For average Joes, assuming the lifestyle and training habits of a professional athlete seems like a good course of action for mental and physical betterment. After all, we're always hearing about how they aren't tempted by booze, they get like 18 hours of sleep a day, and receive pro massages on the reg.
But, there are some habits that oftentimes you shouldn't copy. In fact, sometimes, following in the foot steps of Patrick Peterson, Usain Bolt, or any other of your favorite pros could actually hinder your progress, put you at risk for injury, and more. From diet to training, here are three ways you shouldn’t train like a professional athlete. Because sometimes training smarter—for you—is better than training harder.
Maintain a difficult high-intensity pace
Professional cyclists often pedal over 100 revolutions per minute—an incredibly high cadence—that helps them improve efficiency. But researchers from Oxford University found amateur cyclists can’t sustain this type of intensity for long period of time. In short, this hurts performance in recreational riders.
In the study, researchers looked at the energy consumption of 10 healthy men between the ages 19 and 48 over a variety of exercise intensities and pedaling cadences. Video-based motion analysis was used to analyze the mechanical determinants of changes in the energy cost.
“At a low exercise intensity of 50 watts, a recreational cyclist trying to pedal like a professional at 110 revolutions per minute will use more than 60% of their power just to spin their legs,” Federico Formenti, one of the study’s researchers, says.
What this means is only 40 percent of the energy you burn is going into moving your bike forward. So, even though you want to train and perform like a Tour de France cyclist, achieving this means you need to pedal differently. You’re more efficient working at an even cadence, rather than increasing your pedaling speed. Or, do a traditional interval workout that has you push hard for shorter bursts of time, and intersperse those bursts with more moderate work.
Eat a high-calorie diet
To get through the arduous, high-altitude climbs of the Tour de France, cyclists need to consume a lot of calories (read: close to 9,000). The problem when amateur cyclists think they’re burning enough energy to crush that amount of food? You gain a ton of weight, or quite simply, can’t handle it. That’s right, you expel it—one way or another.
Case in point: A Norwegian reporter requested a chef prepare him the normal array of food top cyclists would eat throughput a normal day in a race, as we reported. A whopping 8,290 calories worth of steak, ham and cheese sandwiches, energy bars, and more (much more) were on the menu. Needless to say he didn’t make it. He lived, but wasn’t feeling like a pro athlete after. What's more, a study published in the Journal of Marketing Research found people who eat "fit foods" like energy bars and mixes are more likely to consume more calories and exercise less, because they believe they're being healthy. Feast in moderation.
Push past the pain
As an athlete, you’re often told to accept pain and push past it. But there’s a big difference between what a professional can tolerate versus the Weekend Warriors of the world.
Researchers from Germany cross-examined 15 different studies that examined pain threshold and tolerance in athletes and non-athletes; they found athletes are consistently able to tolerate more pain. According to the research published in the journal Pain, evidence points to athletes’ use of associative and dissociative thinking. Association involves an athlete thinking about the act they’re doing (i.e. pedaling, dribbling a basketball), whereas dissociation occurs when people think of something positive to distract them from the activity they’re doing (i.e. singing a song in your head, or counting the number of blue cars that pass.)
The researchers also think athletes, over time, develop a resistance to pain. As the exercise intensity increases, a release of endorphins follows. Unfortunately this doesn’t happen to us all. If you push yourself to ignore joint pain, and constantly go to your limit, you up your odds for injury.