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5 Olympic Sports You Can Make Part of Your Workout

With the 2012 London Games starting Friday, we're going to see a plethora of coverage of sports both familiar (basketball and swimming) and not (handball and equestrian dressage). You can take your workout to Olympic-caliber proportions by adding some effective cross-training from your favorite athletes' respective sports at the Games of the XXX Olympiad.

1. Swimming (Freestyle, Breast, Butterfly)

By far, the art of swimming is one of, if not the, best total-body workouts you can try. Not only is it great as a low impact exercise for people with arthritis and joint pain, swimming is a great aerobic exercise. You're building your body's ability to provide large amounts of oxygen to your muscles and respiratory system. With a variety of strokes you can vary which muscle groups you work depending on the stroke.  

Swimming is also a great way to build lean body mass. While you're catching the coverage this year, notice the body shapes of the swimmers. They're some of the most lean and defined athletes at the entire games. This can translate to your workouts as well.

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2. Triathlon (Swim, Run, Bike)

Building on our first sport, the triathlon adds elements of running and biking to the mix. Why is this good for your workout? Cross-training in multiple areas helps create muscle confusion--the process of not letting your muscles adapt to your workouts--thereby helping you see gains in muscle mass and loss in body fat. Triathlon training can also be used to help cardiovascular and endurance fitness. This helps to lower your resting heart rate, which can also help alleviate cardiovascular health risks. By simply adding swimming, cycling, and running into your workouts, and pairing them up a couple times a week, you can get maximum benefit from this awesome event.

3. Martial Art/Combat Sport (Taekwondo, Judo, Boxing, Greco Roman/Freestyle Wrestling)

What can I say about the combat events? Not only are they the events I look forward to the most, but the entire physical/mental discipline of martial arts makes them the most complete and truly "Olympic" sport. These events can add several new levels to your workouts: strength and endurance, cardiovascular endurance and strength, aerobic and anaerobic training, mental discipline, and self-confidence.  

I encourage many of my clients to supplement their workouts with martial arts training of their liking. Not only is it empowering to know how to handle yourself in times of danger, but martial arts training is probably the best way to unleash the stress of the work week. Don't believe me? Strap on some gloves and spend some quality time with a heavy bag.

4. Track (Sprinting Events/Interval Training)

Just like martial arts events, track events are great ways to build your anaerobic endurance. These short, repetitive muscle movements can help to build up the fast twitch muscle fibers that help you with speed, agility, and quickness. Again, track athletes are usually some of the leanest and most well defined athletes at the Games. This can translate to your own fitness goals by taking a page out of the track events and supplementing sprints and interval running into your workouts.

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5. Soccer (Endurance Training)

Soccer--or as our friends everywhere else call it, football--is without a doubt the most popular sport on the planet (sorry, my fellow Americans, it just is!). Not only is soccer an awesome way to get some recreational endurance training in with other live human beings, most areas have adult rec leagues throughout the year. Again, as with many of the events on this list, soccer athletes are some of the most well defined and leanest in terms of body mass. ESPN magazine's "The Body Issue" regularly features both male and female soccer stars. And if you still don't agree with me, Google these two phrases: David Beckham and Hope Solo.

Ryan Barnhart, MS, PES, is a certified Performance Enhancement and Injury Prevention Specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). He also holds a master's degree in exercise science, as well as a bachelor of sport management, both from California University of Pennsylvania. Ryan has worked with numerous collegiate and amateur athletes across many different fields. Ryan also has had the opportunity to work with several professional athletes. Recently he has worked with amateur and professional athletes within the emerging sport of Mixed Martial Arts.

Ryan is currently the director of fitness at a 700+ member gym near Pittsburgh, PA. He enjoys working with weekend warriors, athletes, and everyone in between. You can contact Ryan at rbbarnhart@gmail.com.



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