When it comes to fitness, who better to seek insight from than world-class athletes and the people who train them? The MensHealth.com team recently asked a dozen U.S. Olympic athletes for the best advice they've ever gotten. Here's what five of them had to say. Apply these tips to your workout today, and you'll start seeing results tomorrow.
Eric Shanteau, Team USA Swimming
“Don’t get hurt training.”—His weight coach, Doc Kreis
Sure, you have to push yourself hard to reach Olympic status, but don’t push too hard. “That’s when you’ll do something stupid and hurt yourself,” says Shanteau, who beat the competition and testicular cancer on his way to the Games. Your move: Follow your training plan unless your body is telling you not to, says Kristen Dieffenbach, Ph.D., a certified sports psychology advisor to the U.S. Olympic Committee. “The smart athlete knows what fatigue level to expect, and trains and adjusts accordingly.” Signs of exhaustion? Small mistakes, posture or form faults, moodiness, or an increased/decreased heart rate that you can’t explain.
David Boudia, Team USA Diving
“See food like gasoline.”—His nutritionist, Jennifer Gibson
“If your car takes premium and you put in regular unleaded, it’ll destroy it. If I put nastiness in my body, I expect bad results,” Boudia says. Performing in front of millions in only a Speedo is motivation to stay slim, but a poor diet also throws off Boudia’s game. “A five-pound weight gain affects how fast you spin. If you dive a good, trim line, the judges will score you half a point higher,” he says. Steal his secret: For an energy boost, throw two carrots, one apple, a few slices of pineapples, and a beet in a juicer. “I stick with raw, whole foods,” he says. “That way I know what I’m putting in my body.”
Jen Kessy, Team USA Beach Volleyball
“Mix up your routine.”
Changing it up in the gym might be the secret to lifelong fitness. Maybe that’s why Jen Kessy, a standout on Team USA Volleyball, has been in the game so long. In fact, research shows it to be true: When 52 people were broken up into three groups—one that varied its workouts, one that did the same thing every time, and one that had no regulations—most of the people who dropped out of the study were from the group that didn’t switch things up, according to a University of Florida at Gainesville study. The group that varied its routines found exercise 20 percent more enjoyable than the other groups. (Variety is one of the secrets to Speed Shred, our all-new total-body workout program. It's also the fastest way to build the body you’ve always wanted. Check it out!)
Trey Hardee, Team USA Decathlon
“If you really want to be serious, listen to the people who are trying to make you better.”—A coach from another high school when he was younger
Hardee describes his former self as a butthead high school kid who just loved to pole vault. He was good at things you can’t coach: He was tall and fast. “I never warmed up, cooled down, or did anything to take care of my body.” That is, until a coach from another high school told him to smarten up. Since then, he’s been focusing on the whole picture, and it’s paid off. Since high school, Hardee has transformed into a two-time world crown holder, NCAA and U.S. National champion—and, oh yeah—two-time Olympian.
Allyson Felix, Team USA Track & Field
“Train with friends.”
This sprinter hates running—for long distances, that is. What’s her trick for keeping herself honest? Making a promise to a friend that she can’t back out on. But you won’t find her being buddy-buddy on the track on race day: When it comes down to the wire, you need to zone everything out and focus, she says. After all, “You can be prepared, and super, super physically ready, but if you don’t have that mental portion, it can all fall apart.” So stay cool under pressure with these 4 Mental Tricks from Top Olympians.
Additional research and writing by Cassie Shortsleeve and Madeline Haller
Photo credits: PMG Sports (Boudia); Justin Kosman/Red Bull Content Pool (Hardee)