10 things Olympians do that Irish dancers should do too_irish dance_ready to feis
Fitness and Conditioning, Mental Preparation
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10 things Olympians do that Irish dancers should do too

In this guest post from Suzanne Cox, TCRG and Accredited Exercise Physiologist (ESSA) with the Australian Institute of Fitness, she outlines 10 things we can all take away from the Olympics. Irish dancing might not be an Olympic sport, but we can certainly train like Olympians.

1. Mental Preparation

Olympic athletes know that mental practice is as important as physical practice. They practice mental preparation techniques continually and are prepared for any situation. Michael Phelps incorporates training without goggles into his routine in case he needs to race in a major event this way. He has won major events with his goggles falling off, not being able to see where he is going but being so well trained and prepared for anything that it didn’t affect his performance.

2. Taper

You won’t find any Olympic athlete doing heavy loads of training in the week leading up to their event at the Olympics. In fact up to a month before their event their training volume will be significantly reduced in an effort to be fully recovered when they need to be so they can perform at their best. After all, the hard work should be done at that point and any last minute heavy training sessions won’t help you beat the athlete that has been working solidly and consistently up until that time for years before that.

3. Follow a yearly periodization plan and schedule your week

An Olympian works with strength and conditioning coaches who tailor a periodized plan for them. They have programmed recovery periods throughout their year, periods of high volume, periods of more specific preparation, and periods of high intensity work.

Athletes follow a highly scheduled week. Meals, training, appointments, homework etc are all covered in their weekly plan. They schedule down time. They schedule mental preparation time. They know exactly when they will be training and for how long.

4. Cover each element of performance

Every sport has different elements of performance and the athlete that has nailed each one of these elements will be the most successful. A hockey player has elements of aerobic fitness, anaerobic fitness, agility, mobility, strength, accuracy and mental capacity. If even one of these areas isn’t catered for in training the performance is not at its optimum.

5. Fuel your body and set a sleep routine

Athletes know that great nutrition equals a great performance. Part of their training plan is how they eat for years before the event not just the night before. They fuel their body adequately every single day. Loading your body with carbohydrates even a week before the event will do nothing if you have been eating terribly all year!

Lack of sleep can have a massive impact on performance. Quality sleep is paramount for any athlete wanting to perform at their best. Some studies suggest that hours of sleep missed can’t be made up so make quality sleep a part of your weekly routine!

6. Focus on themselves

No athlete trains exactly the same and prepares in exactly the same way. Some athletes train at 5am, others perform at their worst at this time. Olympians focus on themselves and commit to their own training pathway. This doesn’t mean they don’t follow what the best athletes are doing, it just means they can determine what is right for them and trust their own pathway.

7. Understand progress over perfection

Olympians focus on their own progress, this is the largest thing that they can control. They set small goals that will lead them to their bigger goals. They look for ways they have progressed in an event in their physical performance or their mental performance. They understand that a performance will probably never be perfect and that a result they are not happy with in an event is not a sign that they haven’t made progress.

8. Move on from setbacks

Every athlete suffers setbacks whether it be injury, poor performance, or a bad competition day. No athlete is immune to this. The Olympians that get the Gold medal are the ones that push past this and realize that one race is just one race and doesn’t determine the rest of their career.

9. Celebrate success

Olympic gymnast Simone Biles celebrates her successes with a pepperoni pizza after a major event. Whether they walk away from an event happy with their result or not, they take a moment to celebrate that they competed, they worked their hardest in the preparation, and at the very least they learnt something from the experience.

10. Be a good person

Good athletes are good people. They appreciate the support from their family and friends, thank their Coaches for their dedication to their success, and want the best for the athletes around them. They don’t talk about the athlete that beat them as being undeserving, in fact most of the time they are quoted in the media applauding the amazing athlete they were up against. You can be great at the same time as others. There is plenty of room in the world for lots of amazing people!

Image via: Marty Lochmann Photographer
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