Athletes prepare for the Olympic Games through several years of intense, focused physical and psychological training. They work with coaches to determine the ideal training plan to reach their peak performance just as the Olympics occur.
Although most Olympians are born with physical advantages that help them reach world-class performance, these athletes still devote huge amounts of time to training. In all but a very few cases, they do not make a living through their sport, so they must find ways to fit an intense training schedule into their lives.
Because the Olympics only occur every four years, athletes in many disciplines plan their training years in advance. For example, distance runners may spend several years building base mileage and cardiovascular strength before advancing to more focused training for their event. A crucial part of training for all athletes is developing enough base strength to limit injuries when training becomes more intense. An injury late in training can derail years of preparation.
While the physical side of training is crucial, the mental side is also important. Continued focus on training across years takes a psychological toll on athletes, and staying motivated often becomes a major challenge. Once the event begins, athletes face the added stress of performing in front of an international crowd against the best competitors in the world. Many athletes work extensively with sports psychologists to mentally prepare for the event.