Get Healthy and Fit Like a Champion
Get some summertime health and fitness tips from three Olympic medal winners and their coach.
Getting Your Body in Olympic Shape
To help avoid playtime injuries and keep their toned bodies in medal-winning shape, our three Olympians tell WebMD they frequently perform a system of exercises known as plyometrics. These are body movements based on the principle that short muscle contraction is stronger if it immediately follows a lengthening contraction. The end result, they say, is the muscle is able to store more elastic energy -- and that means fewer injuries.
Their regular workouts also involve a form of resistance training known as "fast twitch" -- which actually refers to the muscle fibers that contract the quickest and generate the most power.
"It's resistance going both down and up and it works on your core strength. It's all done on rehabilitation machines and as hard as you push the machine, that's as hard as it pushes you back," says Walsh.
But for those of us just a little less active in our sporting life, each Olympian suggests frequent workouts with a yoga or medicine ball for overall strength training that can benefit you in almost any sport.
"It improves core strength and balance. And this can be beneficial no matter what activity you're doing," says Walsh.
The Role of Diet
While workouts help tone the body, each medal winner also tells WebMD that diet plays an integral role in maintaining their muscle stamina, particularly in warm-weather competitions. Surprisingly, however, each of the Olympic athletes has a radically different way of jet-fueling her ability.
For McPeak, the self-confessed "snacker" of the group, the secret to her strength, she says, comes from eating at least six times a day and snacking on healthy whole foods whenever possible.
"Right now I have fresh fruit, crackers, Fig Newtons, nuts, a bottle of Aquafina and a protein bar -- just to get me through the afternoon," says McPeak, a three-time Olympian. Her postgame recovery meal is always a protein and carbohydrate mix, but she says for real energy she's a protein eater all the way. And she says because she doesn't eat enough vegetables, she supplements with wheat-grass smoothies.
"I don't take supplements, but I do believe in the wheat-grass smoothies, which I think is important if you're not going to eat a lot of vegetables," says McPeak.
For Youngs, the answer lies in avoiding carbohydrates, loading up on protein, and eating organic food whenever possible -- including not only fruits and vegetables but also organic beef and poultry.
"I think it's better for you, I feel better when I eat organic food, though it's not always possible, particularly when we are on tour," says Youngs.
For Walsh, the answer lies in just one food supplement: flaxseed oil.
"It's something that one of our trainers highly recommends. And I've found it helps my metabolism, and it helps in the recovery process. I saw a big difference after I started using it in terms of stamina and in terms of healing quicker from injuries," says Walsh.
All three athletes say they avoid heavy eating before a game, but don't hesitate to snack on high-protein bars and fruit during a match.
"I've always got a protein bar in my bag and I will frequently stop and grab a bite when I feel my energy dipping," says McPeak, who adds that doing so helps keep her blood sugar stabilized as well.