I love the Summer Olympics!  They have already begun and I cannot stop watching the countless events and amazing athletes.  I am always inspired by the athletes’ unwavering commitment to a goal, and I enjoy watching their post-event interviews to learn how they handle the enormous stress – particularly if they have come up short in one competition yet still have other events in which to compete. Talk about stress management!  I always learn something.

I am fascinated by some of the fitness tips and tricks the Olympians use to prepare for competitions.  Some of the methods are far too intense for me, but others are quite useable for us average people who just want to remain fit and healthy.  I did a survey of Olympian’s tips, and this week and next, I am going to share with you the ones that I am using.

This may have been the number one tip across the board.  Many Olympians said that rest is a critical component to complete fitness, I know it is for me.  Here’s what they say:

Long distance runner, Shalane Flanagan, 31, said, “When I’m heavy into training, I try to get eight to ten hours of sleep a night, which is quite a bit for most people. I also take a nap on top of that, which can vary from 30 minutes to two hours.”

Hurdler Lolo Jones, 29, agreed.  “Never discount the fact that resting is just as important as work. Sometimes when I’m not motivated I use that time to shut it down and take a rest day or two,” she said.

Beach volleyball player Misty May-Treanor, 34, said, “The older I get, the more I realize how much getting enough rest and sleep makes a difference. I need at least eight hours of sleep to feel my best. If I’m up late and then get up early the next morning, I’m dragging throughout the day.”

Lack of adequate rest affects me now, at age 51, more than ever.  Not only am I more prone to injury, I quickly lose my motivation to even exercise at all.  And even more frustrating is that I have noticed my appetite spikes when I am not rested.  It turns out it is not my imagination; studies have found that lack of sleep is connected to weight gain.

Eat Lower-Glycemic Whole Foods

The glycemic index measures the effect a food has on your blood sugar.  The higher the starch/sugar content of the food, the faster and higher that food causes your blood sugar to spike, and the higher the food rates on the glycemic index.  Whole, fresh, non-processed foods, such as fresh fruits and non-starchy veggies, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy, rate low on the glycemic index.  These comprise the majority of the foods I eat. I swear it keeps my appetite moderated, and my blood sugar levels steady.   Olympians eat this way too:

Triathlete Sarah Groff, 30, said, “I’m a huge advocate of whole foods … I don’t eat processed foods, including bars or supplements. I believe in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Lolo Jones said “I load up on chicken, fish, steak, and veggies. No bread and no carbs, especially at night.”

Swimmer Natalie Coughlin, 29, eats her greens. “I really lean toward a plant-based diet. I have seven vegetable beds, one is all kale since that’s one of the best foods for you,” she said. As for eating in restaurants?  Here’s her plan:  “When I’m on the road, I just try to eat as many salads as possible,” she said.

Swimmer Jessica Hardy, 25, agrees with this approach as well. She said, “It’s always worth investing the time and money to sustain proper nutrition. Your body deserves the best and it will thank you later, whether you’re in the pool or just running around with your kids.”  She eats lean protein, fruits, veggies and Greek yogurt.

USA water polo captain, Tony Azevedo, 30, eats this way too.  “Everything is fresh. I don’t worry about too much sugar or fat, I just try to eat really balanced,” he said.

We don’t have to give up all our favorite treats and snacks.  But my rule of thumb is to eat fresh, unprocessed foods about 80% of the time.  Doing so has helped cut my cravings for those high-fat, high-sugar and high-sodium snacks because I’m not on a blood sugar roller coaster anymore.  And I know it has improved my skin.

Next week, we’ll continue to examine more Olympian fitness tips.  Remember to tune in and watch those bodies in motion!