3 min read

Why You're Not an Olympian

When seeking out excellence, elite athletes are an easy population group to study.

Top performers excel under intense physical, mental and emotional pressure.

Most of their performances are recorded and analyzed in great detail, so we have ample stats from which to study their amazing feats.

Can we apply those principles to our own lives?

Simply put, yes, but we must approach the philosophies that make truly great athletes, incredible, with some realism too.

Elite Athletes train 4-8 hours a day, physically, intellectually, environmentally, socially, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and nutritionally because it’s their job.

A lot of these principles they use during training are valid, but the results need to be questioned. The amount of time you can dedicate to this training and the amount of time they can is remarkably different.

Elite Athletes are often there because they have the desire to put in the 10,000 hours of dedicated practice required to achieve total mastery of a sport.

Many also happen to meet the requirements of a tiny percentage of people genetically in one aspect of their sport — think more along the lines of basketball players being genetically predisposed to height and not that there is some genetic coding built in for sport. 

For those of you who may not know, the 10,000 rule was popularized by author Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outliers.

is an approximation of the work of Dr. K. Anders Ericsson, professor of psychology at Florida State University, and oddly enough, an expert on experts.

The theory is that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of deliberate practice, or 10 years to become an expert in anything, but what about developing competency skill sets in something like nutrition or movement?

You obviously do not need to be an expert to benefit in these areas.

We likely choose only a few things in our entire lives that we can dedicate expert amounts of time to develop, and very few of us obviously, will choose something physical like sport.

We often are stunned by the expert shots of elite tennis players or golfers. Yet competency skills are probably more important to life than expert skills.

We can get by on far less than 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to enhance our quality of life, but we may not be able to keep up with the likes of LeBron James or Derek Jeter.

This really is no big deal, and is kind of to be expected, given the amount of time most of us can and are willing to dedicate to developing fitness and nutrition skills.

Elite Athletes make up less than 0.1% of the entire population. By my estimates there are about 30,000 professional athletes that can live off of their earnings.

I would guess that there are probably another 30,000+ athletes that make some kind of money but still need a day job of some kind.

The population of the world is about 6.8 billion, to put things in perspective.

It might be nice to structure your life like an athlete but not particularly practical.

You do not need to sleep, eat, breath and live at the gym to train like an athlete but you should put things in perspective when you read about insanely low body fat percentages, intense training programs, ridiculous McDonald’s binges (Michael Phelps…) and other insane physical stats.

These people are there for a reason, the same reason certain individuals become great CEO’s, politicians and activists, through a combination of passion, the right environment, genetic pre-disposition, and work ethic, among other things.

Thus we cannot expect to look like an athlete when we don’t spend the same amount of time training as an athlete, nor could we.

Gymnasts and dancers look a certain way due to a certain level of dedicated training over the course of years and years of hard work. Our 2-6 hours at the gym a week, just can’t compare.

You don’t have to be top notch at the gym to get a huge benefit from it. You don’t have to train like Arnold to feel better about your body or life.

Although you may have to train like that to look like him, ask yourself these questions before committing to any training schedule at the gym:

What kind of time am I willing to devote to this? 

What outcome do I honestly expect based upon the amount of time I am willing to dedicate?

If they don’t align, you may need to reassess, then make a stronger commitment.

Then find the best tools to fulfill the time you have to get the best, most realistic, results you can expect from your efforts. This will give 90% of the population better health measures of their physical well-being.

Your sport is the sport of life, don’t fret if you don’t hit the gym 6 times a week for two a days just because LeBron does. That kind of commitment is what it takes to be elite, but most of us use the gym so we can be great in other areas of our lives.

What greatness are you working towards, that being fit can help you with?