What does life look like for an Olympic Fencer? It’s one of those intensely burning questions that many of us have, trying to figure out how these amazing athletes get there so that we can try to emulate what they’re doing and get that much better ourselves. We’re intensely fascinated with what it means to be an Olympian, with what it means to take the sport to that kind of incredible level.
Before you read on, keep in mind that this is a sample training schedule. We’ve poured over interviews with world class athletes, particularly USA Fencing athletes and added it to our own experiences training fencers for high level competitions. Check out this piece about Time Morehouse and Race Imboden, or many other interviews with Olympic fencers. With all of this, we’ve compiled what a training day looks like for a high level fencer, based on what the fencers say themselves. While the hours or the specifics of any training schedule may vary, the essence of the whole thing is the same. One of the things about any sport is that it’s highly individual. Every athlete finds a training regimen that works really well for them, one that brings them to their highest level.
High level fencers train for hours each day, many of them six days per week as they ramp up for competition season. Going to the Olympics is a dream for many athletes, and almost all of the fencers on Team USA took a year off of school or significant time away from their job in order to prepare. That’s how demanding this life is – in the run up to the Games, training is a full time job.
A Typical Day of an Olympic Fencer
6am – Food
A quick power breakfast and then training starts early. And of course even Olympians have to start with a shower. Equipment is packed, and so are those healthy meals for the rest of the day. High level athletes eat throughout the day, and smart snacks are part of keeping the body fit and ready to go. Morning prep is personal for every Olympic fencer, and it might involve a meditation session, reading up on what’s new in fencing or updating social media to share their experiences with fans.
8 – 9am – Cardio
Daily cardio is an essential part of training for fencers, as it’s the thing that allows for staying going through those long matches. This hour of cardio could be running, aerobics, cycling, or an elliptical.
9 – 11am – Footwork, Targets and Private lesson
Footwork is really the most basic and important element of fencing. Elite fencers do not take it lightly, and while their footwork during the competition looks just perfect, this perfection and precision is the result of hours of the training. Every fencer would spend quite a substantial amount of time practicing their drills. In addition, at the top of their game, fencers still take lessons. Time with a coach is critical to success, and fencers at this level spend hours in practice every day.
11am – noon – Cross training
This might include anything from yoga to cross fit to strength training. Building muscle and flexibility is a critical part of the process, and it’s one of the things that really sets competitors apart. Cross training is about preparing the body for fencing, offering a way to build up those muscles.
12 – 1pm – Lunch
Lunch isn’t just for pleasure, it’s fuel to keep that sword moving. Nutrition is a key part of staying on top of the game for fencers.
1 – 2pm – Study
Understanding the sport can be as important as getting on the strip. Fencers might study video, learn more about moves or bone up on the latest training techniques. Learning about opponents is critical to performing well, and elite fencers carve out time to think about what the other fencers will be doing. All athletes who compete look at the competition – think about how football teams review tapes. It’s the same with fencers.
3 – 6pm – Afternoon practice session
An afternoon practice session might consist of focusing on a specific skill, bouting with a training partner or doing a lot of fencing with whoever comes to the club. Training does not stay the same from day to day – the needs of the fencer will change and morph over time as skills are mastered or the body adapts. In order to get to and stay in peak condition, a fencer must change up his training routine. These changes aren’t just done on the fly though – constant consultation with coaches and specialists are a very real part of the process.
What this means for you
The thing that is consistent though is the amount – world class fencers train A LOT. We’re talking hours every day. One doesn’t make it to the Olympics by showing up to the club for two hours per week. However many high level fencers, especially in the USA, do balance training and everyday life, with many holding down jobs or going to school to keep their regular life going while they do this. This is really just a sample, high level fencers fit it in all in somehow, working around their other responsibilities.
What does that mean for those fencers just coming up? Those who have dreams of winning gold? It means that much of this is right within you reach, even though it might take some creativity and lots of hard work. If you want it, as Olympic fencers do, then you have a great deal of power just to reach up and make it happen. Be inspired!
These amazing athletes were once just like you or your child, learning the ropes and working hard at the club. This training schedule doesn’t come out of nowhere – it starts small. For these fencers, the sword is life – and that’s a beautiful thing. All of the training and sacrifice is well worth it to be doing something that they love and that gives so much back to them. And when we see them coming strong in the Olympics and winning medals and staying on the podium under their nation flag – this gives us a lot of pride and inspiration as well.
Photo Credit: Serge Timacheff / FIE /FencingPhotos.com