How 11 Premier Athletes Prepared for the Olympic Games

How 11 Premier Athletes Prepared for the Olympic Games
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Photo: Nike

With the Rio Olympics underway, we went to the stars of the games—the athletes—to find out what’s involved in preparing for the world’s most elite sporting event.

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Becky Sauerbrunn, the co-captain of the women’s US soccer team, who already has an Olympic gold going into this year’s event, told us about the way her team’s learning to acclimatize to the hot temperatures in Brazil, while also switching up their style of training. Shannon Miller, one of the most decorated American artistic gymnasts in history and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, opened up about the diet she follows while training, and track star Allyson Felix laid out her intense 30-hour weekly training schedule. Plus, we’ve got more insight from some of the world’s elite athletes when you click into the slideshow.

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"For our team we had to strike the right balance between training and recovery. We were all coming from our professional teams where players had logged a lot of minutes. We obviously still had things to work on before the Games began, but we held more meetings and did more walk-through-style trainings that weren't as physically demanding. The Olympic tournament format is grueling, so we focused on starting the tournament as fresh as possible. Included in that is nutrition—our sports-performance coach has us increasing our carb and protein intake as well as focusing on hydration. And because the climate fluctuates depending on where you are in Brazil, we've been spending at least 30 minutes each day in the sun or sauna to prepare our bodies for warmer temperatures."

Becky Sauerbrunn is the co-captain of the women’s U.S. soccer team and is competing at this year's Olympic Games in Rio. She won gold at the 2012 Olympics and last year’s World Cup and is sponsored by brands such as Budweiser.

Photo: Getty Images

"The week or two leading up to the Olympic Games is often the calm before the storm. You are fairly secluded with training and your complete focus is toward the competition. You are feeling less stressed now that you are actually on the team. For gymnasts, it's the trials process that the most difficult. For me, the training schedule didn't change drastically. You want to try to keep things as normal as possible. If anything my training was a bit less than I would normally do at home. It's no longer about quantity at this point so you get your workout finished much more quickly. You want to be rested and ready to go for the competition. My diet would remain the same as it had been—again, the less you change the better. I stuck with eggs, grilled chicken, rice, potatoes, pasta and other foods I typically ate at home. I even brought peanut butter, crackers, and a little bit of chocolate with me so that I had all the comforts of home. The most difficult part was trying not to get distracted with all of the excitement. You want to enjoy the moment and take in and take part as much as possible but there is a balance. Each athlete has to find that right balance of training, rest, media and all of the other things that come with the excitement and pageantry of the Olympic Games."

Shannon Miller is one of the most decorated American artistic gymnasts in history and a two-time Olympic gold medalist.

Photo: Getty Images

"An increase of training is key to preparation for the Olympics, but you also can't go too overboard because you don't want to overtrain and exhaust yourself or develop an injury, so moderation is key. I more or less trained twice a day. I would go to my practice at Manhattan Fencing Center for a fencing-specific training include a one-on-one lesson with my coach focusing on tactics, technique, and decision making. We also did footwork and bouting with our training partners. I would then go to the gym later on in the day do my strength training with some interval training cardio."

Monica Aksami is an American fencer competing at the 2016 Olympics Games in Rio.

Photo: Getty Images

"I am doing last-stages prep work for my training, which includes really tightening up my diet, hitting the weight training hard, and fine-tuning my take-off for my dives."

David Boudia is America’s top 10-meter platform diver and has an Olympic gold medal (and a bronze!) from the 2012 London Olympics. Boudia's competing at this year's Games in Rio.

Photo: Getty Images

"I will be leaving Minnesota on August 26 for Houston where I will then meet up with the rest of the U.S. Paralympic Swimming team for a week-long team camp before we ultimately head down to Rio and get ready for the 2016 Paralympic Games. With this said, since coming off of trials in July and being named to the team, it feels as if training has certainly gotten more intense as we make our last final push towards the Rio 2016 Games. Every athlete in this stage finds themselves in a different place mentally, although for myself I feel like this time, this Games, I get to really step back and enjoy the ride. I have fought so incredibly hard to make it to Rio, these past four years have been so incredibly difficult and I have wanted to quit more than once. After my arm injury over two years ago, I thought I would have no other option than to retire, but I knew I just wasn’t ready yet, so I decided to fight. The final days leading up to the Games are incredible, each practice I feel more powerful, each workout gets more and more intense, and I know it is preparing me for the start of competition in 35 days, most of all though, there is a calmness because I know, deep down, I am ready!"

Mallory Weggemann is a paralympic swimmer who won gold and bronze at the 2012 Games, and is competing in Rio at the upcoming Paralympics. She's sponsored by Hershey's and currently holds 34 American records. 

Photo: Getty Images

"I work out six times [each week] and that includes a total of 15 hours on the track and 15 hours in the weight room."

Allyson Felix is an American track and field sprint athlete who won gold at the 2012 Olympics and silver in '04 and '08. She has won three additional Olympic gold medals as a member of the United States' women's relay teams and is competing in Rio in 2016.

Photo: Nike

"I don’t make any drastic changes. Everything, every part of your training, is planned so you reach your height of performance at the right time—at the Olympics. You can’t make drastic changes unless something drastic happens, and you definitely don’t want that!"

Nadia Comaneci is the winner of three gold medals at the 1976 Olympics, the first gymnast to be awarded a perfect score of 10 in an Olympic gymnastics event, and current ambassador for Tide PODS

Photo: Getty Images

"Training a few weeks before the Olympics is all about making sure your body and mind are in optimal performance. Three weeks out of the Olympics we are focused on doing a last-minute training camp, usually with the top Americans, along with several international fencers that are not a direct competitor to us. The goal of this camp is to be pushed physically while also fine-tuning last-minute tactics. The training camp usually involves three to four hours of fencing, lessons, and conditioning. At this point, our diet has stabilized, and it is heavily focused on a high-protein diet with lots of water to prevent muscle cramps from training. This is a fairly common approach that US Olympic coaches developed in 1996 and has been in practice since."

Keeth Smart has competed in three Olympic Games. In the individual Olympic men's sabre competition, he placed 30th in the 2000 Olympic Games, 15th in 2004 and fourth in the team event, and also placed sixth in 2008 while also winning the silver medal in the team event. 

Photo: Getty Images

"The last few weeks are all about fine-tuning and resting. Resting in swimming terms is extremely important and is called tapering. You taper off of the intense training and you don't eat quite as much. You try to sleep and stay off your legs as much as possible. I even rolled around a rolling backpack everywhere I went in Beijing and leading up to Beijing instead of carrying one on my shoulders so my trap muscles wouldn't get sore."

Dara Torres is an American former competitive swimmer who is a 12-time Olympic medalist and former world-record holder in three events. Torres was the first swimmer to represent the United States in five Olympic Games (1984, 1988, 1992, 2000, and 2008), and, at age 41, was the oldest swimmer ever to earn a place on the US Olympic team. She recently teamed up with Celgene launch on their "Show More of You" campaign.

Photo: Getty Images

"I’m playing with my club team right now in Orlando for most of this year so far (Orlando Pride), and with the national team we’ve had more than 10 games together so far, right now, so just continuing to have good games and continuing to stay fit."

Alex Morgan is an American soccer player, Olympic gold medalist, and FIFA Women's World Cup champion. She's competing at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Photo: Getty Images

"Leading up to the Olympics, I’ll train six days a week from 9 a.m. until 11 p.m., with a few breaks in between. My training consists of three stages. Conditioning—to boost my endurance, I swim. It helps boost my cardiovascular capacity while increasing my muscle strength. Stage two is intense interval training to help build muscle (sprinting on my feet and on the bike); and stage three is recovery such as massages and acupuncture to ensure optimal health. What changes the most for me right before the Olympics is my state of mind. I try to keep a positive mind-set and focus on my goal. My diet doesn’t change much weeks leading up to the Olympics, because I’ve maintained a proper diet year round. I do not consume fast foods and I stay away from fried foods. I always eat a healthy and well-balanced breakfast, good carbs, and protein. I used to sleep on a magnetic-therapy mattress, which has helped me get sound sleep and improved my body's performance. I now sleep with a sleep bracelet developed by Philip Stein, which has a metal disc that incorporates natural frequency technology (NFT). I use it every night; there’s nothing like it!"

Butch Reynolds is an American former track and field athlete who competed in the 400-meter dash. He held the world record for the event for 11 years with his personal best time of 43.29 seconds set in 1988.

Photo: Getty Images

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