Tara Lipinski makes the triple toe loop look easy. Starting with a turn, Tara “toes in” by jamming her left skate toe hard against the ice. “You take off backwards and do three rotations with legs and arms crossed, and you land on the right foot,” says Tara. “Everything has to be pretty precise.”
Ever since she was little, Tara thought, “I’m going to be at the Olympics some day. I’m going to do what I need to do.” And she did. “Your dreams are so important,” says Tara. Having confidence and faith that you can accomplish them gets you going in the right direction.
The 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City are just around the corner. Current Health 2 talked with some Olympic hopefuls about how they train for success. Catch the Olympic spirit and improve your life.
Kelly Hilliman wants to win an Olympic medal in aerial skiing. Along the way, Kelly sets many goals. These include improved skills for different areas, accomplishments during summer training, and target scores and results for winter competitions. “To me, goal setting is key not only in sports, but also in life,” says Kelly. “This helps keep me focused and on track to becoming a champion.”
“I set achievable goals for myself,” agrees fellow aerial skier Corey Hacker. “If they come easily, I adjust them to push myself a bit. If they seem out of reach, I simplify them and set smaller goals to reach the big picture.”
MAKE A COMMITMENT
Dreams don’t come true overnight. They take time and commitment. For Tara Lipinski, that meant moving to a different city. It meant training five to six hours a day.
“If you really want to be the best at what you’re doing, it’s going to take a lot of extra time, a lot of work, and a lot of hard training,” says speedskater Joey Cheek. Joey trains between four and eight hours a day. Sessions include warm-ups, stretching, and weight training, plus lots of drills and laps. Often the team does a 50-mile bike ride too. “There are definitely mornings when you wake up and don’t want to get out of bed,” admits Joey, “but the benefits far outweigh any extra hardships.”
Nineteen-year-old Carolyn Treacy hopes to win the biathlon–a long cross-country ski race with target shooting. Carolyn starts each morning with a warm-up jog and stretching. Next come muscle-strengthening exercises and more stretching. Then Carolyn skis or roller-skis for up to four hours. After lunch and rest, Carolyn practices “dry firing”–going through the motions of target shooting. Another exercise session follows. “After dinner, you can be normal for a while,” says Carolyn. But, she adds, “You have to go to bed early enough so that you’re not tired the next day.”
FIT FITNESS IN
Most teens don’t have time for such intense training. Yet physical fitness can be part of everyone’s life. Exercise keeps the heart and lungs healthy and builds muscle. It strengthens bones and joints, and it helps keep weight at a healthy level.
Exercise provides mental benefits too. It perks you up when you’re sleepy. It helps you to sleep soundly at night. Plus, exercise relieves stress and frustration. And when you feel good, you look good.
Need help getting started? Try the buddy system. “If you want to start lifting weights, do it with a friend,” suggests luge athlete Brenna Margol. “That support of someone else is very helpful.”
Teamwork can help fine tune your technique. “Some of us are better on straightaways and some of us are better on the turns,” notes Joey Cheek. “You can learn from one another that way.”
Elite athletes include different types of training in their routine. Follow their example in your own exercise routine.
First, stretch. Stretching builds flexibility and keeps you limber. Always start and end exercise sessions with stretching. (Remember: Never bounce on a stretched muscle!)
Next, sustained aerobic exercise builds endurance to keep you gong. Increase activities gradually. Aim for at least 30 minutes a day, most days a week. Push yourself farther at least once a week.
Careful weight exercises build muscle tone and strength. Learn how to tone muscles, and practice on alternate days.
“The more flexibility, strength, and endurance you have, the more likely you are to outlast your competitor,” says skier Kelly Hilliman. “Most importantly, they all help to prevent injury.”
Good physical fitness promotes a faster recovery. Just four months after a liver transplant in 2000, Chris Klug was snowboarding again. And Tara Lipinski has had an amazing recovery from hip surgery. “Without having trained so hard for so many years and being so mentally strong, I would never have gotten back as quickly as I did,” says Tara.
During summer training in Chile, snowboarder Chris Klug has on-snow training sessions, video analysis, dry-land strength and endurance activities, and fun team activities. He also packs equipment care and physical therapy sessions into his busy day. “The rest of the time I’m eating everything I can get my hands on,” says Chris. “You burn a lot of calories at 10,000 feet.”
“In a normal day I may eat 5,000 to 6,000 calories,” says Joey Cheek. “Just because you’re training so much, you expend so much energy. Then you want to keep or add muscle mass.”
Your calorie requirements are probably less than these athletes’. But your body still needs fuel for its activities. It’s not just calories that count, either. Smart food choices make a huge difference.
“My main focus is to get as many high quality calories as possible,” says Joey. “It’s lots of carbohydrates, lots of proteins, and low-fat food, for the most part.”
“The Food Guide Pyramid is a good basis for eating,” says Dr. Robert Dimeff of the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. Aim for 6 to 11 daily servings of whole-grain carbohydrates such as breads, cereals, and rice. Include 5 to 9 servings of vegetables and fruits. Eat 1 to 2 servings of protein. Get in 3 to 4 servings of dairy or other calcium-rich foods. Use fats and sweets sparingly.
DON’T LET DRUGS DESTROY YOUR CHANCES
Tara Lipinski strongly supports the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “When you’re on the ice, sports stamina is so important, and smoking would just make it 10 times harder,” she says.
Tara’s grandfather smoked for decades and recently died from emphysema. “A lot of kids think, `Oh, it won’t affect me years from now,’ but it does,” says Tara. “My grandfather is one to show for it.” Smoking also causes other lung diseases, heart disease, and cancer.
Alcohol and other drugs also prevent peak performance–both in sports and otherwise. “Anything a person may be taking may have a role in performance,” warns Dr. Dimeff.
Alcohol and other depressants, for example, slow nervous system functions. They impair coordination and concentration and increase the risk of injury.
Stimulants are also dangerous. They may provide a boost of energy, but they make users jittery, nervous, and unfocused. And both stimulants and depressants present a host of long- and short-term health problems, including addiction.
THINK THINGS THROUGH
Elite athletes don’t just rely on their bodies for success; they also use their minds. “To stay focused I visualize my jumps in my mind over and over the perfect way,” says Kelly Hilliman. “I stay positive and ready for whatever comes my way.”
Staying calm helps. Olympic hopefuls keep cool in competition. “When I’m taking my first run, I’m not thinking about my second run,” says Brenna Margol. Rather, she stays focused on the task at hand. And if one run doesn’t go well, she puts it behind her and focuses on doing her best the next time.
“You could miss all your targets the first time you shoot,” notes biathlete Carolyn Treacy. “But you just can’t give out during the race.” After all, her competitors could miss too, and Carolyn wants to make the most of every opportunity.
“My sport is like a roller coaster. Sometimes you’re on top and other times you’re way down on the bottom,” says skier Corey Hacker. “You must be dedicated and disciplined to work through the valleys.”
“Find something you like, but realize that it’s not going to be fun all the time,” advises Carolyn. “And it won’t be fun unless you put some work into it, because most kids want to improve and get better.”
“There’s always frustration,” admits Tara Lipinski. “The next day always seems a little bit better.”
These athletes’ advice applies to everything in life. Focus on goals and be persistent. Maintain a positive outlook, even when success doesn’t come easily. Do all the right preparation and learn from every experience. Then you can be proud of yourself, whatever you try.
“I feel so lucky to be able to test myself like this, to be able to go out and try to push the envelope at every turn,” says snowboarder Chris Klug. “It’s more fun winning, but it makes it even sweeter in the end if you’ve lost a few and bounced back.”
TRY A WINTER SPORT
Let the Olympics inspire you to try a new sport this winter. Is there a downhill ski area near your home? Take a ski lesson and first try an easy hill.
No hills around? Try cross-country skiing. It’s a great way to work out while enjoying nature.
Find out if any areas offer sledding or tobogganing. Even carrying those sleds can be quite a workout.
Don’t rule out running and walking, either. Get shoes or boots that allow good traction. Then dress in layers and brave the elements. Fresh air feels great!
Even if you live in a warmer climate, you can still enjoy winter fun. Indoor ice rinks around the country provide opportunities for figure skating or speed skating. Or, perhaps you’d enjoy hockey.
Whatever you choose, learn and follow all safety rules. “Safety is number one. Don’t try anything you know you’re not capable of,” stresses aerial skier Corey Hacker. “Always wear the appropriate padding and safety equipment, no matter how funny you think it looks.”
Gold medallists get the most media attention. But most Olympic
athletes won't win medals. Rather than dwelling on frustration,
great athletes assess themselves realistically.
For example, the United States senior women's luge team is the
youngest on the circuit. But Courtney Zablocki and Brenna Margol
aren't down about it.
"You have to learn how to set realistic goals," says Brenna.
"Realistically, right now, we're setting goals of top 10, top 8." With
time and experience, the women plan to shift their goals higher.
"We have a lot to look forward to, just because we are so young,"
List three goals you want to accomplish during the coming year.
Pick things that are challenging, but achievable.
Training can be tiring. "If you just keep working through your
tiredness, you get a lot of pride out of knowing that you finished
and you didn't give up," says Courtney.
Describe a situation in which you are often tempted to quit when
you get tired. Write down two ways to encourage yourself to keep
going the next time.
"One of my favorite quotes is, `Whenever you fall, pick something
up,'" says Brenna. "Basically, learn from every mistake you
List two mistakes you made recently. Note what each experience
has taught you for the future.
WHERE THERE’S A WILL …
“There are days when I absolutely do not feel like getting up and getting out there and training,” says Sarah Will. “Yet once I decide to do it and get done with the workout, I just feel so much better.”
Sarah could have made many excuses not to exercise. A 1988 skiing accident left her paralyzed from the hips down. But, says Sarah, “Sitting around didn’t suit me.” Within a year she started learning to monoski.
Sarah certainly hasn’t sat around. She’s won gold medals in the Paralympics and other competitions for disabled alpine skiers. She also enjoys mountain climbing and mountain biking.
“So much of what I do physically, whether recreationally or being in a gym, makes my life easier,” says Sarah. “The stronger you are, the easier it is to carry yourself around–and that’s true for anybody. The more you do, the better you feel.”
In competitions, Sarah zooms down hills at 60 miles an hour or more. “It’s not that I’m fearless,” she says. “It’s that I’ve learned to manage my fear, and that’s all you can do.”
“Often I learn more from my failures than my successes,” reflects Sarah. She’s learned not to make the same mistakes again. Experience also develops better problem-solving skills. And it teaches Sarah about herself.
“Really, it’s all about knowing your limits, and pushing yourself to face your limitations,” says Sarah. “And once you get to a certain point, you can go beyond what you thought you were capable of.”
“I would hope that everybody could see a little bit of themselves in me,” adds Sarah. “You know, we all have inconveniences in our lives. And everything is there for us. We just have to know how to reach our goals.”
Sarah Will, Skier
THE DOWNSIDE OF DOPING
Some athletes and trainers try to win by “doping”– using banned drugs. However, doping causes serious physical and psychological side effects.
* Anabolic steroids. Based on the male hormone testosterone, anabolic steroids promote muscle bulk. Women’s side effects include facial hair, bulking up, and other masculine traits. Males experience decreased sexual drive, sterility, and smaller testicle size. Both genders risk liver disease and psychological problems like “‘roid rage.”
* Human Growth Hormone (HGH). Athletes taking HGH want higher testosterone production so they can bulk up more. The drug also promotes longer bones. Side effects include diabetes, hepatitis, and pituitary gland disorders.
* Stimulants. Amphetamines and other stimulants make users feel temporarily energized. However, many stimulants are addictive. Other side effects include irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, and possible heart failure.
* Erythropoietin (EPO). Users take EPO to stimulate red blood cell production so blood can carry more oxygen. But thicker blood can lead to clots, strokes, heart attacks, and even death.
Beyond all these risks, doping denigrates the integrity of sports. It also destroys an athlete’s self-respect. “Basically, you’re not winning because you’ve put all your effort into it. You’re winning because of something else,” explains luge athlete Courtney Zablocki. “If you were taking steroids and you won, it wouldn’t be the same. You’re lying to yourself.”
Besides, athletes undergo testing. “If you use a banned substance, you’re going to get caught,” says Courtney. “And I don’t think that’s worth it at all.”
ITEMS FOR REVIEW
1. How can setting goals in athletics–and in life–help a person to succeed? (Setting achievable yet challenging goals for yourself can help you stay focused and moving in the right direction.)
2. Identify some of the things that some world-class athletes have to do to be able to meet their commitment to their sport–besides long hours of practice. (move to a different city to train, endure prolonged rehabilitation and training after surgery, bear unexpected expenses, etc.)
3. How can a buddy help you in the process of working toward your fitness goals? (provide support, help with motivation, teach techniques)
* Assign students to prepare a biography of a contemporary athlete, focusing on evidence of that person’s commitment to excel in his or her particular sport. (See tips in News You Can Use.)
* Assign students to investigate one of the several dozen banned substances in Olympic competition. One way to do this is to go to the Web site of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), an independent foundation built on the idea of promoting fair play in athletics worldwide. The site (www. wada-ama.org) includes a complete list of banned substances and explanatory letters.
* A possible topic for debate is given on the home page of the WADA site: “Cannabinoids (marijuana and hashish) are currently tested in the Olympics. Should an athlete be punished for doping offense, if tested positive?” Have the students break into teams and debate the issue.