6 Tips: How Do Olympic Athletes Stay Healthy?
Sickness strikes superheroes too. When the game is at stake they need to figure out how to get back on their feet, fast. A big part of that is a consistent routine, and constant health monitoring -- often with the help of connected devices. As this summer's Games begin, here are some tactics athletes use to remain in top physical shape, whether at this summer's Olympics or on their home turf.
Individualized training routines
One of the biggest factors contributing to an athlete’s success is a consistent, personalized training routine. This includes a proper diet and nutrition plan, paced training regimen and proper rest and relaxation. Stress can be a major deterrent to an athlete’s health and well-being.
It’s not exactly new information, but proper sleep habits play a larger role in training than we think. Athletes from Serena Williams to Kevin Durant and Usain Bolt swear by 8-10 hours of sleep per night. According to Bolt, “Sleep is extremely important to me — I need to rest and recover in order for the training I do to be absorbed by my body.” Basketball star LeBron James claims even more, upwards of 12 per night (that’s ½ his day spent counting sheep!).
It’s important to remember that not all hours spent dosing are actually restful sleep. Quality is key. REM sleep is truly restorative, and it comes in cycles. If you’re constantly woken up or lying awake in bed, you won’t be getting that deep sleep necessary to helping your body revitalize itself and build up immunities.
Sleep is essential to increase performance in areas like reaction times, accuracy and endurance, and decreased instance of injury. It also contributes to mental acuity like motivation, focus and memory and gives your immune system a major boost.
Getting enough fruits and vegetables is essential for illness prevention, particularly those containing vitamins that enhance the immune system and white blood cell production. Many athletes also take vitamin supplements to further boost their immunities.
Quercetin is a natural flavonoid found in foods like red onions, hot peppers, apples, kale and capers (according to the Natural Medical Journal). It’s a significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory substance that is known to help prevent and treat certain diseases and boost cardiovascular health, particularly when combined with fish oil or green tea.
Quercetin and other energy supplements like caffeine can give you an energy boost as you push through training.
A healthy immune system starts with a healthy gut. Foods with fermented bacteria, like yogurt, kombucha, miso soup and kefir, will bring much-needed digestive enzymes to your body. If you don’t digest properly, your body can’t absorb much-needed nutrients, and this affects your immunity, GI function and overall health.
Probiotics are particularly helpful for endurance athletes as they’re a kind of performance enhancer, providing balance to the stress harsh training can put on your immune system and aiding in faster recovery.
It’s important to take the time to unwind, both physically and mentally, amid intense training. Athletes have a lot of techniques, from mental breaks and restorative breaths just before big plays, to meditation and regular massages and spa treatments.
Progressive muscle relaxation is one such technique, through which an athlete learns to monitor and control their muscular tension. During PMR, you should slowly tense and then relax each muscle group. According to The Mayo Clinic, “This helps you focus on the difference between muscle tension and relaxation. You become more aware of physical sensations.”
Detox baths are also popular, drenching your body in restorative minerals like sea salt, clay, even charcoal and baking soda. An especially popular one is Dr. Singha’s Mustard Bath as it’s particularly helpful for stiff or sore muscles. The best part? It offers extra defenses against cold and flu, like eucalyptus and wintergreen.
We all know how important it is to get enough H2O in your diet. However, for athletes this is particularly important as they often sweat out significant amounts of water on a daily basis. If not properly re-hydrated, this can lead to muscle fatigue and affect digestion. Athletes particularly look to electrolytes to restore sodium lost in sweat. It’s important to drink water consistently, and not only when you’re thirsty.
Constant health monitoring
Having a solid understanding of what’s going on with your body is essential to remaining at the top of your game. Athletes regularly monitor vitals like heart rate, blood pressure, sodium and potassium levels, and sleep.
When it comes to preventing illness, monitoring body temperature and gaining an understanding what your personal baseline is can be essential to help indicate if something is off. Between intense training and stress caused by competitive sport, the athlete might not notice subtle symptoms. Connected devices like the Kinsa Smart Thermometer give you a complete history to look back on so you can identify trends and changes in your health.
Whether you’re on your way to Rio or you’re just starting to train, it’s important to monitor your health and nutrition. You can lean on connected products like Kinsa to help you stay on track.