It’s no secret that Olympic athletes are some of the hardest workers out there. People who go to the Olympics don’t just love the sport they’re competing in — they live it, and often dedicate most of their life toward trying to reach their goal of winning an Olympic medal. That is definitely the case for those participating in the 2018 Winter Games. But how many hours do Olympic athletes really practice before the big competition?
The answer is a little more complicated than you might think. There isn’t a specific training schedule that every single Olympic athlete follows. The amount of time spent practicing is different for everyone and varies based on the sport, the athlete, and the time of year.
Of course, there’s an average as well. A 2008 article in Forbes says that it’s common for Olympic athletes to spend “four to eight years training in a sport before making an Olympic team.” They plan out their training schedules years in advance so that they can work towards and hit specific goals.
Again, though, the amount of practice depends on the athlete. USA gymnast Simone Biles has previously said that she trains for 32 hours a week, with one day off. Gymnast Gabby Douglas has said she trains from 8 a.m. to noon, takes a break for lunch, then continues training until dinner.
Michael Phelps told CNN that he practices every single day in the pool for three to six hours, doing separate exercises on dry land four to five days a week. Cyclist Kristin Armstrong has said she rides 20 to 25 hours a week, practicing for 10 days before taking a break. Before the 2012 London Olympics, a study came out that said some athletes had put in 10,000 hours of practice before the Games.
While it seems like all athletes do is train, that’s not true. A study done by Case Western Reserve University psychologist Brooke Macnamara ad her team looked at the practice and resulting performance of nearly 3,000 athletes in 34 separate studies, and what they found was surprising: Practice only accounted for 18 percent of performance.
What else do athletes do to prepare for the Olympics? For one thing, they sleep. Getting enough rest is incredibly important for athletes — their bodies need it, or they won’t be able to train at optimum level. They also have to stay on top of their diet to eat right for training and to keep themselves hydrated. Then there’s the mental prep — athletes need to be in the right state of mind to stay on top of their game.
All in all, it seems like an Olympic athlete’s training is a pretty non-stop job. They seem to practice about the same amount of time the rest of us go to full-time jobs, but really, when they’re training for the Olympics, their mind is on that goal all the time.