Sure, competing for your country may seem a tad ambitious, but these Team GB training pointers may help you further your fitness goals just a little bit…
Being one of the world's greatest at any sport is a huge feat, and keeping up with the competition and continuing to improve doesn't come easily either. For the members of Team GB, healthy eating and relentless training plays a huge part in maintaining and advancing their fitness. However, there are other factors considered when striving to be the best.
Ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, which take place this August, we've rounded up some of Team GB’s best training tips, which will hopefully help take your fitness levels up a notch.
1. Don't just think about what you're eating, think about when you're eating too.
While we always think about what we're eating (well, most of the time), professional athletes think about when they’re eating, too. Why? Because food has a huge effect on the body's energy levels pre- and post-training, as well as on how quickly the body's cells and muscles are refuelled.
James Collins, former nutritionist at the English Institute of Sport and current Performance Nutritionist at Arsenal FC, suggests that carbohydrates with a high glycaemic index, such as bananas, bagels and cereal bars, are best for a pre-training snack as the energy in these can be quickly absorbed and provide an instant boost. Post-workout, fluids that have been lost through sweat need to be replaced, and a combination of both carbohydrates and protein is imperative for replenishing muscles. Lean meat, pulses and low-in-fat dairy products are all ideal. If you're completing endurance training, quickly absorbed carbohydrates, like an isotonic drink or gel, are great for supplying the body with a quick burst of energy.
2. Training your mind is just as important as training your body.
Having the physical skill to do something is hugely important, but having the initial belief that you can do it is incredibly important too. Staying calm, focussed and, at the same time, highly motivated takes lots of practice, and different professional athletes use different techniques to help them stay positive when both training and competing. Techniques to focus the mind include meditation, reading uplifting quotes and reciting mantras. Another process that many sports psychologists encourage is music therapy – listening to the right music can change your mood and spur you on.
Sarah Cecil, the technical lead sport psychologist at the English Institute of Sport, suggests listening to music to “evoke the state of mind you want to be in.”
3. Pick just one goal at a time.
Ever picked fifteen New Year's resolutions on January 1st and then realised you’ve failed miserably at all of them come February? That's because aiming for more than one achievement at any one time is near impossible. The best way to actually make progress is to have one goal, reach it and then move on to another. And that's exactly what Olympians do. Whether it be getting fit again after injury, improving upon a personal best or being selected to compete in a particular competition, the professionals only conquer one thing at a time – that’s the key to success.
4. Sleep like a baby every night.
It might seem like an obvious one, but with such busy lives and so many distractions (smartphones, TV, the pub), sleep is often not prioritised enough. As it provides us with more energy, more clarity and better body functionality, sleep is imperative for good fitness performance as well as good recovery – our body's cells recover and restore themselves whilst we sleep. Some of the world's greatest sportsmen and women have revealed that they sleep for at least ten hours every night, while Team GB’s London 2012 gold medallist Andy Murray claimed that his 2013 Wimbledon win was down to getting 12 hours worth of shut eye every night during the tournament.
5. Incorporate training from other disciplines.
Though professional athletes dedicate their lives to one sport, they incorporate many disciplines into their training. For example, Team GB tennis players spend more time in the gym doing cardio and agility drills than on the court, gymnasts focus on weight training to build strength in the arms and legs, and field athletes – long jumpers, pole vaulters and high jumpers – spend time on the track or the treadmill working on their sprint times. So, whichever form of exercise you favour most, never write off the benefits you could reap by practicing something else alongside it.
6. Don't do it alone.
The positive effects of training with a team or with a partner was highlighted very recently. Through working in a team, members of Team GB benefit from regimented coaching as well as camaraderie and companionship, which both challenges them and inspires them to achieve the best that they possibly can.
7. Don't fool yourself.
It's easy to make excuses to avoid working out at the gym, whether it be a bad day at the office or an invite to after-work drinks, but for Olympic athletes, excuses like these just aren't an option. For Team GB, training and competing is their livelihood and a lack of dedication means the possibility of being dropped. As all members of Team GB will tell you, success is down to sheer hard work and determination – excuses are for losers, people