Games Olympic People Play: A High School and College Athlete’s Guide

As an aspiring athlete, you probably dream of competing at the highest levels, like the Olympics. The journey to the top is filled with hard work, dedication, and strategic training. Let’s dive into the training techniques and strategies that elite athletes use to prepare for the Olympics and how you can apply these methods to your own training.

1. Mastering the Basics

Before athletes become Olympic legends, they master the basics. This means focusing on fundamental movements and exercises that build a strong foundation. Here’s how you can start:

  • Focus on Form: Perfect your technique in basic movements like squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and pull-ups. Good form prevents injuries and maximizes performance.
  • Build Strength: Strength is the cornerstone of all athletic performance. Include compound movements in your routine to build overall strength.
  • Increase Flexibility: Incorporate stretching and mobility exercises to improve your range of motion and prevent injuries.

2. Periodization: Training in Phases

Olympic athletes use periodization to structure their training. This means dividing their training into phases, each with a specific focus. Here’s how you can use periodization:

  • Preparation Phase: Focus on building a solid base of endurance, strength, and technique. This phase usually lasts several weeks.
  • Build-Up Phase: Increase the intensity and volume of your workouts to build strength and power. This phase is about pushing your limits.
  • Peak Phase: Fine-tune your training with sport-specific drills and reduce the volume to avoid fatigue. The goal is to be at your best for competitions.
  • Recovery Phase: Allow your body to recover with lower-intensity workouts and rest. This phase helps prevent burnout and injuries.

3. Sport-Specific Training

Olympic athletes train with exercises that mimic the movements of their sport. Here’s how to make your training sport-specific:

  • Identify Key Movements: Determine the most important movements in your sport. For example, if you’re a sprinter, focus on explosive leg exercises.
  • Mimic Competition Conditions: Practice under conditions similar to your competition. If you’re a basketball player, practice game scenarios and drills.
  • Use Equipment: Incorporate sport-specific equipment into your training, like resistance bands for swimmers or agility ladders for soccer players.

4. Mental Training

The mental aspect of training is crucial for Olympic athletes. Here’s how to develop a strong mindset:

  • Set Goals: Set clear, achievable goals for your training and competitions. Break them down into short-term and long-term goals.
  • Visualize Success: Use visualization techniques to imagine yourself succeeding in your sport. This can improve confidence and performance.
  • Stay Positive: Maintain a positive attitude, even when faced with challenges. Surround yourself with supportive teammates and coaches.

5. Nutrition and Recovery

Olympic athletes pay close attention to their diet and recovery. Here’s how you can optimize your nutrition and recovery:

  • Eat for Performance: Fuel your body with a balanced diet rich in protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Stay hydrated and avoid junk food.
  • Prioritize Sleep: Aim for 8-10 hours of sleep per night to allow your body to recover and repair.
  • Use Recovery Techniques: Incorporate techniques like foam rolling, ice baths, and massage to speed up recovery and reduce soreness.

6. Cross-Training

Many Olympic athletes use cross-training to improve overall fitness and reduce the risk of injury. Here’s how to incorporate cross-training:

  • Try Different Sports: Participate in different sports to improve various aspects of fitness. For example, swimming can improve cardiovascular fitness, while yoga can enhance flexibility.
  • Include Variety: Mix up your workouts with different activities like cycling, rowing, or hiking to keep training interesting and challenging.
  • Balance Work and Rest: Ensure you have a balance between training and rest to avoid overtraining and burnout.

7. Adaptability and Resilience

Olympic athletes are adaptable and resilient. Here’s how to develop these qualities:

  • Be Flexible: Be willing to adjust your training plan if necessary. Life can be unpredictable, and flexibility helps you stay on track.
  • Learn from Setbacks: Treat setbacks as learning opportunities. Analyze what went wrong and how you can improve.
  • Stay Committed: Maintain your commitment to your training and goals, even when faced with challenges.


Training like an Olympic athlete involves mastering the basics, structuring your training in phases, focusing on sport-specific exercises, developing mental toughness, optimizing nutrition and recovery, incorporating cross-training, and being adaptable and resilient. By applying these principles, you can take your athletic performance to the next level and move closer to achieving your dreams.

Remember, every Olympic athlete started somewhere. With dedication, hard work, and the right strategies, you too can achieve greatness in your sport.