The Mindset of an Olympian
Missy Franklin has taken an unconventional route to becoming an Olympic gold medalist at this summer’s Olympics in London. She’s remained in the same Colorado swim program since the age of 5 rather than joining an elite swim club in a warm-weather state, where she might have trained with more swimmers at her level. Todd Schmitz, the only coach she’s ever had, limits her to swimming two hours a day, five or six days a week. She swims between 4,000 and 5,000 yards a day, which is less than half the yardage logged by college swimmers, let alone those with Olympic aspirations. In the summer months, Schmitz does not even hold Saturday morning practices, which are typical for competitive child swimmers.
In an era in which parents start jockeying their children for sports success right out of the crib and pushing them toward one-sport, elite-club specialization by third grade, Franklin’s route to Olympic glory seems downright old school. Sports parents no doubt can learn a few things from Missy’s parents, D.A. and Dick Franklin. But what about adult recreational athletes? They, too, can adopt an Olympic mindset without devoting full-time attention to training.
1. Prioritize Recovery
Few athletes, from recreational to elite, place enough importance on recovery. The American mindset of more-is-better leads to overtraining, injuries, and burnout. It also keeps our bodies from experiencing the gains we made by working out. Giving your body that time to recharge physically and mentally is vital whether you’re an Olympian or someone “only” competing in the game of life, says Athletes’ Performance founder Mark Verstegen. “Regeneration is not just a physical philosophy. The time spent at rest is when we enjoy the fruits of our labor. Not only that, but we also recharge our batteries and come back invigorated and stronger, ready to perform at even higher levels.”
2. Put Quality Over Quantity
If Missy Franklin can get by on higher quality and less quantity, what’s the excuse for the rest of us? Many adults take up running and triathlon to get in shape and satisfy an urge for competition. But rather than focus on getting faster, they measure success by how long they can go, regardless of how slow, not stopping until they’ve finished a marathon, ultramarathon, or Ironman triathlon. Ironically, an Olympic-distance triathlon features a 1,500-meter swim that’s less than half the length of an Ironman triathlon. The Olympic bike and run legs are less than half the distance of a half Ironman. Olympic champions are those who most efficiently cover a relatively short distance.
Like Olympic triathlon, Olympic running mostly showcases running efficiency, speed, and power in its many sprint-distance events. Yet most adults who run never sprint, focusing on distances of 5K or longer.“Why is it when someone says they run, our natural instinct is to ask how far they run?” Verstegen says. “Shouldn’t we be asking how fast they run? In every other aspect of our lives, we search for ways to improve in the fastest, most efficient manner. Our training should be no different.”
3. Keep it Simple
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Franklin’s training is that her club does not have its own pool, instead renting lanes at various facilities in the Denver area. Like Rocky Balboa, Franklin has thrived even while training with modest resources. Admittedly, it’s difficult not to be consumed by the latest training gadgets and technology. Who doesn’t want to train at the most upscale, glitzy gym? Pro and college sports have become an endless arms race when it comes to facilities. In the end, it’s not about the facilities but how we leverage our assets, no matter how modest. Bodyweight workouts, including Movement Prep and Prehab, can be done anywhere. Successful business travelers know how to get a great workout in little time and little space.
An Olympic mindset starts with the realization that less is more. Keeping it simple is perhaps the best strategy of all.
About The Author
Pete Williams – Pete Williams is a contributing writer for CorePerformance.com and the co-author of the Core Performance book series.