Watching world-class competitors inspires the inner athlete in all of us. Sure, you could set a reminder to work out tomorrow, as you sit snacking on the couch. But why not use that inspiration immediately? Try these Olympics-inspired workouts, so you can get fit like a champion while you watch them in action.
Illustration by Angelica Alzona. Photos by David Madison, Mike Kemp Images, Pete Saloutos and CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/Getty Images.
We designed these as interval-style workouts, because what happens on screen isn’t nonstop athleticism. There are introductions, breaks between heats and medal ceremonies. In our follow-along workouts, you’ll do tough exercises while the athletes are competing, but then you get to rest whenever there’s a break in the action. Keep this up for as many rounds as you like, then get ready to do it all again tomorrow!
This popular sport has four different events in the women’s division, and six in the men’s. Some, like vault, last just seconds, while others stretch longer than a minute.
- Vault: Squat low while the gymnast runs toward the table, then explode into a tuck jump, pulling your legs as high as you can, when they leave the ground.
- Uneven Bars: Plank time! Hold the position during the entire routine if you can. Make it uneven by putting your hands and feet on different levels. If you put your hands on a chair while your feet are on the floor, the plank becomes a lot easier than the standard type; feel free to reverse that if you want a real challenge. For extra unevenness, place one hand on a stack of books or a medicine ball, and switch sides for the next rep.
- Parallel Bars and Horizontal Bar: Keep up the plank theme, but in a different way: This time, do a side plank. If you need to rest, let your hip touch down, and then get back up when you’re ready to continue. Switch sides with each bar routine you watch.
- Balance Beam: Practice your balance. Routines last about 90 seconds, so do roughly 30 seconds each of three fun but challenging balance moves: Tree pose, warrior II and aeroplanes. Too easy? Lower yourself into a partial squat while in the aeroplane position.
- Floor Routine: This is another 90-second event (70 seconds for the men), so try another trio: Plank jacks, invisible skipping rope (literally just pretend you have a rope) and power skips.
- Pommel Horse: Obviously the most fun way to watch pommel horse would be trying to do these circular movements on the floor, breakdancing style — here’s a video that shows you how. Whether you succeed or fail, you’re a winner in our book.
- Rings: Set up two chairs next to each other, and put one hand on each, with your body in between and your feet resting on the floor in front of you. You’re now in much the same position as a gymnast on the rings. Try lifting up your feet, legs straight, while supporting yourself on the chairs. Or for an easier exercise, leave your feet on the floor and lower your body for tricep dips.
For swimming events, we’ve based our workouts on which stroke the athletes are doing. In the longer races, take a break whenever you need to.
- Butterfly: Hold your arms out to the side and do arm circles during each butterfly event. Are your legs getting bored? Do squats at the same time.
- Backstroke: Since you can’t watch TV on your back, why not try boat pose, where you sit on the ground while holding your feet and upper body off the floor. If this is tough, you can hold your legs with your hands, or occasionally rest your feet on the ground. Too easy? Add arm circles.
- Breaststroke: To mimic that feeling of pulling yourself through the water, do judo push-ups, pausing for a moment after each rep to look at the TV.
- Freestyle: Do supermans on the floor. For an authentic swimming feeling, alternate your arms up and down. There will be a lot of freestyle, though (as its own event and mixed into others) and it’s hard to watch TV while doing this move. So after a few reps, stand up and switch to jumping jacks for the rest of the heat.
Keep an eye on the schedule for the medley events, where a swimmer or team does all four strokes. The order is the same as we’ve listed them above.
Track and Field
For any race, pick your favourite athlete at the start. Do the corresponding exercises until they finish — whether that’s first, last or somewhere in between.
- Hurdles: Jog in place, and do a tuck jump for every hurdle. (This also works for horse jumping events!) Keep a foot on the floor if you aren’t used to doing a lot of jumping exercises.
- 100 and 200 Metres: Do high knees while running in place, as fast as you can.
- 400 Metres: Do butt kicks while running in place.
- 800 Metres: High knees for the first lap, butt kicks for the second.
- 1500 Metres: High knees for the first lap, butt kicks for the second, skaters (side-to-side leaps) for the third and bring it on home with jumping lunges.
For longer races, like the 5000 and 10,000 metres, switch between jogging and jumping jacks every time a new runner takes the lead. If the camera cuts away to show another event, do a burpee and take a quick water break.
Celebrate Your Hard Work
At the medal ceremonies, stand tall if your country’s anthem is played — and do calf raises for the duration. If the anthem is for another country, do a wall sit instead.
Any time a record is broken, look at the last digit of the athlete’s time or score — and do that many push-ups. Ten if it’s a zero!
We’ve covered the most popular summer sports in this workout, so you’ll have something to do almost every day. Feel free to invent your own interval workouts for other sports you end up watching. And even though this is a fun workout, it’s still work. Be smart about taking rest breaks when you need them, and making sure you keep good form. Don’t forget to sit down sometimes and cheer on your team!