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A Monastic Approach to Training

Olympians train all the time—even when they're resting.

A careful study of olympic athletes, particularly medalists, will uncover a set of unique, yet distinctly common, approaches to life and training. One of the most powerful is their uncompromising devotion to their daily training regimen.

For an Olympian, each day is broken up into snippets of time devoted to the following essential elements:

  1. Rest/sleep

  2. Nutrition

  3. Skill training

  4. Strength training

  5. Functional movement training

  6. Agility training

  7. Endurance training

  8. Anaerobic training (HIIT [High Intensity interval Training])

  9. Stretching

  10. Massage

  11. Meditation/visualization

  12. Free time/family-friend time/relational connectedness

Each "Training day" is organized around a set of not just daily, but weekly objectives. Similarly, each weekly schedule is executed within the context of the current, upcoming, nearly concluding, or recently ended season. For instance, during the off-season (when an athlete is not competing), greater emphasis is placed on strength training and skill development than, say, cardiovascular endurance. When competing, strength training is reduced, HIIT and endurance training is ramped-up, and skill training is focused in on event/game strategy and the deep refining of peviously-learned skills.

Similar to a monastic schedule, which has monks ("solitary ones") rhythmically moving between times of corporate prayer, private prayer, manual labor, eating, sleeping, and caring for the needs of the body, an Olympian's daily schedule is not altogether dissimilar. Just substitute weight-lifting for manual labor, and skill training for prayer, and you'll be just about there. Also (and quite similar to a monk) an Olympian, even when he (or she) is training with others (which happens A LOT—even if he's training for an individual event), trains alone and must do so hour after hour, day after day, week after week, and month after month. In a very real sense, an Olympian lives a set-apart life, much like that of a monk, where every arena of life is marked by an almost transcendent devotion to accomplishing (or living-out) one's mission or aspirations. Apolo Anton Ohno, the famed Olympian and men's short track speed skater, once remarked, I pursue a monastic approach to life and skating. Given his Olympic successes alone (2 gold medals, 2 silver medals, and 4 bronze medals), it's hard to argue with that philosophy.

Provided below, is an example of a day in the life of a typical speed skater in the pre-season leading up to the Winter Olympics (Principal Source: A Day in the life of An Olympic Athlete, by Natalie Rizzo, 2014).

Daily Schedule

6a: Wake-up/breakfast

8a: Warm-up (10-15 minutes of warm-up exercises followed by some light stretching)

8:15-10a: Skate training (skill training and HIIT)

1030a: Recovery shake

11a-Noon: Free time (to review training videos with coach)

Noon: Lunch

1-2p: Free time

2p: Pre-training snack and restful visualizations/mental rehearsals

3-430p: Strength training (weight lifting and plyometric training)

430-6p: Dry-land aerobic conditioning (45 minutes on a bike followed by 45 minutes on a treadmill)

630p: Dinner

7:30-9p: Relax

9p: Snack

10p: Sleep

Total Daily Active Training Time: 5 hours

Total Daily Passive Training Time: 13 hours

Total Daily Unconscious Training Time: 8 hours

Responsive Questions for Your Consideration:

  1. What about the above inspires you most?

  2. What parts of the above would you like to adopt as your own?

  3. What parts of the above will you adopt as your own (be specific)?

  4. When will you begin to make such things a reality?

  5. Where are you now with respect to such things?

  6. What do you need (or need to adjust) to bring it to pass?

  7. Who can help you do so?

May God bless you in your pursuits and in the fulfilling of your aspirations.



IKIGAI Weekly Blog Schedule (per The Training Trinity):

Mondays: Meditative Prayer

Wednesdays: Holistic Discipline

Fridays: Martial Arts Practice


The Life You Were Born to Live

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