They’re the world’s most successful athletes; the modern gladiators who embody everything it means to be an athlete – and now you can refine your sports performance using their diet and training advice. Here are 17 tips from the greatest ever in their respective sports:
1. Muhammad Ali
Speaking of the greatest, Ali found the gym and training sessions boring. However, he never skipped on skipping. Which is great, as an Arizona State University study found 10 minutes of jump rope is as effective as 30 minutes on a treadmill. The kicker is that it actually improves balance and sports – specific accuracy. Get off the boring grind and get better with jumps.
2. Michael Jordan
Chicago Bulls shooting guard Jordan holds core training and balance exercises responsible for his athletic prowess. The ultimate core exercises according to science: Auburn University Montgomery studies found Pilates and yoga were best for sports specific core strength. Enroll in a class so a trained pro can teach you textbook form.
3. Wayne Gretzky
“Procrastination is one of the most common and deadliest of diseases; its toll on success and happiness is heavy,” the prostar hockey player claims. The best way to beat procrastination: pre-commit financially, according to Psychological Science. Pre-pay for your gym or coaching sessions and you’ll be less likely to back out.
4. Caitlyn Jenner
The gold medal-winning decathlon runner always said “You have to train your mind like you train your body.” Which is totally on point: according to the Journal f Sport & Exercise Psychology imagining weight lifting causes actual physical changes in muscle activity. So focus on muscles growing while you train them.
5. Sir Steve Redgrave
Rower Redgrave has competed in five Olympic games and brought home gold in all of them. His tip: the more you practice the better you’ll become. Okay, not groundbreaking but doing a variety of sport and exercise helps overall fitness. Clock the 10,000 hours in your sport and you’ll be better, it works out to be about 90 minutes a day for 20 years.
6. Michael Phelps
Olympic Gold medal-snatcher and swimmer Michael Phelps boasted of eating 12,000 calories a day in order to gold-medal ready. Instead of snarfing donuts, take a tip from his book and start the day on an egg: a Saint Louis University study found switching from a grain-based to an egg-based breakfast can help reduce cravings and calorie intake. It’s a far smarter way to streamline your body.
7. Lebron James
Basketball player James claims meditation helps keep him relaxed, focused and mindful. A Harvard study backs this up, saying it takes just eight weeks for this to work. So stick to it and you’ll be duly rewarded.
8. Dan Jansen
The gold-winning speed skater said “The higher you set your goals, the more you’re going to work.” The easiest way to commit to goals is to physically write them down with pen and paper and it’ll be more likely to stick, according to Harvard boffins. Just make sure they’re somewhere you can see them often – that security of purpose will reinforce the mind-to- muscle connection.
9. Matt Biondi
At his peak, swimmer Biondi was described as ‘untouchable’ – by retirement he’d won a staggering 11 Olympic medals. His tip: treat training setbacks like a math problem you can work through with research and effort. If you’re not hitting the goals you want, break it down and look for the solution.
10. Greg Louganis
Louganis scored his victory in the 3m springboard despite hitting his head and suffering a concussion. His tip: visualize and don’t let a knockback make you feel like a failure. As a child he used dance training to help him improve his memory for routine and practice his visualization techniques.
11. Sir Chris Hoy
Britain’s most decorated Olympian advocates working smarter, not harder: “When I look back to before I had proper coaching, I was doing 10 sets of leg press, 10 sets of squats. In later years, we were doing four sets of each. You get better results from doing less.” Repair is as valuable as the work.
12. Usain Bolt
Bolt credits confidence, determinism and positive thinking are the secrets of his success: “I’ve had a couple of bad seasons, but I’ve always come back and shown up”. McGill University studies agree: positive thinking skews results 60 per cent more often than is statistically likely. So if you think like a winner, you’ll be a winner.
13. Roger Federer
Not just a pretty face, Federer is ranked world No. 3 by the Association of Tennis Professionals and has scored a record 16 Grand Slam titles. His secret: high intensity interval training. PLoS One studies say HIIT training boosts your endurance and overall health.
14. Pavvo Nurmi
Known as the ‘Flying Finn’, the four-time gold medal-winning runner was a strong believer in training outdoors using hills and wind resistance to increase his gains.
15. Jessica Ennis
Ennis’ coach Toni Minichiello puts her success down to changing her routine up frequently: “Doing the same training day in day will not make any progress towards your intended goal. Regular, yet di erent, training and exercise is important.”
16. Dame Kelly Holmes
The gold-winning runner is a big fan of ‘fartleks’ – a Swedish workout that prepares a runner for uneven terrains and rivals’ sharp elbows. Map your workout on three speeds associated with a color: hard (red), moderate (yellow), easy (green). Run 30 secs when you see something red, 90 secs when you see green and 60 secs when you see yellow.
17. Lord Sebastian Coe
Lord Coe was a huge fan of circuit resistance workouts, and Referred Sports Journal results agree, finding that just 12 weeks’ circuit training can improve muscle tone and bone density. So run the machine gauntlet in your gym if you don’t know all the free weight moves.
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