The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio welcome a record number of participants in what will almost certainly be the biggest competition of their lives.
More than 10,500 athletes from 206 countries have been working their way towards this precise moment in their career, the pinnacle of sporting achievement. As we collectively tune in from around the globe to cheer on our national heroes and discover new ones from near and afar, let’s take a moment to think about what it is about these mega successful athletes that sets them apart from the rest of us. What do they do on a daily basis that can inspire us to our own success?
An athlete knows the power of the mind can be stronger than that of the body. Britain’s greatest Olympic sprinter of all time, Linford Christie, called it PMA – Positive Mental Attitude. And he used it long after his body should have been weaker than its opponents, winning 100m Gold at the ripe old age of 32 in Barcelona. Venus Williams goes so far as to say “Tennis is mostly mental. You win or lose the match before you even go out there.” So train your mind, get 100% focused and mentally strong if you want to go out there and rip it up.
Set your goals, write the road map and commit it all to paper if you want to make it happen. As Bobby Knight, the USA’s 1984 gold-winning basketball team coach says “The key is not the will to win. Everybody has that. It is the will to prepare to win that is important.” You need a plan and you need to be prepared to go through with it if you want the glory of the outcome.
All that relentless training, day in day out, for months and years on end can take its toll and no one can expect you to love it ALL the time. But if you have no joy in what you do, you won’t last long. “The first thing to do is love your sport.” (Peggy Fleming, 1986 Figure Skating Gold Champion)
To avoid injury and burn out, your body needs breaks. And sleep. In a nice deep sleep, your body works on muscle restoration that will help improve your physical performance… 8 hours a night is the gold standard whether you’re an Olympian or not.
Make sure you surround yourself with the people who support and encourage you rather than mock you or bring you down. Success is hard to achieve in negative and toxic environments. So make sure you’re spending time with those who exude positive energy and happy vibes, people who’ve got your back and take pleasure in your successes. As Cathy Freeman says of her tribe: “I’m so lucky, I have such a great support system, all I have to do is run!”
Athletes are made, not born. Natural talent alone is not enough, you’ve got to train hard or go home. David Beckham has always maintained the secret to his success was practice, practice, practice. You just have to keep going, even when you don’t feel like it, resist that urge to quit. ‘Nothing can substitute for just plain hard work’ says Andre Agassi. And he should know…