Fitness tips from Olympic athletes

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Get in shape with health and fitness advice from four Olympic stars aiming for gold in 2012

Four of the Team GB Olympians featured in Time Out’s guide to the London 2012 Olympic Games talk about their hopes for 2012 - and offer up some invaluable keep-fit advice.

Richard Alexander (Hockey)

How many hours a week do you spend training? ‘18-24 hours depending on the week.’

What aspect of it gets you out of bed in the morning? ‘The desire to succeed and the thought of competing at a home Olympics. When it’s cold & wet outside and you’re tucked up warm in bed it’s tough to get out but that thought just gives you the kick you need.’

How would you advise someone to start building a fitness routine? ‘Approach it like a project. Know your start point, an achievable end point and then look at how you can achieve it and on what time scale. Once you have your plan, set smaller goals along the way so you can track your progress. Most importantly, get some advice, whether it’s from an instructor or a fit friend, on how to keep things interesting. Then record how you get on – it helps to show progress.’

How do you make sure you keep up with it? ‘Don’t put exercise off till later. The longer you leave it the greater the chance that something may come up or distract you. And if you can’t do the full workout, do what you can… five press ups/sit ups a day before bed is an extra 1825 a year.’

Do you have any mental tricks to keep you going? ‘To be honest, for me it’s the fear of being any fatter – and always being in competition.’

What food makes your routine most efficient? ‘I reduce my carbohydrates at night  – no carbs after 4pm, but still eat the same amount of carbs in the day. I sleep better, wake up more refreshed and want to eat more at breakfast.’

If you only had twenty minutes a day to keep fit, what would you advise? ‘14 minute run (a four-minute warm up then 10 minutes full out) followed by 3x (alternate: as many press ups/sit ups as you can do in a minute). Record your distance and reps, keep a record of your workouts to show your improvement.’

What’s the best way to relax after a long training session? ‘A cup of tea or a good shower/bath, then chilling and doing something you love, like watching a film.’

Read our profile of Richard Alexander

Denise Johns (Beach Volleyball)

How many hours a week do you spend training? ‘32.’

How do you make sure you keep up with it? ‘For me, it’s easy because I have a great support staff and a teammate helping me.  So my suggestion would be to find a good fitness group that depends on each other, pushes you and makes sure that you follow through with your routine.’  

Do you have any mental tricks to keep you going – music you listen to, mantras you repeat? ‘When I have to do cardio sessions on my own, I  listen to some new music or watch a good TV program to get me through it.’  

What food makes your routine most efficient? ‘I eat about 5 times a day making sure I have a good amount of carbs and protein within 20 minutes of my workout.  That’s when your body absorbs the nutrients from the food the quickest.’

If you only had twenty minutes a day to keep fit, what would you advise? ‘I would probably do a cardiovascular activity like rowing, running or swimming. If you’re near the sand, beach volleyball or beach tennis are great activities – but I’m a bit partial!’

Do you have set aims for the months running up to the Olympics? ‘I have specific fitness goals including an improvement on my one rep max in the gym, lowering my body fat, and improving the transfer of the gym movements to sand skill training.  Lucy and I are working really hard on our mental toughness with our sports psychologist. Hopefully that will help give us an edge in the lead up to the Olympics.’

Read our profile of Denise Johns

Natasha Jonas (Boxing)

How many hours a week do you spend training? ‘Generally, two and a half hours a day, six days a week.’

What aspect of it gets you out of bed in the morning? ‘At the moment the prospect of the Olympics!’

How would you advise someone to start building a fitness routine? ‘Make your goals realisable. Don’t say you’re going to lose a stone in a week, because it’s not going to happen.’

Do you have any mental tricks? ‘It’s different at different times. Now, when it’s freezing in the morning I think, “I bet Katie Taylor’s out running.” It’s the dream of the Olympics too.’

What food makes your routine most efficient? ‘I should say healthy (laughs) but I’ve got a weakness for ice-cream.  I’d say that if someone’s starting out on a diet give yourself one treat. It’ll make it a bit easier.’

Do you have set aims for the months running up to the Olympics? ‘The recent test event was the best one. I beat the world number two, number three and number six, so it’s a good indication of where I’m at right now.’

How do you relax after training? ‘I’m quite greedy so I like eating, but otherwise just be with my mates or I’ve got quite a big family so be with them really.’

Read our profile of Natasha Jonas

Rajiv Ouseph (Badminton)

How many hours a week do you spend training? ‘A minimum of 24.’

What aspects of it get you out of bed in the morning? ‘My immediate goals – it’s always been a target of mine to compete in the Olympics, so obviously it’s that at the moment.’

How would you advise someone to start building a fitness routine? ‘I’d say start small and build up, giving yourself targets to reach along the way.’

How do you make sure you keep up with it? ‘Aside from my goals I’m lucky that we’ve got a team environment here, so other people push you along – other singles players and coaches.’

Do you have any mental tricks to keep you going? ‘I need music to do the physical training! It’s the hardest part of my regime so anything upbeat helps.’

What food makes your routine most efficient? ‘Carbohydrates for the tough physical sessions, so plenty of pasta and obviously not too much fatty food.’  

If you only had twenty minutes a day to keep fit, what would you advise? ‘For me it’d be running (even though it’s my most disliked aspect of training).’

Do you have set aims for the months running up to the Olympics? ‘I’ve got lots of small goals. It’s the All England Championship in March, so we’re using that as a practice tournament.’

What’s the best way to relax after a long training session? ‘We’ve got superb facilities here, so I’ll get a massage. But otherwise just relax with a film.’

Read our profile of Rajiv Ouseph

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