Life / Health

Have you got what it takes to be an Olympic athlete?

How can you know if you have what it takes to be an Olympic star if you’ve never tried? Metro talks to Dr. Marco Cardinale, head of sports science and research of the British Olympic Association, to find out why athletes are above average.

First, pair your body with sport

“There are 26 sports in the summer Olympics so there isn’t a standard "body type,’” says Cardinale. “Each sport suits a body. If you think about the differences between a boxer and a runner you realize how different bodies can be successful in sport. While this means that potentially everyone can become an Olympic athlete, it’s not that easy. Olympians are the result of years of dedication to grueling training regimes combined with talent and the ability to learn and develop. Being tall does not guarantee you a place in the volleyball team, unless you have skill.”

Focus comes with a clear mind    

“What separates Olympic athletes from the rest of us is their mind set and dedication. This requires hours of training and a deep desire to understand what it takes to win. Medal winners are the ones that learn faster and more than their opposition. You need to be determined to succeed, with an obsession for detail and improvement. It’s a tough life. Athletes experience the highs of wins and the lows of losses as well as setbacks with injuries. You can’t survive without the ability to deal with adversity and remain optimistic as success only comes after years of practice.”

Ouch: learn to stay injury-free

“Being fit for purpose reduces the risks of injury. A good control of training progression can help as most of the time an injury is the result of wrong training loading patterns that puts the body under too much stress. For us normal people not pursuing Olympic success, general fitness is a good way to avoid injuries...”

Your stomach doesn’t like junk

“Athletes should always watch what they eat in order to make sure their nutrition is appropriate for the demands of their sports, the training schedules and their body types. In weight category sports such as boxing or judo, where weight is an issue, athletes control their diets in order to make sure they can compete. In many other sports, nutrition is important not only to make sure body mass is appropriate for each athlete, but also to be able to improve performance by using appropriate timings of macro- and micro-nutrients intake.”

Calories in = calories out     

“A balanced diet is the secret to a healthy lifestyle. Avoid the unnecessary intake of calories and control your intake of macro-nutrients. We live in a society exposed to carbohydrates and processed sugars, both of which we eat too much of. If someone is overweight, it’s often the result of poor food choices in terms of quantity and quality. These are the kind of things to be mindful of. Diet is only part of the equation. Exercise is the most important.”

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