Win at Everything: Olympians' Top Success Secrets
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Fitness

Win at Everything: Olympians' Top Success Secrets

Ready to go 2.0 on your body, mood, and energy this year? Do anything better using the success secrets of Olympians at the top of their game.

Rise to the Top

Spark a workout with this nudge.
To avoid couch sitting too long after an injury or exercise rut, tap into some peer pressure. "If I ever feel that I don't want to train, or that I'm too tired or too sore, I just look at Facebook," reveals gold-medal downhill skier Lindsey Vonn, who checked out her competitors' posts while rehabbing from a serious knee injury. Let your sporty pals' posts and tweets motivate you to move -- or like us on Facebook at facebook.com/fitnessmag for a fresh push from our Motivation Moment quote of the day.

Sculpt solid-gold abs.
What you can't see when she's in her signature threads is the six-pack that powers snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler's medal-winning stunts in the half-pipe. Get a belly you can bounce a quarter off with this variation of her fave core exercise.

  • Kneel on floor facing a stability ball with your wrists resting atop the center, hands clasped.
  • Slowly lean forward from knees as you roll ball forward until arms are extended atop ball and body is at a 45 degree angle to floor. Reverse motion back to start position.

(Bleiler's version? She uses two stability balls, kneeling on one as she rolls the other forward. Yowza!)

Sportify your scarf.
Whether you're taking on the slopes or the slush, "there is nothing worse than getting cold air down your jacket," snowboarder Elena Hight says. "I never go out without a neck gaiter." The pullover neck warmers are as cozy as wraparounds but less unruly in the wind. You'll covet the poppy colors of the Oakley Midweight Fleece Neckie ($20, oakley.com).

Bounce back from a cheat day.
Keep a slipup in check by focusing on the finish line you're working toward. "I'm motivated by the burning feeling that my journey is not complete," says Olympic hurdler-turned-bobsledder Lolo Jones, who has aced a huge learning curve to prep for the Winter Games. She brushes off setbacks with this mantra: "A failure isn't a failure if it prepares you for success tomorrow." Go, Lolo!

Squash winter munchies.
It's cold and you're pretty much craving carbs 24-7. For lasting energy without the sugar spike, have a mash-up of carbs and protein the way ice dancer Meryl Davis does. "I mix granola cereal with yogurt," Davis says; it's fuel that's "not too light or too heavy."

More Ways to Win

Keep your goals on the brain.
Even though your resolution may involve stepping on a scale instead of standing on a podium, you could still use some Olympic-size willpower to get you there. Post your goal where you can see it daily -- on your fridge, in your calendar, on your smartphone's screen saver. "I have 'Always be faster than the boys' written on my helmet," says teen phenom slalom skier Mikaela Shiffrin. "It reminds me that I'm trying to be the best in the world."

Soothe post-workout stiffness.
An afternoon of skiing or your CrossFit WOD will fry your thighs. How do star Olympians rescue their muscles so they can hit the slopes day after day? "I ride a stationary bike for 30 minutes, and then I stretch and foam-roll," slope-style freeskier Grete Eliassen says. Check out fitnessmagazine.com/roll for key roller moves that your achy legs will love.

Find your killer focus.
Freeskiing is a new sport in the Olympics this year, and that means more pressure on the athletes to wow us. Lose the pre-race or other performance anxiety as freeskier Angeli VanLaanen does before her go on the half-pipe. "I do a lot of self-affirmations: I am strong, I am capable, I got this," she says. "I also try to think of something I'm grateful for, because that really wipes out any nerves."

Give your legs a workout edge.
Hockey player Hilary Knight, a forward on the women's U.S. Olympic team, is a fan of wearing compression tights -- ones with special squeeze-you-in fabric that helps your circulation. Knight puts them on post-workout as her "recovery pants" ("It's like a reset button for your legs!"); they're also a nice performance booster to use while running. Try CW-X Pro tights ($110, backcountry.com).

Skate all winter without a wipeout.
We asked speed skater Emily Scott for the training secret to staying rock steady on the ice. "Squats," the short-track star says, plus a strong core. Try one-legged squats, resting one foot behind you on a bench, to mimic the demands of perching on one blade, and incorporate her timed abs circuit into your routine: "I'll do 50 seconds each of windshield wipers [lying faceup, lift legs 90 degrees and sweep them together from side to side], planks and side planks with 10 seconds of rest in between."

Do-It-Better Tips

Excuse-proof your workout.
Beat the morning or race-day time crunch with this sticky-note trick: "The day before, I make a list of all the things I need in the order they should be packed, and I have everything laid out," bobsledder Jazmine Fenlator says. "If I want my water to be cold for the race, it's at the bottom of the list so I'll put it in my bag right before I walk out the door."

Get a hot lower body.
Winter sports are all about balance-challenging feats on ice and snow, so stabilizing exercises that strengthen your lower half from abs to calves are key. "My favorite is a circuit called the hamstring trifecta, which is done on an exercise ball," freeskier Brita Sigourney says. Try it for a tight tush and toned legs:

  • Lie faceup on floor with legs extended, calves resting atop a stability ball. Lift hips so body forms a line from shoulders to heels; lower. Do 15 reps.
  • Start faceup with knees bent 90 degrees and heels atop ball. Press heels into ball as you lift hips to form a line from shoulders to knees; lower. Do 15 reps.
  • Start with hips lifted and legs extended, calves atop ball. Bend knees 90 degrees to bring feet toward butt, heels pressing into ball. Extend legs to return to start. Do 15 reps.

Upgrade your pony.
Your go-to workout do doesn't work in winter, Olympians say: Leaving the ends loose under a hat or helmet can create a hot mess of tangles. "I braid my hair when wearing my helmet," luger Julia Clukey says. "I've found that to be the most tamable style after training." For extra damage control, Clukey uses a detangler spray on her tresses beforehand. Spritz Herbal Essences Totally Twisted Curl Silkening Detangler ($3, drugstores).

Make your toasty drink multitask.
So many of the Olympians we polled, like ski jumper Abby Hughes, picked hot chocolate as a chaser for the cold. "I warm up my chocolate milk; sipping it is a great way to recover after a tough winter workout," she says. And there's some science to back her up: One study showed that the mix of carbs and protein in the sweet stuff helps to replenish muscles. For optimal refueling, drink it within an hour of finishing, experts say. (No word on any marshmallow magic.)

Bend it like Wagner.
What is figure skater Ashley Wagner's secret to balancing all that strength training that can make muscles tight? "I do hot yoga two to three times a week to stay flexible," Wagner says. Smart move: It's best to stretch muscles when they're warm, so give yourself five minutes of light cardio before you hit the mat.

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, February 2014.

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