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Apolo Ohno's Winter Olympics Preview

Apolo Ohno will swap his skates for a sports correspondent gig at this year's Winter Olympics. We chatted with the eight-time medalist about what we can expect to see in Sochi, and what it takes to get competition-fit.

Men's Fitness: What are you looking forward to most in Sochi?

Apolo Ohno: Short track speed skating and long track speed skating, and anything skiing or snowboarding related. I like the races myself. But figure skating is fun too.

Who should we have our eyes on during the Games, from home and abroad?

Shani Davis, Eddy Alvarez, and J.R. Celski. Our entire men’s relay team for short track. And then overseas I would have to say Viktor Ahn. He changed his citizenship to Russia—he used to be Korean. Very interesting story. Those are the ones.

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Any advice you would give these competitors?

Enjoy the moment, take it in, but don’t forget the reasons why you’re there.

How did you get situated in the right mindset before you raced?

I just needed to be 100% focused, so I would spend time in the heat box. We actually have 10-15 minutes before we would actually race, and I would spend time focusing on my breathing and going through not only strategy, but also calming techniques. Relaxing my body, getting my heart rate lower, and just having that sixth sense—in a sense.

How do you get through those intense workouts and tell yourself that it’s all worth it?

In a sport like short track speed skating, where reaching the podium is never guaranteed, anything could happen—you could fall, someone could bump into you, you could get sick that day…but I think it’s a part of a bigger picture. It’s a part of the fact that it’s the Olympic Games, representing your country, and stepping to the line. Sometimes things happen that are out of your control, but saying you’ve done everything in your power and have left no stones unturned in your preparation to reach that point, it’s very gratifying internally. Getting to that point—to tell yourself, “I have zero regrets about everything that’s happened up to that point in the training,” it’s very tough to honestly say that. You can always say, “Man, I wish I trained with more intensity and focus,” but if you’re able to complete that, you’re in a really good place to succeed, regardless of outcome.

What's your favorite workout?

It’s all in phases, but legs are so important. Whether you’re an amateur bodybuilder trying to go pro or a speed skater, you’ll get a much better anabolic response working your legs hard—moreso than if you just did triceps, no matter how hard. If you do a 61/2-minute leg press followed by stairs, you’ll feel it. Also important, especially for me, was plyometrics and building explosiveness.

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What are your top training tips?

Diet, number one, is the main focal point here. You have to make sure you’re eating properly. It allows your body to perform, recover, and it’ll minimize your body fat. Also keep your workouts intense. Nobody got really strong by going easy. There’s times when you have to back off, but make sure if you’re going heavy that it’s logged in and intense and you know exactly the reasons why you’re doing the workout. You can’t just go through the motions. And everybody is at different stages of fitness in their lives—there’s nothing wrong with just working out, staying in shape. But for the guys who have a simple goal in mind, you have to put in a little intensity. What I recommend to anyone about to work out: Just spend five minutes in your car beforehand and focus on the workout you’re about to do. I guarantee you, every time you’ll see a 20% benefit in your workout.

What else have you been doing?

I’m involved with the Special Olympics; I’m a global ambassador. The Apolo Ohno Foundation mirrors some of that stuff. I do a lot of stuff with Children’s Hospital, I’ve done things with the Ronald McDonald house. I try to give back when I can; I’m on a trip to Asia providing basic necessities to kids in Thailand. Whatever we’re doing, I try to give back when I can.

As a commentator, do you ever get the nag to get back out there?

I do, absolutely. It’s in my blood. But I’m very happy with my career. I’m so blessed to walk away with a really long and healthy career.

Follow Apolo Ohno on Twitter.

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