Think Like an Olympian
Find out how Olympic hopefuls stay motivated each day
Anne Stein, M.S.
Sports & Fitness Journalist/Author
At this October’s Nike 2010 Olympic Training Summit, we sat down with U.S. Winter Olympians and Olympic hopefuls to find out how they stay motivated each day, how they deal with disappointment, and the best advice they’ve gotten from a coach. And yes, even World Cup champions aren’t always excited to get to the gym – especially when a 6-hour workout awaits!
Whether you’re training for a race or exercising for weight loss, motivation can be a challenge. And even when you’ve put in your training time, it’s easy to get negative after you have a poor race, miss a personal best, or don’t meet your weight-loss goals.
Well, you’re not alone. World-class athletes don’t wake up every morning looking forward to training, especially when it means painful sets of squats, sprints, and plyometrics. And not even Michael Jordan won every championship, so there’s always disappointment to deal with.
The best athletes, however, figure out how to stay motivated and how to move beyond bad days. At Nike’s 2010 Olympic Training Summit in Vancouver, we sat down with three U.S. women at the top of their sports and asked for motivational and training tips.
Ellery Hollingsworth, Snowboarder
Rookie of the Year (age 16)
U.S. Open of Snowboarding
2009 Winter X Games, 4th
2009 U.S. Open, 3rd
Katherine Reutter, Short Track Speedskater
Ranked 7th in the world
World Cup bronze medalist
1,000 meters and 3,000 meter relay
Katie Uhlaender, Skeleton
Won national and junior national titles her first season (2002)
Sixth place, 2006 Torino Olympics
2nd place, 2008 World Championships
Q. HOW DO YOU MOTIVATE YOURSELF WHEN YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE TRAINING?
“If I wake up and I’m really tired, I have to think about my goals and the amount of time until winter comes, when I have to be as strong as I can. There are four spots on the girls Olympic snowboard team and realistically there are six girls who could go. So the girls who are most focused and get up early and train are the ones who’ll make the team.”
Before I go to bed, I think: “What’s my first thought going to be the next day?” Usually I know what my workout’s going to be the next day, so I’ll go to bed and I’ll think, “I can’t wait to do nine-lappers tomorrow and I’m going to lead at this particular point.” When I wake up, the first thing I think is, “OK! Nine-lappers today and I’m going to go fast!”
I think it’s about remembering the big picture. A lot of people forget it’s not about the immediate, it’s about what you’re going to get from those moments. You can’t get those moments without walking and taking those steps to get there.
Q. HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH A POOR RACE OR A DISAPPOINTING DAY?
It’s that old cliché: Never give up. You really can’t give up, especially if you have the talent and the drive.
The best way is to know that not every day is good. Even if I’m the best in the world, I’m not going to be the best every day. I really appreciate every other athlete for their best abilities and some days I’m going to get beat. But I’m going to go home and work harder and I’m going to beat her next time.
I treat a win the same way as I treat a loss. I analyze it and figure out what I can do to be better. You can always be better and improve. I think that’s the key to being successful at anything – never stop seeking.
Q. WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE GOTTEN FROM A COACH?
“You’ve got time.” I’m pretty hard on myself and I want to do well and I never say “that’s good enough.” So lately my coach has been saying, “You’re young, you have so many years ahead of you.”
“Wake up your ability.” Even in a race when I get tired, I take a breath and wake up my energy. My coach also tells me to focus on the glory to be had and forget about the pain.
That would be from my father (Major league outfielder Ted Uhlaender, who passed away earlier this year). He told me you need to realize that the legends before you needed to take the same steps you’re taking up to the plate. Once you get to the plate you have two choices: Hit the ball or don’t hit the ball. Be confident and don’t second-guess yourself.