6 Habits of an Olympic Champion

This past week I had the opportunity to go to southern California and stay with Brian and Erin Mackenzie who over the last 2-3 years have become great friends of mine.


On this trip I got to take part in 2 days of training with Sara Hendershot and Erin Cafaro Mackenzie. Sara was a part of a pair of rowers that took 4th in the 2012 olympics in London. Sara (26 years old) grew up in the north east and went to Princeton University where she rowed on the collegiate level. She then went on to make the Olympic team in the 2 man boat.




Erin (31) is a California gril that went to Cal Berkley where she also rowed at the collegiate level. After college, Erin went on to row in the 8 man boat on the Olympic team that won GOLD in Beijing and London. That’s 2 gold medals folks.


ErinCafaro Push up Gold Medal




After spending time with these 2 wonderful ladies I sat back and analyzed what they were doing to represent their country and attempt to win another gold medal.


Here are 6 things these ladies are applying to their lives in order to make themselves world class.

# 1 Hard Work

Sara and Erin train together 6 days a week, most of the time 2 times a day. Most everyday they are on the water in Newport Harbor where they share a boathouse with Chatmon University. Every Morning between 5:30 and 7:30(depending on the traffic in the harbor) these 2 ladies spend 30 minutes outside of the water warming up and getting ready to take on the day.


They take their EMPACHER boat that was sponsored by West Coast University and put it in the water. They then spend another 28 minutes warming up and working on drills and skills to make them better. They spend time doing half strokes/ ¾ strokes/ and full strokes. They work starts, tempo, different stroke rates, and the list could go on and on.


After a 90 min to 2 hour session they head in to clean the boat, get dressed and go eat. Later in the day they come back and do another session where they will work on a number of things. While I was there, they went into the weight room at 3:00. From there they spent about 20-30 min warming up coupled with doing skills that were going to transfer into their metabolic conditioning they were going to embark upon.


They then started a workout that coach and husband of Erin, Brian Mackenzie called the “Newport Crippler”

1 round for time

30 Back Squats at 150 lbs

1 mile run for time


This is a max effort for both aspects of the workout. The bar did not come off the back of either woman. They did 30 straight without resting. They then dumped the bar and ran 1 mile as fast as they could. Sara finished in 6:50 and Erin finished in 7:45.

Upon finishing, Sara walked around to catch her breath then hopped on the Assault Bike for 10 minutes to recover. Erin finished and trotted over to the treadmill for a 10 minute cool down run.


Both of these women are athletically blessed. More so than 99% of the people on the earth, but this does not stop them from pushing their bodies to the point of almost breaking in order to reach their goal. Why do they do this? Because they know that everyone in RIO in the 2016 Summer Olympics, on the largest stage in the word will be the best the world has to offer. They also know that the gold is not won under the lights of the Olympic stage, its won in the dawn hours of the California sun and dirty weight room floor of UNSCARED HQ.


Erin and Sara in harbor

 #1 Details

The details is what makes the good great and make the great unstoppable. I sat in a little dingy on the Newport Harbor watching 2 accomplished Olympic athletes work for 5 minutes on body position. BODY POSITION!!! Are you serious? They then spent time working on the 1st half of the stroke by taking half strokes. They then progressed into working on ¾ strokes. Only after about 30 minutes did they get to take a full stroke with the oar.

They went up and down the harbor taking stroke after stroke working on timing, getting the oar out of the water at just the right time in order to pull the boat through the water in the most efficient way possible. They would go 1000 meters at a stroke rate much slower than race pace. Working on the little things that will make a big difference in the long run. The are trying to create perfect habits. Trying to ingrain the perfect most efficient movement pattern possible.

In the second workout of the day they start the session in the weight room where they work on the skills they are going to tackle in the workout. SQUATS and RUNNING. They took a jump rope and worked on running skill, that’s right running is a skill. You know the sport where more people get injured than anything else??? Running. They are working on the proper technique that will keep them the healthiest and the fastest.

These ladies realize it is the details that get you beat. Sara was in a boat that won 4th place in the 2012 Olympics by less than 1 second…..Details.

These are 2 things that you can go apply to your daily routine that will make you better at whatever you are doing. Whether you are a stay at home mom, a nurse, a professional athlete or an entrepreneur you can use these 2 qualities to make your lifestyle world class.


In our Part 2 we will discuss some of the off the field activities that make these champions great.


Please check in with us for PART 2.


If you would SUBSCRIBE to our BLOG, you could make sure you get to read Part 2.



Give me 2 examples of how you will apply these principles today.

(Write in comments below)




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