11 Aug Fitness philosophy of the elite
This article first appeared on AIA Vitality’s V Life blog but it was too good not to share – especially with all the Olympic spirit in the air!
What started in primary school as a lunchtime sport has taken table tennis star Melissa Tapper to dizzying heights. We talk to her about her method and approach to staying fit and healthy.
Melissa Tapper, Olympian and Paralympian and all-round Aussie star, doesn’t believe in exercising to achieve a specific shape.
“It’s not so much about looking good, but feeling good.”
“If you’re feeling good, you can look in the mirror and feel better about the way you look as well. I don’t think exercise should be for a certain appearance. I think it’s important that we look after ourselves and our body.”
It’s a solid philosophy and one that’s served Melissa well – she’s currently a Paralympic and Commonwealth Games medalist in table tennis, and will soon be the first Australian to have competed at both the Paralympic and Olympic Games.
Melissa has Brachial Plexus Erbs Palsy in her right arm from birth, and was first approached by the Australian Paralympic Committee to compete in 2009. The rest is quickly becoming table tennis history.
The bigger picture
When it comes to her fitness philosophy, Melissa firmly believes in looking after both mind and body.
“To be able to withstand long matches you really need to be mentally prepared – you can’t be tired at all for such an important event.
“So a big thing is ensuring that every night I have eight hours sleep – I don’t like to go any less or any more. For me, eight hours is spot on.”
And for her mental wellbeing?
“Each day, I aim to put aside five to ten minutes’ worth of mindfulness. Because I find that life gets quite hectic at times, and five to ten minutes a day helps me a lot in my table tennis but also just in general life. Slowing down is good.”
Fuel for her fire
Food plays a main role in fuelling and repairing the body before and after a workout – and it’s important to get the timings right.
Within half an hour of training Melissa will eat some protein and carbohydrates, such as a natural yoghurt and banana. A main meal will follow a little later on. Hydration is really important too.
“In the mornings as soon as I wake up I have a glass of water with lemon juice squeezed into it, without fail. And before each meal I have three glasses of water.
“I find it easier than having a big bottle of water and sipping it down [throughout the day]. It helps with not overeating as well.”
Variety is vital
Exercise is obviously a key component in Melissa’s life. She finesses her sport with her trainer, and practices boxing and pilates in between.
As someone who is well versed in exercise, what would her advice be for someone dipping their toe into the world of fitness for the first time?
“You have to slowly build up to it,” she says.
“You don’t want to go in too hard, too strong and blow out in the first go. It can almost frighten you. I’d suggest going for a 30-45 min brisk walk every day to start building up a base of fitness.”
And keeping it up is easier with a friend, she says. “Get a gym membership and go to some classes together. It’s important that you keep things interesting and you mix them up so that they’re not too repetitive.”
The fun factor
“If you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, it’s very hard to stay committed and dedicated to what you want to do.
“Things aren’t always fun, and you’re not always motivated, but if you’re committed to what you want to achieve then you can get past the little lows that you will have at times. Because we’re all human and that stuff happens.
“But if you’re able to mix things up and keep it fun you’re more likely to stay in it.”