leon Taylor, a silver
medalist in diving from Great Britain, stressed the importance of staying
calm and collected in competition--for him, that meant practicing deep
breathing and taking a moment to compose himself before executing a dive.
GOLD MEDAL TIP: "Find a few moments each day when you have time to
yourself and spend it getting centered with prayer, meditation, deep breathing
or whole-body relaxation techniques," Dr. Stouder says.
Set a routine--and stick with it: Training for the Olympics requires immense dedication and self-discipline.
U.S. marathoner Meb Keflezighi won a silver medal in his sport thanks
in part to working out 12 times a week--running every day, plus cross
training or a second run five times a week. While many of us have trouble
finding time to go to the gym, carving out regular time for exercise is
important to our overall health and shouldn't be ignored.
GOLD MEDAL TIP: "Wake up early and do a home workout or find a class
at the gym and build that time into your schedule. (Many Olympians say
starting their morning with exercise motivates them for the day ahead),"
Dr. Stouder says. "If you haven't been exercising regularly,
start small--say, a 10-minute walk--and work your way up to increasing
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.