NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - It’s thrilling to watch those Olympians perform in Vancouver, but what have their superhuman feats to do with the fitness needs of us mere mortals?
Industry experts say the Olympic example can be a tool to uproot couch potatoes and fire the workouts of everyday athletes.
“Millions of people who are watching the games will start to think about the importance of regular physical activity,” said Kara Thompson, spokeswoman for the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA).
“The Olympics demonstrate how we can push our bodies physically and how perseverance can yield extraordinary results,” she said.
The lesson is translatable to the world of fitness.
Thompson said health clubs can use the Olympics to invigorate clients’ workout routines.
“It’s certainly an opportunity for clubs to connect their in-club programing with the Olympics and create excitement.”
Jennifer Burke, a personal trainer with Crunch fitness club chain, believes in the Olympic effect.
“A lot of my clients have mentioned the Olympics,” said Burke.” We’ve done a lot of exercises that have to do with skiing, snowboarding.”
Burke was in Beijing in 2008 to work with summer Olympians.
“When I came back I took exercises that helped the summer Olympians, like track, speed workouts, and used them to help everyday people feel like an Olympians.”
Olympic fever is raging at 24 Hour Fitness. The national chain of over 400 health clubs has been a sponsor of the Olympics since 2003.
Four Olympic hopefuls have worked with the chain to create workouts that are based on their specialties but geared to everyday athletes, according to Josh Lyon, director of fitness for the California-based company.
“We wanted to bring it to the masses,” said Lyon, who is in Vancouver for the games. “These are workouts that our personal trainers can take somebody through. Or they can go online and watch a film or download a PDF.”
Lyon believes we are all athletes, whether we are a marathon runner or trying to touch our toes.
U.S. snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler’s signature workout for 24 Hour Fitness centers around lower body strength because snowboarding is demanding on the legs, glutes, balance and core.
In one exercise Bleiler lunges while holding a medicine ball, in another she squats atop the flat surface of a Bosu (half) ball.
Of course Olympic inspiration extends beyond the gym.
“It seems clear there is a trickle-down effect at least in some sports,” said Dr. Phillip Clifford of the American College of Sports Medicine. “The number of young girls taking figure skating lessons explodes after each winter Olympics.”
Skating superstar Dorothy Hamill, who inspired many of those girls, is herself inspired by the sheer variety of sport.
“I watch sports on television during the Olympics that I would never think of watching at any other time,” she said. “It inspires people to try new things. It’s inspired me. “
But experts urge caution when trying something new.
“Definitely take it slow, but like the Olympians, persevere,” Thompson said. “With time and patience, the results will come.”
Burke says if you’re currently experiencing the Olympics from the comfort of your couch, there’s a sure way to get into to the spirit of the games.
“You can run on a treadmill while you’re watching,” he said.