Inspired by the Winter Olympics to fire up your fitness game? You might think you are able to train like an Olympic athlete, but there is one caveat: Not everyone is ready for the kind of exercises that professional athletes might be doing, and moving too fast too soon can lead to injury.
That said, a handful of exercises that are common to Olympic training programs can be done by almost anyone, says Dr. Timothy Miller, a sports medicine specialist at Ohio State University. The key — whether you’re a weekend warrior or couch potato — is to be sure you start slowly and work your way up to a more aggressive workout, he tells Newsmax Health.
“Athletes need to start from a base,” says Miller, director of the Endurance Medicine Program at OSU and a board-certified orthopedic surgeon. “You have to get in shape to get in [better] shape.”
Miller says intense workouts — such as high-intensity interval training — can be effective ways to boost your fitness. But it’s important not to push yourself too hard in the early going. The goal should be to raise your heart rate, but not work so hard that you’re unable to speak or catch your break while exercising.
“High-intensity interval training uses relatively short bursts of activity and rest intervals in between,” he says. “For example, you might put a group of five runners on a track. The last runner has to catch up with the first by short bursts of increased activity. Once he is in the led, the routine starts anew with the last runner who will use short sprints to gain the lead for himself.
“This can be done relatively simply for other athletes. Start out at your normal pace and every few hundred yards, sprint for two or three mailboxes, then shut it down. This is an effective way of increasing endurance.”
Here are a handful of other exercises, based on Olympic training programs, that you can incorporate into your fitness routine.
Circuit training: Olympic athletes and armchair Olympians alike can build strength through circuit training, which involves moving from one station weight-training station to another, doing different kinds of exercise to get a total body workout.
Plyometics: This type of exercise helps athletes develop explosive power and muscle tone. One example: Athletes might stand on the floor and then jump onto a box in front of them, increasing the difficulty by adding more boxes of different heights. As the athlete adapts to higher jumps he or increases strength and accuracy.
Airborne pushups: This modification of the traditional gymnasium exercise takes it to a whole new level. The athlete pushes as hard as he can so that the whole body comes off the ground. Some people like to clap their hands before coming back down. “This is an intense workout,” Miller says. “These are quick explosive movements that develop good reflexes and provide and upper and lower body workout.”
Bicep curls: Another challenging routine involves modifying the biceps curl to build more strength and muscle. You bend the elbow up with a weight in hand, then let the arm down very slowly. This exercise carries with it a high risk of injury, like tendon rupture, so it has to be done cautiously — not too much too soon, Miller explains.
Other resistance training: Regardless of the type of resistance training you do, it’s important to start with light weights. Aim to do 15 repetitions with light weights, then add more weight and perform fewer reps as you build strength.
Cardio: Conditioning is also important for cardiovascular health and overall fitness. Miller suggests starting with something low impact without a lot of pounding on joints. Using a stationary bike, or running in a pool, carries little risk of injury.
Miller adds that it’s important to vary your workout routine to avoid becoming bored. If you do the same workout for three months, you may gain strength, but it becomes a grind, he notes.
“Don’t do the same workout every day. Add something that makes your body work differently,” he says.
“If your goal is to be a cyclist, going out and bicycling 100 miles a day isn’t best. Add more challenging skills to your routine. Or, if you’re playing basketball throw in some different skills.”
One key component is training is to have a goal to work toward. If you don’t have a goal it’s hard to get there.
“Tell a lot of people about your goal, and they’ll remind you, re-energize you. It reinforces your reason for doing this,” he says.
A goal-setting technique Miller recommends:
- Take a few pieces of paper and write something down like “20 pushups,” or “run up and down a hill” or “end workout now.”
- Put the pieces of paper into a hat
- When you get to the end of a workout, pick a piece of paper and do whatever it instructs.
- Following the directions on the piece of paper shakes up your workout and puts you into gear. This builds up endurance quickly.
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