Know what Olympic Athletes Have That We Would Like to Emulate?

Posted by Beth Hartman

They Live Longer!

Well, the summer 2016 Olympic Games kicked off this past Friday, August 5th in Rio and Team USA is already making a great showing in the overall medal counts.  Know what all those athletes have in common with each other, it's been studied that because they are in such great shape that they tend to live longer than the rest of us and have less of a history with dementia, heart, and cardiovascular diseases than those of us that just sit back on our chairs and watch the Olympic events take place every 4 years. In case you weren't sure before, these studies, to be published in the British Medical Journal, confirm that Olympic athletes are indeed some of the healthiest people in the world.

According to CNN, the first study looked at the life expectancy of 15,174 Olympians from the top medal-earning countries including the U.S., Germany, Russia, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Each athlete medaled at least once in the Games between 1896 and 2010 and was compared to the general population groups matched by age, country, and gender. Overall the Olympic medalists lived an average of 2.8 years longer than the public in eight of the nine countries in a 30-year follow-up, regardless of whether they placed gold, silver, or bronze or which sport they played.

The second study also found that an athlete's sport wasn't a factor. Those who participated in events such as cricket or golf shared similar mortality rates with those who participated in high-intensity sports such as gymnastics and cycling, suggesting that training at high or moderate intensities doesn't necessarily provide more of a benefit.  But being active does!

The researchers didn't specifically study the reasons why Olympians live longer than others, but they noted that it could be partly due to genetics, as well as training environments. This takes into account that the typical Olympic athletes tend to have more of an opportunity to enjoy the highest-quality diet and fitness regimes than the average person does.

Either way, we think exercising more can't hurt your chances of living longer! If nothing else, these studies just affirm our belief in the power of regular workouts. This should be a great motivator on why exercise is the single best thing you can do for your health. 

To help you monitor and set the right goals for your own exercise routines trainers agree that an activity monitor with a heart rate monitor is a great training tool.  A monitor like the Polar M600 Strapless Heart Rate Monitor Smart Watch Whether you are a top athlete who needs to optimize his/her training or a tech-savvy fitness enthusiast wanting to be in good physical and mental shape; this Polar M600 will be your perfect companion for daily sweat sessions and beyond. Tether this high-tech wearable to your wrist and keep a track of all your activities on the go.  Now you can train just like an Olypian who has their own training coach or partner there with them all the time!

Below are some tips from former Medalists of the games that have helped them reach their objective. See if you can incorporate some of their tips into your daily workout sessions.


Every week, Davenport, a former gold medalist, does 10 to 15 hours of hitting and stroke (tennis) drills at a neighborhood court in her hometown of Laguna Beach, CA, plus three hours of free weights, the occasional Pilates class and two sessions of footwork and plyometrics (high-impact drills).   Along with doing “Three-Way Lunges” (stepping forward, laterally, then back) This tones the quads and mimic the motion of hitting a low shot. Four days a week, Davenport does 10 to 20 reps on each leg.  One tip that Davenport mentions is that she cut out the soda and lemonade and went cold turkey on caffeine.  Drinking just water and drinks supplemented with electrolytes.

MIND GAME: "Keeping your head in each point is the toughest thing about tennis," says Davenport, who spends a few moments in silent visualization before every match. "You need a sense of calm and a big sense of belief."  This helps let you take things in stride so that you can focus on not only your physical self but also your state of mind.

Diana Lopez, TAE KWON DO: Beginning two months before the competition, Lopez — who lives in Houston — practices tae kwon do five days a week for two hours a day. She also works in six hours of plyometrics, footwork drills, and weight training; a Bikram yoga class; and three 30-minute jogs a week.  When Lopez wants fast results, she combines speed intervals with plyometrics: three sets of 10 reps of jumping on and off a raised step, with 10 seconds of uphill sprinting on a treadmill between each set. "I love the strength and explosiveness it gives me in matches."

EAT LIKE A PRO:  At 5-foot-10 and 132 pounds, Lopez had to drop to 125 pounds to qualify for the featherweight division. After narrowly missing the 2004 Olympic team, she cut junk food and fast food from her diet and learned to subsist on oatmeal, fruit, lean protein, and greens. "You have to listen to your body," she says. "Now I feel so much faster in competition."

Julie Swail Ertel, Triathlon  Working out is a full-time job when you're juggling three sports. Nobody knows this better than Julie Swail Ertel, a 35-year-old SoCal native and 2000 Olympic silver medalist in water polo, who puts in 20 hours of cycling, swimming, and running a week.

When Ertel incorporated a balancing exercise — standing on one leg for a minute on each side into her DIY yoga routine a year ago, her running times dropped almost immediately. "Running is just balancing on one leg and then another," she says. Now she does the pose twice a week.To stave off boredom, Ertel constantly tries new things: In April, she ran a 3000-meter race at a local community college — and won.

SNEAKER SMARTS: Running without socks is a recipe for disaster, especially when you have size 12 feet. Ertel combats blisters by plastering them with Band-Aids or coating her feet in a thin layer of Vaseline in humid climates.

Kristin Armstrong, Cycling: Kristin Armstrong is used to being mistaken for someone else — the ex-wife of a certain seven-time Tour de France winner. But since she started racking up her own impressive victories — including the 2006 World Time Trial Championships — Armstrong, has made a name for herself as the woman to beat, Just call her "K-Strong." Armstrong trains in three-week blocks of increasing intensity — 16 to 25 hours a week on her bike — followed by an easier recovery week. During long Idaho winters, the Boise local heads to the mountains for snowshoeing and Nordic skate skiing.


Twice a week, Armstrong uses her bike as her mobile weight room: She shifts into a high-resistance gear and does 20 to 45 minutes of low-cadence drills to work quads, glutes, and hamstring

During especially hard races, Armstrong talks to herself to stay focused and push through the pain. "I'll ask myself, 'Can you hurt any more?' And then I'll say, 'You have to hurt harder.'

"WORD TO THE WISE: Invest in a bike that fits, get a comfortable saddle (she loves her Fizik), and cycle with a group whenever possible. "Try not to be intimidated," she says. "Most important, have fun."

Natalie Coughlin, Swimming:  The only person who wasn't surprised when Natalie Coughlin raked in five medals (two golds, two silvers, one bronze) at her Olympic debut in Athens was Coughlin. "I expected that of myself," says the 25-year-old Vallejo, CA, native, who started racing when she was 6.

Coughlin is in the pool by 6 a.m., six days a week, for a two-to-four-hour workout with the UC Berkeley team (she graduated in 2005). She also walks or runs with her border terrier, SheRa, and logs three hours of weight training a week.

"Pilates helps improve my stroke efficiency. It also cures me of bad habits, like slouching," says Coughlin, who works out on her own or at a local studio three times a week. "You want to have the same posture in the pool as you have on land."

EAT LIKE A PRO:  Coughlin shops organic, stocks up on just-picked produce from her local CSA (community-supported agriculture), and supplements with veggies from her backyard garden. "As a swimmer, I have the potential to put on a lot of muscle, so I have to be careful."

Sun Smart  If you're out, exercising in the hot summer sun, Kinesys spray-on SPF 30. Waterproof, which of course she uses for the biking and swimming events. Stay on top of your exposure this time of year and do your research and get the best sunscreen available to you, remember, prevention will pay off the older you get!

 Now that you have some tips and workout hints from current and past Olympians you can go out and combine what will work best for you based on your own fitness goals and the type of exercise and lifestyle you’re looking at maintaining.

So bottom line, the results really do speak for themselves, get moving, get in shape and while you may not be an Olympic Athlete yourself, there’s no reason why you can’t also reap the benefits of a longer, active life by keeping your body toned and in shape. So go ahead, that starting gun is about to go off. Get Ready, Get Set……. Go!

 Portions of the information were provided by Alanna Nuñez

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