Fitness Tips from Three Olympic Coaches (cont.)
Workout Advice -- Olympic Style
What we often don't realize, Selznick says, is that the body can't play "catch up." And the longer we've been out of the fitness loop, the more caution we have to take.
"You not only have to take special care to warm up before you begin the activity itself, but you also have to put a limit on how long you participate, particularly the first few times out on the field, the sand, or the court," says Selznick, who has personally trained more than 160 international sports professionals including 25 Olympians.
As Selznick explains, when fatigue comes into play, you reduce the body's ability to withstand impact. And this, he says, sets the stage for injury.
Olympic gold medal winner Kerri Walsh agrees. "Even being less active for a month can make a difference. If you haven't been physically active for a few months or more you have to be prepared to experience some fatigue -- maybe sooner than you realize," says Walsh.
If you continue to press on too hard, says Selznick, disaster is bound to occur.
"Fatigue doesn't affect joints, it affects muscles, but if muscles aren't strong your joints take the brunt of the force -- and something has to give," says Selznick. That something, he says, can be a bone, tendon, or ligament. And it could mean a summer on the bleachers instead of on the field.
If you do get injured, Walsh says stop activity immediately and take care of the problem.
"Don't try to push through. If you are injured, listen to your body and stop, or you risk making whatever happens a lot worse," says Walsh.
Getting Your Body in Olympic Shape
To help avoid playtime injuries and keep their toned bodies in medal-winning shape, our three Olympians tell WebMD they frequently perform a system of exercises known as plyometrics. These are body movements based on the principle that short muscle contraction is stronger if it immediately follows a lengthening contraction. The end result, they say, is the muscle is able to store more elastic energy -- and that means fewer injuries.
Their regular workouts also involve a form of resistance training known as "fast twitch" -- which actually refers to the muscle fibers that contract the quickest and generate the most power.
"It's resistance going both down and up and it works on your core strength. It's all done on rehabilitation machines and as hard as you push the machine, that's as hard as it pushes you back," says Walsh.
But for those of us just a little less active in our sporting life, each Olympian suggests frequent workouts with a yoga or medicine ball for overall strength training that can benefit you in almost any sport.
"It improves core strength and balance. And this can be beneficial no matter what activity you're doing," says Walsh.
While workouts help tone the body, each medal winner also tells WebMD that diet plays an integral role in maintaining their muscle stamina, particularly in warm-weather competitions. Surprisingly, however, each of the Olympic athletes has a radically different way of jet-fueling her ability.