The Olympics Games are the holy mecca of athleticism. As the world's largest and most watched sporting event, only the best of the best individuals and teams get to represent their country and compete. So how does one become an Olympian? Great genes and luck, of course. Just kidding. But seriously- the answer is actually pretty straightforward, just ask Sean O'Brien, one of DIAKADI's very own trainers. Sean comes from a background of competitive running and even competed in the 2004 Olympic Trials, making it to the semi-finals. According to Sean, the road to Olympic glory can be broken down into 5 components: 1) Train 2) Recover 3) Focus 4) Keep it fun 5) Find your gift. Read on and let Sean's wisdom inspire you -- whether it's to become an Olympic athlete or just be the best version of yourself.
1. Train. A lot.
Being an Olympic caliber athlete means training every day, usually for several hours and sometimes for the majority of the day. When I was training for the Olympic Trials in Track and Field, a really hard day might consist of: Waking up, eating breakfast, doing a warm-up jog of 2- 4 miles, going through active stretching, drills, and strides, doing a workout such as a tempo run, cooling down, eating food, stretching and foam rolling, resting for a few hours at home, warming up for a second workout, such as 9X300m on the track at race pace with a 100m rest running slowly, cooling down a couple miles, eating a little food, doing a strength training session in the weight room, ice bath or massage, eating dinner, doing some more stretching and foam rolling and then bedtime.
Easy days are much easier than what I just listed. Really it's just an hour or so of work. So people used to ask why I didn't just work a part-time job. It's because when you're trying to recover from the type of workout you're routinely doing, you need to be fully resting. Nothing physically hard, nothing mentally hard, just rest. A lot of terrible TV while lying on the floor and foam rolling. I know athletes that disagree and say that they need the stimulation, but I've known a lot of Olympians and I've definitely observed that they tend to be of the fully resting variety. Eating right is also very important, but it's more about eating enough, making sure the macro portions are approximately enough and getting enough nutrients/diversity. After that, it's just fuel when your working that much and that hard. Most of the Olympians I've known did not have a great diet, just a ton of food to rebuild with and an amazing metabolism.
My coach once told me that I should consider every single thing I did over the course of a day and ask myself “Is this going to help me make an Olympic team?”. If the answer was no then I shouldn't do it. I loved skiing and rock climbing and they are great for improving your overall health, but would they make me faster? No. So as much as I loved them, for a decade I did them very sparsely and only during off-season training.
4. Keep it fun
For all my writing so far about focus and effort, I do think you can want it too badly. Looking back at my career I think that's one problem I had and I know other elite athletes who say the same thing. It kept me up at night, it made me overly nervous for races. Early in my career I had more fun with it and didn't worry as much. Later in my career I knew time was short and I had to make the most of it. It became a job and as much as I loved it, I also dreaded it a little bit. You have to keep it fun.
5. Find your gift
As much as people like to pretend otherwise it's extremely hard to beat natural talent. If anyone works hard they can improve immensely, but in some case it will just not be enough. Finding something that you are naturally gifted in can take you a long way if you're also willing to do the work.