Lessons from Sochi: Key Components to an Athlete’s (and Your) Success

Imagine you’ve been asked to drive a car to a city you’ve never been to before. This city is 2,000 miles away. Without a map, you might feel pretty lost – where would you fill up on gas and how long between stations? What if you hit a long stretch with no civilization and you get hungry? What if there was a better route you’re missing out on?

Now imagine you have that map. You now have the knowledge to plan out your gas station stops and meals, and you’ve even discovered a more scenic and efficient route (complete with a visit to the world’s largest artichoke).

Sochi athletic performance success

Credit: Flickr Commons, Dave77459

*Cut to the Sochi Olympics and our excitement at WellnessFX*

At WellnessFX, our enthusiasm comes from the thrill of seeing someone achieve their goals by optimizing their performance. The hard work logged is inspiring, and we believe it’s a blend of art and science: On top of talent, dedication, and determination is the crucial role science plays in achieving success. We’re talking about monitoring. (Yes, we’re done with the map metaphor)

The approach
Some Olympic athletes are using data to their advantage to reach peak performance and gain a competitive edge.

After an injury in 2011, pro skier Steven Nyman took a data-driven approach to his training by constantly monitoring his performance and nutrition, and tracking biomarkers like blood glucose, creatine kinase, and urea. Through this monitoring, Nyman emerged as a gold medal contender in Sochi. Nyman is a part of the Quantified Self movement, a (rapidly growing) population of people in health and fitness that embrace the act of monitoring one’s own data to improve a desired outcome.

Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones transitioned from a track and field title winner to being  selected for the U.S. bobsled team competing in Sochi. Even as a top performing, accomplished athlete, the body composition Lolo would need to compete was quite different than the one she started with. In short, her body didn’t fit the sport. Lolo and her coach recognized a transformation would need to take place. “You’re more like a greyhound dog. As a bobsledder you’re more like a Rottweiler or a pit bull,” she said in a recent interview. This meant the addition of 25 lbs. to her 5’9” frame, in order to give her the body type that could push a 375-lb. sled. Using intense diet and exercise through data analysis and tracking, she achieved the change necessary to compete at Sochi.

Unsurprisingly, we’re a fool for the data (and the movement) – biohacking, quantified selfies, we love it all. If you have the data, you can influence the outcome. From trackers, to monitors, to analysis, there have never been more tools and opportunities available to give you access to your health data and performance. The biggest takeaway we would like to highlight here is the best practice of understanding what it is you’re trying to achieve before setting out to improve it.

Why you need a map
Everyone’s body is different, with individual needs, deficiencies, and levels. While common approaches can play a crucial role in improvement, there’s no one-size-fits-all formula when it comes to managing it – so why would you approach it as such? Since what works for one can be slightly – or vastly – different for another, it is important to recognize that the best way to know what you need is to ask your body first, through regular biotesting and monitoring. Anything else, when it comes to trying to achieve a goal, has the potential to be a fairly arbitrary (though well-intentioned) shot in the dark.

What else can we learn from these Olympians?
It would be too easy to deduce that a hardship, current situation or pre-disposition means you are automatically exempt from achieving or improving. From CrossFit goals, to diabetes and heart disease, the potential danger that lies within this thinking is that we give up without even trying. The good news is that not only can we try, we have the tools to make these informed decisions and then act on them.

Whether you’re looking to achieve peak performance in your athletic training, balance your hormones or improve your overall health, there are biomarker testing packages that can be your map for navigating to your goal.

 

The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.