What do you do after being named the best athlete in the world? Absolutely nothing. That’s been the game plan for 24-year-old Ashton Eaton since winning the gold medal in the decathlon at the 2012 Olympics. “A lot of times, people forget that rest is training, too,” says the Oregon native, who holds the world record in the grueling 10-event sport.
The lifting, running, jumping and throwing part of his training starts up again in two weeks, so Eaton should be enjoying his dwindling veg-out time. Instead, he showed up last Saturday to the new 24 Hour Fitness in Falls Church to lead members in a workout.
“It’s my way of saying thanks,” says Eaton, who appreciated the boost he got in London from sponsors, including the national gym chain and Powerade. Plus, he’s an exercise advocate. “Athletics is such a huge part of people’s lives — just like drinking water and sleeping.”
Saturday’s routine was based on what Eaton does to stay in shape, meaning a little bit of everything: sprints, Russian twists, lunge jumps, push-ups, hip raises, hurdle hops and, of course, burpees. The exercise, also known as the squat jump, is Eaton’s favorite because it forces your entire body to pitch in.
To Eaton, athleticism isn’t just speed or strength or power. It’s all of those things. That’s why he thinks it’s critical to have more than one flavor of workout routine.
“Each of our events is set in stone, but the approach and drills constantly change,” says Eaton, who’s done some odd things in the name of exercise, including throwing broom handles to mimic javelins. Once, his coach instructed him to run up to a swimming pool, jump and do cannonballs into the water.
That kind of activity might not improve his pole vault, but it translates into fun. And when you’re training for upwards of four hours a day, a little levity goes a long way, says Eaton, who was reminded Saturday of how motivating it can be to work out to music. Although he likes tunes, he’s usually exercising without them: “It’s hard to jump with iPod cords.”
Not much else is hard for Eaton, except for long-distance running.
“I can’t jog,” he says. “We used to jog to warm up, but it makes my quads tight. I either run fast or walk.”
Still, Eaton has some tips for folks gearing up for the Marine Corps Marathon and other fall races. One technique he recommends is focusing on other competitors rather than the finish line. When your goal is just passing the guy in the yellow shirt, and then the woman in the pink one, the race becomes more manageable.
Another idea? Shorten your stride and find a rhythm, says Eaton, who relies on that strategy in his longest event, the 1500 meters.
Leave time in these last few workouts for your upper body. To score that winning time, fast arms can be just as key as fast feet, which is why Eaton often stands in place, swinging his arms as quickly as he can. (He also sometimes trains by running with hand weights.)
And no matter what, Eaton says, always drink up. He knows he’s properly hydrated when he has to get up every few hours in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.
“I’m reading this book about space exploration, and the first thing we look for is water,” says Eaton, who sounds like he’s looking for some intergalactic competition.
Gold medalists are just one of the features you can find at the new 24 Hour Fitness (1000 E. Broad St., Falls Church, 571-533-3608, 24hourfitness.com), the first location for the chain in the Washington area. The facility, which opened Sept. 21, boasts a 25-meter pool, basketball court, large functional training area, huge selection of cardio and weight equipment and a busy schedule of classes and events (this weekend is a Zumba fundraiser). Another 24 Hour Fitness is slated to come to Tysons Corner in 2013.