Holistic Fitness Advice from an Olympian

Holistic Fitness Advice from an Olympian

- Rachel Sovka

After his days as an Olympic athlete, Martin Reader hasn’t slowed down his visits to the gym.

Being someone who works out for a living, Martin has some great advice for other athletes in training.

Martin designs all his own workouts and programming, and he shares his model at the athletic training business he co-founded.

He says his model mostly involves prehabilitation, injury mitigation, mobility training, body/lightweight conditioning and core work.

“All of those are important, but the most important piece is your ability to get into a position properly before adding any weight to your workout,” Martin says, “ Training when you aren't capable is just asking for an injury.”

Martins gives this advice as someone who has sustained a few injuries of his own, like subluxing both shoulders, tearing his meniscus, and herniating his L4 and L5 spinal discs.

“I herniated my lower back in 2011 and had to totally rethink how to train in preparation for the Olympics,” Martin says.

“I herniated my lower back in 2011 and had to totally rethink how to train in preparation for the Olympics,” Martin says.

“This was when I discovered bodyweight conditioning and got out of the mindset that lifting more weight made me a better athlete.”

He emphasized that if you can't get into any type of position with an injury, then you have no business getting into that position with additional weight. “Changing the body takes a long time, so be patient and respect the journey,” he says.

Now, Martin is more likely to listen to his body and focus on recovery so that when he goes hard he can squeeze more out of every training session. He even monitors his physical state each day ahead of his workout to determine his training.

“I take an HRV score in the morning which tells me how recovered I am and how intense my training should be that day,” says Martin,

“it’s not about how much you can do, it’s about how good you feel when you wake up.”

“Beyond that, I listen to my body and make sure I am warmed up before doing anything medium to high intensity.”

And he does love intensity. Most of his favourite workouts to crush are not for the faint of heart.

“I love explosive compound movements paired with sled pushing, sprints or box jumps, “ he says, adding that he wouldn't recommend them to everyone as they require a high level of skill, body awareness and physical conditioning to perform.

Most of the conditioning valuable to his sport of volleyball is interval training, power, and full body athleticism. For cross-training his focus is mobility, bodyweight training, lightweight conditioning, some strength work and longer recovery aerobic training on a treadmill or rowing machines.

Although he works out five times a week, including a strength day, lighter recovery and 45-60 minutes of running/rowing/biking, Martin still finds it challenging to make the time to train the way he wants while working a full-time job.

“I struggle to not push as hard as I did in times past or train as if I am as strong as I was when I was a full-time professional athlete,” Martin confesses, but he says he’s getting better at rest and recovery.

Martin is also more insightful and honest about what this lifestyle means.

“For people who idolize athletes, when someone is focussed full-time on sport, you’re slowly destroying your body,” he says, “that’s what you’re doing, and creating poor adaptations in your body from frequency of use.”

Mobility and strength within a full range of motion are now the primary focuses for Martin’s training.

“I want to feel great and have pain-free and functional joints for the rest of my life, so I train how my body moves rather than specific muscles or body parts.”

That’s why Martin places such high priority on mitigating his responses to high performance with balance and mindfulness.

“It’s crucial to be focused on supporting the structural integrity of your body,” Martin says, “I work on strength with squats, deadlifts, and pull ups because we really need postural fitness to mitigate the 21st century lifestyle of sitting for so much of the day.”

Martin says he takes issue with the guys who can squat 315 pounds but can’t sit on the toilet properly.

“I promote holistic body awareness and developing a deeper understanding of one's weaknesses and strengths,” Martin says of his work and fitness.

“I’m not as rigid as I was and am looking to be healthy for life, rather than deadlift a certain amount of weight, or hit a certain percentage of lean body mass;” a lesson we could all learn from someone who has been there and done that.

For a holistic view on Martin’s nutrition, check out Martin’s approach to nutrition.