Sally Pearson wins gold at the London's 2012 Olympic Games Athletics Women's 100m Hurdles Final. Photo: Alex Coppel
We've seen athletes from all over the world overcome all manner of obstacles for the opportunity to claim gold at the 2012 Olympic games.
None of them had an easy ride to the top - and neither do the rest of us when we decide to take our own fitness to new levels.
So how can we integrate a bit of Usain Bolt or Sally Pearson into our own workouts to help us achieve some golden moments of our own? Here are three ways to add intensity and attitude, and even some altitude into your workout mix:
If you're at the beginning of your fitness journey and walking is your starting point, that's great – but try to increase the intensity with some hill walking or stair walking.
Activate your glutes on the hills and stairs, and you will notice tone developing in your calves and thighs along with an increased heart rate for cardiovascular health. If you do your hill walking on the treadmill, please avoid the most common mistake for beginners - holding onto the hand rails. If you negate the angle and lean back, you're negating the intensity that hill walking brings.
For your workout: An outdoor walk at 5 to 6km/hr pace with numerous hills or use the same pace with a 10 degree incline on the treadmill.
Head for the hills
While running, many individuals avoid hills in their daily routine for one simple reason – they are damn hard. But if it's hard, it will make you a stronger runner because you are using your muscles more than usual to combat gravity. You can't become a good runner unless you hit the hills, and anybody that ran Sydney's City to Surf understands this after facing Heartbreak Hill.
Proper uphill running form depends on smaller strides, staying upright, and moving up and into the hill. During hill running, be careful of a heel strike, which is wasted movement and puts undue stress on your lower limbs.
For your workout: Interval training - 10 x 100m sprints up a hill, with a vigorous walk to rest on the way down.
Take on some altitude
If hills don't cut it, you can always hit the mountains via altitude training. For years now, many athletes have been training and/or sleeping at higher altitudes to improve performance. According to Altitude.org, 'Exposing the body to high altitude causes it to acclimatise to the lower level of oxygen available in the atmosphere. Many of the changes that occur with acclimatisation improve the delivery of oxygen to the muscles -the theory being that more oxygen will lead to better performance.'
Athletes at the AIS utilise this method of training, but it's now available for every day pavement pounders in Mosman at Sydney Altitude Training. From bikes to rowers, treadmills, and more, you can train at 3,200m (and higher) to increase your aerobic fitness for weight loss, a marathon, or to ready yourself for a hike to Mt. Kilimanjaro.
I found my introductory session of a 2.5km treadmill run at a top speed of 13.5km/hr much more taxing than at sea level.
"The body's cardio system has to work harder in the altitude environment as it tries to provide muscles with enough oxygen. The result is you burn around 25-30 per cent more calories for the same exercise done at sea level, so altitude training is very time efficient," said centre managing director Allan Bolton.
With any exercise, I've learned that if you 'change the angle, you change the exercise,' and it's never truer than when adding uphill training and altitude into your exercise regime. Combined with a bit of inspiration and attitude, workout results can be increased significantly.
So now that the Olympics are over, don't angle your feet up on the ottoman for reality TV - get them moving uphill to maximise the inspiration so many of us gained over the past two weeks.