August 10, 2012

An Olympic athlete's life isn't all glory

It’s hard to believe, but the daily routine of an Olympic athlete is actually quite boring. 

They spend the majority of their time sleeping, lifting weights, going to practice, eating bland food in ordinary restaurants and sitting around their hotel room.

The exception to this monotony is race day. Things change on race day. This is when all the hours in the weight room and all the sessions on the track pay off. Along with the rest of the support staff, it is my job to get the athlete’s body and mind ready to compete. To prepare them to win.


Emotions and behaviors change on race day. Athletes get strange. Personalities get magnified. A chatty athlete becomes an obnoxious loudmouth. A moody person suddenly intolerable. Not unlike some friends after a few cocktails ...

Race day starts early. Up at 6 a.m. and immediately to the weight room with the athletes. In power sports (like track cycling, sprinting and bobsled), it is common to use a brief, explosive training session in the weight room to “potentiate” the nervous system. Basically, we want to “wake up” the muscles and nerves to improve performance later in the day.

Immediately following the session, we hit breakfast for the race-day meal. My athletes try to have their last meal three hours prior to competition.  Athletes’ menuS will vary slightly, but they always have something bland and familiar. The morning of an Olympic race is NOT the time to try out the goat curry.


Ninety minutes prior to the race, the athletes and I arrive at the track. They change into their race suits and start an easy warm-up. For the past year, I have been working with each of my athletes on developing a specific and individualized “pre-race routine.” I don’t want any surprises on race day, and I don’t want my athletes worrying about what they need to do next. Everything I do is planned in advance and implemented in a very specific order.

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