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Fitness & Exercise

10 Tips for an Olympic Body

Experts share the diet and exercise secrets of Olympic athletes.
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By Annabelle Robertson
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

When the 2008 Olympic Games open in Beijing, millions will be marveling at all the athletes' bodies.  Muscled legs, backs, abs, and arms -- sure signs of the Olympic body, carefully sculpted for power, speed, and endurance. 

But what does it take to get that Olympic body? And could the average Joe (or Joelle) ever hope to look like an Olympic athlete?

"Sure," says Sam Callan, an exercise physiologist and the coaching education manager for USA Cycling.  "If you're willing to spend the time."

Of course, few people have the kind of time that Olympic athletes devote to their training. But even if your best "event" revolves around the remote, not all is lost. After all, when it comes to the competition for a healthy body, it's often enough to join the game.

So if you're ready to shape up, here are some cues from the pros to get you started:

1. Know your body type.

Some of us are built for speed, some for endurance, says Callan. Figuring out what feels natural -- and what you're best at -- will help you determine which type of exercise will work for you. 

Do you like to jump? Sprint? Spend time on the treadmill? Everyone has a unique body composition, and which composition of muscle fiber type you have will determine whether you will have more endurance or speed and power.

"We're all born somewhere on that continuum, but all the training in the world can only move you a little bit," he explains. That's why Arnold Schwarzenegger probably couldn't have been a long-distance runner, he says.

2. Determine your goals.

You're bound to be better at some kinds of physical events than others, so choose one or two that feel natural and that you enjoy. You'll be much more likely to stick with it -- and see success. 

Do you want to slim down? Focus on nutrition and a routine of steady cardiovascular endurance exercise, with short bursts of speed called interval training. Do you want to build up your cardiovascular endurance? Try swimming, running, or cycling. If it's speed you're after, try adding sprints to your routine.  And if you only have a short time to work out, try circuit training, which consists of a series of resistance training exercises performed one after the other, with minimal rest.

But if you have weak areas, says Callan, don't hesitate to address them with specific training.

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