Last week we learned two key pointers from Olympic athletes:  Get enough rest, and eat a well-balanced, low-glycemic diet comprised mainly of fresh fruits and non-starchy veggies, lean protein and low-fat dairy.  This week, we’ll get some more insights into how these high-level athletes keep their bodies in top form, year after year.

Workout Daily (or almost …)

There’s just no way around this. You’ve probably heard the standard recommendation to exercise at least three days per week, but I find that three or four days a week just doesn’t cut it if you want steady and permanent weight loss. Studies on obesity are finding this is true. Those who have the best long-term results exercise a minimum of five days per week.  With that said, you do not have to have killer workouts every day, not at all. Just get active every day, in a way that makes you happy, and that consistency with exercise will bring the results you want.

The Olympians agree.  See what they have to say about consistency:

Olympic taekwondo competitor Diana Lopez, said, “For me, I’m 28, I’ve been doing this a long time, so it gets harder, your metabolism slows down a bit as you get older. I have to get out there every day and move—whether it’s yoga, taekwondo, whatever—I have to move every day.”

Swimmer Natalie Coughlin, 29, agreed.  “Leading a healthy, active lifestyle is all about momentum. If I’m in the middle of training it’s easy for me to keep that up. It gets tough when I’m on a break. I just try to start my day with a good breakfast and a quick walk, something simple that gets the day off on the right foot. The more I do that, the more I make healthy choices that reflect the good choices made earlier,” she said.

Swimmer Jessica Hardy, 25, has a trick. “I try to get active before I have time to talk myself out of it. Fitness is 80 percent mental and 20 percent physical,” she recommended.

I know for me, I cannot dwell on working out.  I’ll talk myself right out of it!  There are so many other things that I need to do.  Instead, I’ve learned to view exercise the same way I view taking a shower or brushing my teeth. I wouldn’t even think that they are “optional”! So now I consider working out the same way – part of my necessary daily maintenance for health and well-being, it helps.

Vary Your Activities

Mixing up your workouts and activities helps enormously in resculpting your body and avoiding injury.  It also combats boredom!  Have lots of different activities and workouts to choose from.  You don’t have to limit your exercise to cardio and weights at the gym or a group exercise class. Anything that gets your heart pumping counts.  My aim is to at least break a mild sweat every day, and I can do that while I’m walking my dog or gardening.

Take a look at how the Olympians mix it up:

Heptathlon competitor Jessica Ennis, 26, has one of the most-admired physiques in the Olympics.  Her coach, Toni Minichiello said, “To be truly fit, training has to be progressive.  Doing the same training day in, day out will not make any progress towards your intended goal. Regular, yet different, training and exercise is important. Training and fitness has to become a habit, a lifetime habit, but all habits can be fun.”

Scottish swimmer Hannah Miley, 22, said, “Pick a sport you enjoy. If you start doing an exercise you are not comfortable with, it’s not going to be for you. There are lots of different fitness activities out there. I did zumba for a while. I have two left feet and no coordination but it’s really funky and gave me a completely different work-out… Remember, you can incorporate exercise into your everyday life. Do simple little things like walking the dog or cycling to work. There are lots of ways you can stay active.”

I know this is good advice.  For many years, I performed the same ninety-minute workout routine, every day.  But I never achieved the lean, sinewy look I was after.  And starting in my late 30’s, that same routine did not stop me from slowly gaining weight.  Now I mix up my exercise and do lots of different activities.  That gave me the body I wanted with shorter workouts.

Have the Occasional Pig Out

I believe in scheduling one pig-out meal every week.  At this meal, I splurge a bit, without worrying that I have blown it. This planned pig out is a fun part of my approach to weight management. And experts now agree!  I’ve been reading studies finding that such planned splurges, as long as they’re reasonable, go a long way toward helping us to maintain better eating habits the majority of the time. Why? They prevent us from feeling deprived, a prime culprit of bingeing, I know it works for me.

Even Olympians indulge sometimes. Natalie Coughlin said, “Trust me, I think it’s important to allow yourself to have rich foods.”  What’s her favorite pig out food?  Cheese.  But she’s smart about it. “If you have a cheese plate, you know you’ll have to balance it out later in the day with a lighter dinner or a longer walk with the dog,” she said.

A planned pig out!  Every human needs this, even Olympians. Put your favorite cheat food on the menu once a week, and enjoy it, guilt free!

The Olympians are surely working hard earning those medals, and their tips on daily exercise, mixing up the workouts and occasionally splurging on meals are sure fire to keep you motivated and lean in the long run.