It looks like Olympic athletes must train every day of every week. How else could they achieve such a high level of skill and strength? And, if you are training for a marathon, or a hiking trip, it’s easy to believe that you need to be out there every day preparing yourself.
But Dr. D.R. Ebner, sports medicine specialist and director of physical therapy at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells Newsmax Health this is not true. In fact, what’s most important is to remember is that the key is to set a goal — just as Olympic athletes do — and create a reasonable training schedule that helps you to achieve it.
Olympic athletes have trials, and logistics to manage; amateur athletes have other things that may interfere with training, like work and business trips. Still, a goal is important, and a plan to achieve that goal, no matter what the obstacles are.
When you are planning a workout schedule, Ebner recommends easing into it and gradually building up to your maximum level. With weight training, for instance, start off with a higher volume of repetitions using lighter weights, and fewer sets — then add weight and sets as you go.
If you’re preparing for a distance sport — such as a marathon — don’t start off trying to run the total distance, but instead focus on your pace and speed. You can add distance as you build your stamina.
Another aspect of the training process is to focus on the fundamentals of the activity. Do drills and techniques that emphasize good habits and proper form, then add more intensity. For instance, if you are preparing for a marathon, try running mechanics drills, and work on cadence and leg mechanics.
“What we do in clinics is hopping drills,” Ebner explains. “You focus on landing mechanics. You develop good habits and then you know that you aren’t going to be doing something that may be harmful.”
Depending on the sport, athletes may work on basic teamwork drills, which differ from what an individual might do.
“I’ll load athletes with weights and exercise to strengthen them, and work on movements that help with the sport,” Ebner notes.
The danger of doing too much too soon is you run the risk of suffering an overuse injury, including twisted ankles or shoulder problems.
It’s also important to build recovery into your working regimen — by resting, eating right, and getting sufficient sleep.
Olympians also have an abundance of resources not available to weekend warriors. They work with specialists in diet, psychology, physical therapy, and different kinds of doctors.
But amateurs can gather resources as well. Maybe a massage is warranted, or a dietitian to get them on the right path. It’s better to see a physical therapist first if you have aches and pains than to wait until it is a full blown injury.
Ebner’s tips for athletes to remember:
You are never too skilled to work on fundamentals.
You must value recovery as much as training. More intensity may not equal more results.
Take time in reaching your fitness goals, rather than moving full speed ahead.
Vary your exercise to strengthen and tone different parts of the body.
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