Athletes in the Olympic and Paralympic Games share their top tips so you can fuel your body and rock your workouts Like an Olympian.
Have you ever thought about all that it takes to be an Olympian? Of course, it takes incredible physical fitness to compete at the Olympic level. But it can be easy to forget that these elite athletes have to train — and care for — their minds as well as their bodies.
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Some of the mental challenges Olympic athletes are up against include dealing with intense scrutiny and the pressure to win as well as protect or build their legacies, according to the University of Richmond. These days, they also have to navigate the risk of contracting COVID-19.
Here, learn how four 2022 Winter Olympians and Paralympians are tending to their mental health every day — and let it inspire you, whether you're going after a medal or just aiming to be your best self.
Anyone can cultivate mental health like an Olympian by practicing mindfulness, making time to breathe, enjoying some alone time and eating foods that make you happy.
1. 'Practice Being Present'
Stress is a routine part of life for Olympians and non-athletes alike, but that stress is amplified when you have to train and perform at near-superhuman levels.
U.S. Olympic freestyle skier and 2021 World Cup winner Winter Vinecki practices mindfulness for her mental health by focusing on living in the present. "I make sure to take a moment (or many) throughout the day to just take some deep breaths and take in my surroundings," she tells LIVESTRONG.com.
And like Vinecki, you can make almost any moment a mindful one."Whether this is at the top of the hill during training or during some meditation, it is really important for me to just be in the moment and not stress about what happened in the past or what I have to do in the future," she says.
2. 'Make Time to Breathe'
Deep breathing is an underrated but highly effective tool for calming your mind and connecting with your body. Diaphragmatic breathing (belly breathing) can help decrease the effects of stress, lower your heart rate and even lower or stabilize your blood pressure, per the Mayo Clinic.
And if U.S. figure skater and 2014 bronze medalist Jason Brown can find the time to breathe more, then we all can. "Every day I take about 12 minutes to just breathe," he tells LIVESTRONG.com. "I set my timer on my phone, lie down and just allow myself to focus on my breath."
Intentionally focusing on breathing helps Brown slow life down a little. "The daily grind can get so hectic, and this forces me to just take a beat and settle my mind," he says. "Once the alarm goes off, it is almost like a mental reset and I can get back to my day with a bit of a calmer, clearer head."
3. 'Enjoy Some Alone Time'
Sometimes centering your mental health means spending some time by yourself.
Despite being a top athlete, Paralympic skier Danielle Aravich says she still has introvert tendencies: "I really value and enjoy my alone time," she tells LIVESTRONG.com.
When you make solo time a priority and find joy in it, it allows you to replenish your emotional, physical and mental reserves. For Aravich, having this time to recharge helps her feel like her most energized self around others. "I need alone time to recharge my battery and gear up to be the social, extroverted person I am," she says.
4. 'Eat Joyous Foods'
Diet and mental health are intrinsically linked. Research has shown that eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, fish and unprocessed grains has been linked to a lower risk for depression, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Jack Wallace, a 2018 sled hockey gold medalist, eats foods that bring him joy. "Every day I always eat something that I really enjoy eating," he tells LIVESTRONG.com.
And it's OK if you aren't choosing the most nutritious foods all the time. "Whether it's a meal or snack that is healthy or not, I always think getting that little bit of delicious food can really help with dieting and overall happiness," he says.
To learn more about all the Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Winter Olympics, beginning February 3, and Paralympics, starting March 4, on NBC.
- University of Richmond: "What does it take to be an Olympian?"
- Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport: "SHARPSports mental Health Awareness Research Project: Prevalence and risk factors of depressive symptoms and life stress in elite athletes"
- APA: "What are the benefits of mindfulness"
- Mayo Clinic: "Stress Relief is Only a Few Breaths Away"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food"
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