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5 Olympic Athletes Share Their Workout Secrets

Julie Swail Ertel, Triathlon

Working out is a full-time job when you're juggling three sports. Nobody knows this better than Julie Swail Ertel, a 35-year-old SoCal native and 2000 Olympic silver medalist in water polo, who puts in 20 hours of cycling, swimming, and running a week.

SECRET WEAPON:
When Ertel incorporated a balancing exercise — standing on one leg for a minute on each side — into her DIY yoga routine a year ago, her running times dropped almost immediately. "Running is just balancing on one leg and then another," she says. Now she does the pose twice a week.

KEEPING IT FRESH:
To stave off boredom, Ertel constantly tries new things: In April, she ran a 3000-meter race at a local community college — and won.

SNEAKER SMARTS:
Running without socks is a recipe for disaster, especially when you have size 12 feet. Ertel combats blisters by plastering them with Band-Aids or coating her feet in a thin layer of Vaseline in humid climates.

WORD TO THE WISE:
Ertel suggests clipping your cycling cleats into your bike pedals at the transition zone before the race. "That way, all you have to do is slide your feet into your shoes, and you're off. It can shave 30 to 45 seconds off your time."

Kristin Armstrong, Cycling

Kristin Armstrong is used to being mistaken for someone else — the ex-wife of a certain seven-time Tour de France winner. But since she started racking up her own impressive victories — including the 2006 World Time Trial Championships — Armstrong, 34, has made a name for herself as the woman to beat in Beijing. Just call her "K-Strong."

RECIPE FOR SUCCESS:
Armstrong trains in three-week blocks of increasing intensity — 16 to 25 hours a week on her bike — followed by an easier recovery week. During long Idaho winters, the Boise local heads to the mountains for snowshoeing and Nordic skate-skiing.

STRENGTHONWHEELS:
Twice a week, Armstrong uses her bike as her mobile weight room: She shifts into a high-resistance gear and does 20 to 45 minutes of low-cadence drills to work quads, glutes, and hamstrings.

SECRET WEAPON:
Armstrong sweats through two Bikram yoga classes a week. Trikonasana, or triangle pose, keeps her limber (she was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in 2001), and the room's 90-plus-degree heat helps her acclimate to humid race locales — like Beijing.

TOUGH LOVE:
During especially hard races, Armstrong talks to herself to stay focused and push through the pain. "I'll ask myself, 'Can you hurt any more?' And then I'll say, 'You have to hurt harder.'"

WORD TO THE WISE:
Invest in a bike that fits, get a comfortable saddle (she loves her Fizik), and cycle with a group whenever possible. "Try not to be intimidated," she says. "Most important, have fun."

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