Hundreds of thousands from all over the globe gather today as the 2014 Winter Olympics kick off in Sochi, Russia, a location whose controversy quickly shifted our focus from sports to politics. As we celebrate the first of 17 days of athletic achievement, let’s hone in on the real reason we set aside our differences every four years: the amazing athletes. These ladies and gentlemen are beasts, and they train for it all year long. Why not learn a few of their secrets?

Practice Periodization

The concept is simple: three weeks of training with increased intensity each week, followed by one week of recovery. This repeated cycle is called “periodization” and is used by many Olympic athletes in preparation for competition. Following four-week training cycles can help you maximize results, achieve goals, and avoid monotony in your routine.

Track Your Caloric Burn

Olympic athletes monitor their calories gained and lost with excruciating detail. Controlling this balance is important in maintaining proper energy, weight, and muscle mass throughout the training season—and for an Olympic athlete, training never ends.

Personal fitness trackers are affordable and efficient, helping you to keep track of how vigorously you're working out (and how vigorously you'll need to eat later). The FitBit has become a favorite for a number of Olympic athletes, including American freestyle skier Grete Eliassen. In fact, using this device, Eliassen was able to calculate how many calories she burned during a training session: a whopping 7,601.

Feed Your Body Right

If your workout is anything like Eliassen's, you have to feed your body like a machine. Jacque Hamilton, Executive Chef at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, recommends sticking to “clean labels, with only a few ingredients, to give athletes the right kind of fuel for performance and recovery." To customize your training season meal plan, consider these factors:

  1. Sport of choice. Just as speed skaters and curlers use different muscles in different ways, you should tailor your diet to the demands of your workout. For example, increase carbohydrate consumption if you're a long distance competitor, and add extra protein if you're a sprinter.

  2. Weight goals. If you need to lose a few pounds to reach your ideal competition weight, increasing protein and reducing fat consumption is a smart move. Don't skimp on your regular calorie intake—your workout demands it!

  3. Physical environment. High altitudes and cold temperatures can affect your training. Many athletes find that they need to drink more water and consume more iron while in high altitudes, although this varies from person to person.

  4. Supplements. Your body thrives on a full range of nutrients, not all of which can be easily incorporated into your diet. This is why “feeding your body right” includes taking the right supplements. Royal Velvet from The Healthy Protocol, LLC is used by dozens of Olympic athletes to boost amino acids and glucose into muscle tissue, repair nerve and cartilage damage, and strengthen all bodily functions for optimum athletic performance.

Learn From The Best

Olympic stars like skier Julia Mancuso, bobsledder Steve Langton, and skater Johnny Weir have shared their workout routines with the rest of us. Among their tips:

  • Perform front squats, back squats, and deadlifts to build strong hips and legs
  • Use glute ham raises regularly to prevent injury
  • Add a pilates workout for core strength
  • Cool down from a workout by riding a stationary bike with no resistance for 10-15 minutes

Train like these Olympians, and who knows? Maybe you'll be bringing home the gold.

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