Each time alpine skier Lindsey Vonn hits the slopes at the Winter Olympics, she makes it look easy.
But the four-time Olympian’s effortless shows are actually a result of nearly two decades of intense training.
Olympic-level athletes like Vonn use a variety of specialized techniques to stay at the top of their game from running on aquatic treadmills to using masks to simulate high altitudes.
There are, however, several Olympian training tricks that can be safely and effectively used by everyday gym-goers.
There are a number of tips that can be taken from Olympic-level athletes like Lindsay Vonn, pictured, and applied to the average hobby athlete
1. Work toward something other than just the end of the workout
‘The most important tip for creating an Olympic caliber workout is to set a fitness or activity level goal or event and work toward it gradually,’ Dr Timothy Miller, Endurance Medicine Program director at Ohio State University, said.
Working toward a goal is a positive way to make regular workouts feel like less of a grind or obligation.
For Olympians, the goal seems pretty straightforward, when in fact most successful athletes know the value of setting smaller goals can provide a clear path to bigger ones.
A spot on the podium isn’t most people’s fitness goal, but other aims like a faster mile time or 10 more pounds on the bench press are a simple place to start.
Dr Miller also emphasizes the importance of a more long-term goal.
‘Your own fitness should be a lifetime goal with your workouts serving to continually develop your body, maintain your health, and optimize your performance,’ he said.
2. Get the most out of even the shortest workouts
One of the most common excuses for not making it to the gym is: ‘I just don’t have enough time.’
High intensity interval training or HIIT, is a popular way for a wide range of athletes to make the most of a short workout.
‘Only 20 minutes of high-intensity interval training can produce similar physiological benefits as an hour of low intensity conditioning,’ Dr Miller said.
‘It can dramatically increase fitness for those who are already in good shape,’ he said.
However, Dr Miller warns that HIIT is not a good option for beginners and should be worked up to.
Winter weather workout tips
Working out in cold weather comes with it’s own set of challenges because the body has to try harder to regulate temperature and muscles are more susceptible to injury.
Dr Miller outlined winter-specific tips for everyday athletes.
1. Dress appropriately
When working out in low temperatures, it is important to make sure all skin is covered but that the body isn’t too warm.
‘The layers should not have you feeling overly warm or hot when you leave your house,’ Dr Miller said.
2. Never skip your warm-up
‘Cold temperatures lead to tight muscles and stiff joints putting our soft tissues, particular our tendons, at higher risk for strains and tears,’ Dr Miller said.
3. Stay hydrated
Studies show that cold weather suppresses thirst, but hydrating is still crucial.
4. Change into dry clothes after
After a cold run you may be tempted to sit down immediately and take a breather, but Dr Miller warns that staying in clothes that are damp and cold could cause chafing or even hypothermia.
3. Write down ‘bonus challenges’ to pick out of a hat at the end of your workout for variety
‘Cutting edge coaches for Olympic and other elite athletes like to vary an athlete’s training and keep them (and their bodies) guessing as to what their next workout will include,’ Dr Miller said.
At the end of a workout when an athlete is ready to be finished and their body fatigued, an additional component or ‘shock’ helps athletes maintain steady improvements in the long run.
For the majority of people who don’t have a coach or personal trainer to provide the end-of-workout twist, Dr Miller recommends writing 10 to 20 ‘bonus challenges’ on slips of paper and placing them in an opaque bag to randomly select from at the end of a workout.
‘This keeps your body focused and ready to hit a higher gear when needed,’ Dr Miller said.
4. Look to other sports for training inspiration
Even though you won’t see snowboarding gold medalist Chloe Kim trying her hand at figure skating at the Olympics, the top athletes use cross-training to vary their workouts and prevent injury.
Athletes should avoid successive days of the same type of workout, according to Dr Dennis Cardone, a former physician for USA wrestling and fencing.
‘If you do the same workout every day or very regularly, eventually you’ll start to develop overuse problems. That means the tendons, soft tissue, and bones can start to get overworked and develop some damage or degeneration,’ Dr Cardone told CBS News.
For example, someone who’s training for a marathon could run one day and try another cardio activity the next, such as swimming laps or cycling.
5. Make creative adjustments post-injury
Alpine skier Lindsey Vonn is competing in her fourth Winter Olympics this year and looking to add to the seven medals in her collection.
From 2006 to 2016, the 33-year-old endured nine major injuries, including a knee fracture at the end of 2013 that ruined her chance to compete at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
While recovering from an injury, Vonn incorporates new workouts to stay in shape.
When physical stress or injury gets in the way of your workouts, alternatives are available to continue training without creating more damage.
Olympic athletes including Vonn often use underwater or suspended treadmills because they decreases the impact on the legs and feet while still providing a cardio workout.
‘This keeps the legs more fresh and decreases the risk of stress fractures of the bones,’ Dr Miller said.
For those who don’t have access to the same advanced equipment as Olympic athletes, aqua-jogging can be an alternative.
Aqua-jogging involves wearing a buoyancy belt or life vest and running in a deep water pool.
6. Take a hard look at your habits outside the gym
Your performance at the gym is deeply impacted by lifestyle factors like diet and sleep habits.
The body needs different kinds of nourishment depending on what kind of physical activity is being done.
For activities that require a lot of endurance like training for a marathon, it’s important for athletes to fuel up on protein and complex carbs to sustain muscle mass.
It is also very important to stay hydrated because water regulates body temperature and lubricates joints like the knees that can experience significant stress during workouts.
Sleep is also key for maximizing gains because it gives muscles a chance to recover.
‘If you talk to Olympic athletes, most will say they’re getting 10 hours of sleep per night,’ Cardone said.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that the average adult get between seven and nine hours of sleep every night.
7. Train your brain while you work your body
Mental endurance can play just as substantial a role as physical endurance when it comes to workouts and competitions.
Dr Cardone says in recent years there has been an increasing focus among coaches and trainers on the mental aspects of performance.
‘Teaching the athletes how to focus better, how not to be stressed, how to take the crowd out of it and get into the zone better, as well as relaxation and meditation techniques. They find that it does help the athlete perform better,’ Cardone said.
For Olympians, Cardone says: ‘Sometimes what separates the gold from the silver or the gold from a non-medal is truly a psychological component.’
For hobby athletes, a sound mind can improve progress and enjoyment of the activity.