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Things we can learn from Elite athletes

Elite athletes use many tools to be at the top of their game, but it is how they conduct their training regime that really elevates their performances. 

Sure, sponsors help them with the newest, latest equipment and products. But some sponsorship deals tie the professionals into products that may not be the best available. This means that the amateurs (those who can afford it), have access to a wider choice allowing them to benefit in “marginal gains” from new running shoes, aerodynamic helmets etc.



But what is a “marginal gain”? Each one is a small incremental improvement, possibly only a fraction of a percent. This is not to be sniffed at but should only considered if the other areas are covered. Because it is in the basics where the “major gain” can be found and this is the area the Elite athletes have already successfully managed.  

The following are key areas where “major gains” can be made.


Having a Clear set of Goals

This starts with the “big picture”. What do you want to achieve in your sport? This could be World Champion in 5 years time or an AG top 3 by the end of the season. 

You would then work in ever decreasing increments, setting micro-goals along the route. It will give you a check and balance so you know whether you are on target or need to adjust something to make it happen. 

Write the Goals down; this is important because it has been shown that promises made to ourselves can become a little bit “flexible” or “forgotten” with time. 


Finding and working with a Coach

Now you have a Goal, you can then decide the type of coach and the backup/feedback you want. Ask other athletes about their experiences with various coaches. Look at list of coaches on our website or your Sport’s governing body website.  

One of the key factors in finding a good coach will be how much they embrace this scientific approach and can help you as an individual to understand not only what you need to do, but why. 


Understanding the Science behind your Training

Our bodies react differently to exercise. To understand how your body reacts to various training intensities, durations and methods you will need an “under the bonnet” analysis: Physiological testing.  This will be done in an exercise physiology laboratory in the first instance. 

You will need regular reviews, either back in the Lab or Field Testing to ensure your body is coping and benefiting from the training loads. 



Backed up by Sports Science and Medical studies, sleep is a crucial habit practised by Elite athletes. It is essential for both physical and mental health as, among other things, it repairs muscle, refreshes stamina, and improves alertness.





Organising your Nutrition

Refuelling for any athlete is important. The type and balance of food plans, and the timing of intake will help prepare your body for the training sessions to come.  No athlete will be able to perform at their best with substandard fuel; in a competitive world this applies at all levels. For Elite athletes, where titles are won and lost on tiny margins, it can be a make or break factor. 


Monitoring; Recording

To fully understand the gains, as well as any losses, that certain changes to the program have made you will need a form of “training diary”. The more detailed, the better. In here, a professional will not only record their “training profile” but the feeling of their level of energy/exertion, mental state, daily nutrition, sleep patterns, mood levels.  

It is helpful to try to score these feelings, perhaps on a scale of 1 to 10. Additional notes may include if you have been doing a heavy amount of housework, whether you’ve had a stressful time at work, been working longer hours, been on your feet all day etc.  


Listening to your body

Understanding when to push on and when to hold back a bit. Is your body telling you that it really, really needs a rest or it is close to breaking or is it saying you’re a bit tired but you’re good to complete the task. For some people it helps to start a session and then decide after about 15 minutes whether it really is impossible physically or that you were simply a bit mentally switched off and are now coping fine. 

Using your training diary will help enormously. Being able to review when you last felt like this, what lead up to that feeling, what action did you take (or not) will begin to build a true picture of your body.  


Targeting specific sessions for race day practice

You may only race 3 or 4 times per year. But you can practice for race day throughout the whole year. This can be done by deciding on a specific session within a training cycle and treating it like “race day”. The session maybe a very low key session, a medium intensity or even a maximum effort session. The type of work doesn’t matter, what does matter is the preparation you put into it, making the goals extremely clear and analysing the “performance”. You will be mirroring race day but without the race. 


Controlling your Mental State

You can train or build a mental state. If you couldn’t, there would be a lot of Sports Psychologists looking for work. This all comes back to the Goal setting stage and writing down the type of person you are. Being less than completely honest with yourself will hinder your progression. 

Forming strategies will have its own place on your training program. Be prepared to fail, as everyone does once in a while. But the best athletes understand this will only make them a better winner  


Being more organised

No successful athlete is disorganised. Plan everything well in advance from your training camp dates to what you’re going to pack for race weekend. Don’t leave anything to chance. Things just won’t happen for you, it is up to you to make them happen. 

“Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.” – Michael Jordan


Also on WhichTrainingCamp | Swimming Training Camps | Rowing Training Camps | Cycling Training Camps | Triathlon Training Camps | Athletics Training Camps | Running Training Camps | Find a Coach |


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