Have you ever closed your eyes and imagined the national anthem playing as you take your place on the podium and accept the gold medal on the Olympic stage?
If you have, you’re definitely not alone. There’s something so magical about the Olympics: a few days every two years where the world’s best athletes come together and represent their country.
It’s the end product of years of training, hardship and bouncing back from failure to become the best in their country, and hopefully, the world.
In the United States, only 1 in every 275 gymnasts has a chance to represent his or her country on the world’s stage. To make the cut, health is just one aspect of their life that has to be strictly monitored.
To gain a better understanding of the health routine an Olympic athlete undertakes, I took the opportunity to speak with an actual Olympic gymnast.
Whether she’s competing in the 2016 Olympics in Rio, representing Team USA for Rhythmic Gymnastics or flying to a soundstage in Mexico City to shoot a brand film, Laura Zeng always needs to be ready to perform and compete at a high level.
Laura Zeng performs rhythmic gymnastics at the 2016 rio olympics
When I caught up with her, she was just returning home after developing a film for Dots, a mobile gaming studio in New York City. Her poise and incredible ability to control every inch of her form in the onscreen performance is mesmerizing.
Check out the final cut below to see what personal mastery in motion looks like:
So how does she do it? To stay healthy and in the zone, she uses the following tips and tricks:
1. Add in a 20-minute power nap.
Remember the college balancing act that was school, sleep and a busy social life? Imagine balancing all the things that are already stressful about school and work, and then adding in a grueling training schedule.
It’s difficult to consistently fit eight hours of sleep into such a jam-packed schedule.
Part of Zeng’s superhuman ability to fit everything into 24 hours is her choice to embrace 20-minute power naps. When she feels like she’s at the end of her fuse, she simply takes a quick nap. Disconnecting and relaxing is a great way to charge up for the rest of the day.
2. Try out some power showers.
What goes best with a power nap? A power shower! Laura uses her time in the shower to refocus her mind and visualize the day ahead. This is one of the few moments in her life where she’s left alone.
The privacy combined with the therapeutic sounds of water rushing enables her to reach a feeling of Zen-like peace and tranquility.
Take time away from external distractions to focus and renew your spirit for the busy day ahead.
3. Bite into some dark chocolate.
Good things in moderation can be a great reward as you fight to stay on schedule to hit your goals. Dark chocolate is an excellent, healthy reward.
Just a few bites a day can provide your body with a source of antioxidants and other necessary nutrients. Remember, moderation is key.
Dark chocolate provides Laura with a healthy, balanced reward as she excels throughout her day.
4. Do breathing exercises.
Breathing is something a lot of us take for granted, but it does more than just keep us alive. A deep breath can help open and clear your lungs, while providing your brain with an invigorating burst of oxygen.
The immediate benefits of focused, deep breathing include improved mood, increased cardiovascular capacity and a sense of calm.
As the rhythm of the day picks up and she starts to feel stressed, Laura focuses on her breathing. Taking deep, sustained breaths helps her to stay relaxed, mentally focused and energized.
5. Visualize your goals before executing.
Imagine the pressure Laura must feel before executing her routine in front of judges, fans, family and friends. She’s not only performing for herself, but for her country.
To perform at her best, Laura takes a deep breath and pauses to visualize, in detail, the actions she’s about to perform.
This gives every muscle purpose, and makes her mind a map for the immediate future. During this time, she drowns out the noise of the crowd and the pressure of thousands of eyes staring down at her.
If you want to stay focused and perform at your best, harness your mental and physical energy by first visualizing the task at hand.
The best advice comes down to us from individuals that have achieved the pinnacle of success in their chosen field.
Laura Zeng exemplifies success, and her healthy habits are ones we could all benefit from.