Written in August 2016 for Men’s Health Magazine
Usain Bolt always seems to pull it out of the bag, doesn’t he? Inspired by his 200m final last night, we investigated how he’s got his body in the right shape, at the right time, for every Olympics over the past 12 years.
Preparation is the key. Each Olympian has prepared in their own way, but science says there are steps that apply to us all in the pursuit of peak performance.
Whether you’re getting ready for your Sunday League cup final or find yourself on an Olympic start line, these tips will get you up to speed.
Plan ahead and backtrack
Putting a mental schedule on your training prepares your body to be in prime shape come race day. Set a goal, work out how much time you have to work with and tailor your training plan to fit that schedule. 12 weeks until the start gun? Create a regimen that works towards a crescendo at that point, not one that flatlines all the way to the finish line.
It sounds simple, but sporst scientist Tudor Bompa, author of Periodisation, theorised that having a schedule that works all the way until the start of your event allows your nervous system to adapt more effectivley to the stress of competition.
If you were preparing to run a marathon, you wouldn’t just hit the treadmill the day before and expect to finish, would you? Exactly.
Speed things up
Think of the start of your newly-designed schedule as a pre-season, where you get ready for what’s to come by making your body stronger with slow, heavy lifting that bulks out muscle.
As you get closer to your competition, faster, more explosive training is key, acclimatising your body’s systems to prepare for the big day.
Grant Powles, Technogym Master Trainer, explains that Olympians speed up their training in the days before their event, “It’s all very fast, very movement orientated, so you have a lot of lighter lifting and plenty explosive plyometrics being done.”
Set your body clock
Now, a lot of you reading this won’t be competing in a country that’s time zone is 4 hours behind ours. However, the principle of getting your body ready for a certain time of the day still applies.
For men in their twenties and thirties, The Journal of Applied Physiology found a correlation between peak performance and exercise in the afternoon, so timing your workouts accordingly in the run up to race day has the power to win you a PB.
Usain Bolt may be able to eat chicken nuggets and get away with it in the lead up to his big races, but unfortunately you’re not him. So put down the Happy Meal, now.
Eating the right foods can make all the difference when push comes to shove in sport, and there’s some real science behind it, too.
Researchers at the Central Washington University found eating healthily before an event can prevent low blood sugar and it’s symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, fatigue, muscle weakness and indecisiveness. It has also been proven to give you the peace of mind that comes with knowing your body is well fuelled.
In light of that, here are the best foods to boost your endurance. You can thank us at the finish line.