How to Train Smarter and Better

Fit young woman catching her breath during training

Written by Billy Demong, Olympic gold medalist

Sponsored by USANA Health Sciences

In the world of wellness there is a lot of information on nutrition and training. But when it comes to cardiovascular health, the information is all over the place. As an Olympic athlete, I can’t leave that key knowledge to chance, which means over the years, I’ve done some extensive research to best train my body. The health of my heart is the single most important catalyst and/or limiting factor in everything I do, especially when it comes to my athletic performance. For more than 15 years and throughout five Olympic Games, I have continuously strived to maximize my training, knowledge and nutrition to enhance the adaptation of my cardiovascular system.

Nordic combined skiing is a tiny sport—with a very small pool of athletes to choose from—making it imperative for my teammates and I to take advantage of the time and opportunities to train not only hard, but smart in order to reach our potential.

High vs. Low Impact

A core component of fitness is “cardio” training, which is often a misunderstood and misused term to describe the training of the cardiovascular system. Some people stare at the age/max heart rate charts on most gym equipment and try to spend as much time near that recommended max as possible to achieve results. But low-end cardiovascular training like walking, hiking, jogging, easy swimming or cycling has a huge impact on overall fitness and is an attainable movement for the nearly sedentary to the most elite athletes. Low-end exercises also help improve blood flow to muscles and improve how efficiently your heart works.

All of these factors contribute to a more efficient and healthy cardiovascular system. When coupled with controlled intensity training, they can help even the world’s best endurance athletes fulfill their potential.

Supplemental Help

Training is essential, but nutrition also plays an important role. In my experience, not having the proper fuel can hold your body back from making maximum gains in response to your training. Making sure you eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains in your diet is essential to high-level performance.

Through the years I’ve developed a personalized nutrition plan that works for me, but that differs from each of my teammates’ regimens. Creating an individual diet plan has been important for me because it provides me with an opportunity to listen to my body and hear what it needs. In addition to finding the right foods to support my training regime I’ve also played around with a host of different supplements over the years to assist in my overall health. I’ve personally found that a supplement of fish oil with omega-3 fatty acids has helped me pursue a better-trained cardiovascular system.

Throughout the years I have watched myself and my teammates adjust our nutrition and train to become better competitors. From these adjustments and overall awareness of the importance of attaining good cardiovascular heath, we have been able to produce incredible results and help set the foundation for future Nordic combined athletes.

Again, my nutrition plan is optimal for my cardiovascular health. It is important that you listen to your body and fine-tune what’s right for you.

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Billy Demong Bio

With a career on the snow of over 15 years, Billy has helped the US Nordic Combined Team produce some memorable moments. As one of America’s top Nordic skiers in history he helped the U.S. earn a silver medal in the 2010 Olympic Games Relay then went on to become the first American to win a gold medal in a Nordic Skiing event. Billy has made five Olympic Game appearances—1998, 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014—and has helped the sport grow locally, acting as mentor to many of the younger athletes that are quickly rising on the international stage.