There's no other time when the country comes together in front of the glow of their television screens to see feats of awesome athleticism, skill, and strength than the Olympics. Seeing the best-of-the-best athletes in the world, in peak physical condition after a lifetime of training, competing head-to-head to be number one in the world is enough to motivate anyone to take a run around the block or say no to an after-dinner cookie.
But if you need a reminder that these athletes are just people--albeit more talented, disciplined, and hardworking people than most--their bodies do, in fact, respond the same way as ours to inactivity. Even Olympic athletes aren't immune to weight fluctuations and they know first-hand that once the activity level drops, even just for a few months, the pounds can creep on.
Michael Phelps? Plus 25
Michael Phelps, the 27-year old swimming prodigy who has won an astounding
14 15 gold medals, is known to down 12,000 calories a day during training to stay properly fueled. He gained 25 pounds after the 2008 games.
He recently told Details magazine:
"At that point, I just didn't have anything. It was weird going from the highest of the high, the biggest point of your life--winning eight gold medals--and then saying, 'All right, where do I go from here?' I wasn't motivated. I did nothing, literally nothing, for a long time. I gained 25 pounds. A friend of mine and I were playing football on the beach in Miami, and somebody got a picture of us and put it all over the place. And he's like, 'Bro, you gotta start working out, man. You are fat.'"
Shawn Johnson? Plus 25
20-year old Olympian Shawn Johnson announced her retirement from gymnastics just shy of the 2012 Olympics after a skiing injury left her knee damaged. But now she has a new challenge ahead of her: not to gain weight.
Shawn also gained 25 pounds after winning Olympic gold in 2008 and taking a much-needed break from her six-day-a-week training schedule. She admitted to People, however, that she might have relaxed her routine a little too much.
"I was just going through so many different life changes," Johnson told People magazine. "I was traveling so much, I didn't get the opportunity to work out. I thought I could do and eat whatever I wanted because I was fit."
If only it worked that way.
Johnson says she's not going to make that mistake again with her retirement and vows to keep an eye on her weight.
"I'm sure it's not going to happen again," she said of her weight gain. "I'm going to try to work really hard and make sure of that. I feel like I'm mentally in a different place so I know how it all works."
Whether this information motivates you or discourages you when it comes to your own weight, there are a few things we can take away from their stories:
• You have to eat the calories meant for your activity level.
• No matter how fit you are, if you become in active, you can still put on weight.
• Having access to full time trainers and nutritionists, like professional athletes and celebrities, is not what keeps a fit body, it's following their advice that gets results.
Whether you're sidelined by an injury or are inactive because you decide to be, you can't expect that your body will stay the same. If you aren't burning excess calories through extra exercise, you can easily find yourself a few pounds heavier, Olympic athlete or not.
Kelly Turner is a Seattle-based ACE-certified personal trainer and professional fitness writer. She began writing after becoming frustrated with the confusing and conflicting fitness information in the media and the quick-fix, gimmick-centered focus of the fitness industry itself. Her no-nonsense, practical advice has been featured on DietsInReview.com, FitnessMagazine.com, Yahoo! Shine, and she has a regular fitness column in The Seattle Times. Kelly has her own blog at www.kellyturnerfitness.com or follow her on Twitter @KellyTurnerFit.