With the 2012 London Olympics just weeks away, weekend warriors, fitness fanatics and couch potatoes alike will soon be inspired to rev up their routines.
The fitness industry is gearing up for Olympic fever with workouts that reflect the athleticism, competition and teamwork of the games.
"Something about the Olympics makes people want to compete," said Samantha Clayton, a Malibu, California-based personal trainer and track coach. "The athletes make it look so easy that everyone gets that I-can-do-it feeling, even if they can't."
Clayton, who competed as a sprinter in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, has watched Olympic fever grip Pepperdine University, in Malibu, where she is head women's sprint coach.
"Around campus, it just inspires students to train hard and work harder, even if they aren't that caliber," she said. A native of Birmingham, England, Clayton is particularly excited about the Olympics, which will begin in London on July 27.
"My entire family has a severe case of Olympic fever," she said. "A lot of my friends are still competing."
Clayton thinks much of the appeal lies in watching the many televised sagas of struggle and determination of individual Olympians, whom she describes as often otherwise ordinary people.
"It's a raw sort of sport. There's nothing fancy about it," she said. "A lot of the competitors hold down regular jobs." Some motivation comes from having a goal, she said.
"Any training becomes easier when you have a purpose," she said, whether it's winning a gold medal or fitting into a wedding dress, and even a trainer wants something to work for. She said people who don't care about sports still love the Olympics, and it only comes around every four years.
"You'll always have that one crazy person who thinks he can run 800 meters and pops a hamstring," she said. "But I think people are more inspired than disappointed."
Natural athletic event
Lashaun Dale, national creative manager of group fitness at Equinox, said programming at the chain of fitness centers tends to be more athletically and sports inspired in Olympic years.
"The Olympics provide a natural athletic event for organising programs around," said Dale. "It gives a little structure and bit more intensity."
She said one group fitness class, called Core Values, is inspired in part by gymnastic feats on the parallel bars, beam, vault and floor. Another class uses a rowing machine and taps into the competitive team spirit of the games.
Equinox timed the launch of some classes to coincide with the Olympics, when clients would be most responsive, Dale said.
"Members are interested in these types of classes around athletic events," she said. "People get excited around training for a goal, even if they're not athletes."
For personal trainers the client conversations around Olympic time often turn to upping goals, gaining mastery and training like an athlete, she said.
Olympian feats of strength, speed and power may be out of reach for most of us, but the American Council on Exercise (ACE) has created Olympic-inspired workouts anyone can use to get fit.
"The workouts are themed around gymnastics, track and field, cycling and water sports," said Jessica Matthews, an ACE exercise physiologist.
Olympic gold medalist Dominique Dawes has endorsed the gymnastics workout, and Olympic gold medalist and current Olympic hopeful Allyson Felix has endorsed the track and field.
"Our workouts are built on the foundational principles of fitness," said Matthews, adding that the principles apply whether you aim for a gold medal or fewer pounds.
"You establish a goal. You have a regimen. You stick with it," she said. "You will succeed." Clayton believes the commitment is all.
"Once you sign up for an event you become an athlete," she said. "The second you pay your fee, even if it's for a walk, you become an athlete. You can think like one. And thinking like an athlete is what I encourage my clients to do."
(Reuters Health, Dorene Internicola, July 2012)
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