For the mainstream public, the Olympics can be pretty polarizing. You either love them or can’t be bothered. Of those that love the Games, they tune in for the drama and the excitement of seeing athletes win that big gold medal and have their dreams become reality. The contingent that ignores the games usually site boredom as the main reason; they tend to favor team sports such as American football, basketball, and baseball.
Taking a closer look at the Olympics, and the athletes themselves, and you may find an appreciation for the dedication and determination that each athlete possess. The fitness nerd in me loves watching athletic events and it doesn’t get any better than the Olympics. This may upset some, but when it comes to the elite athletes in the world, you can’t get more elite than Olympic Athletes. Here’s an explanation why.
In the strength training circles, proper programming is called perdiodization. This is the assembly of a training program into different stages. Unfortunately, since fitness is usually treated as a joke, most people are unfamiliar with this concept. Instead of formulating a proper training program, people like to buy a DVD from Wal-Mart and dance around their living room.That's not the consumers fault but the industry itself not educating people; or I should say not promoting educated and experienced individuals to inform the public.
But periodization is based off the work of Hans Seyle; a Canadian biologist who said that an organism goes through different stressors. In order for the organism (in this case, an Olympic Athlete) to adapt and get better, a coach has to know when to apply more stress and when to allow recovery (1). As a side note, this is why most people struggle to get in shape: they either do too little or too much.
So for an Olympic athlete, this is huge because their performance is dependent on it. Want to know the real kicker? All of that planning takes place over a 4 year program. So the coach prepares the program and 4 years later, the athlete needs to be in the best shape of their life at the exact moment of their contest. Talk about no pressure.
Coaches do this by taking their athletes through various stages of programming called macro, meso, and microcycles (2). This is to where the athlete can vary their training by focusing on building muscle, increasing strength, and enhancing power. Per our explanation of biology, this is so the athlete doesn't fry out from training and continue to see results over the course of 4 years.
A lifetime of dreaming along with 4 years of sweat, determination, and serious scientific training goes into every Olympic moment you see. So next time you hear someone say the Olympics are boring, school them up with some biology and exercise science so they can appreciate these awesome athletes.
Marc Pogorzelski, Nexus Fitness
1. Bachechle, Thomas R and Earle, Roger W. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. Champaign, Ill: Human Kinetics. 2000, page 514
2. Bompa, Tudor O. Haff, Gregory C. Periodization: Theory and Methodology of Training: Fifth Edition. Champaign, Ill: Human Kinetics. 2009; pp 203