- Norwegian hurdler Karsten Warholm took a positive view of the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics.
- He made the most of extra training time and feels stronger now than a year ago, he told Insider.
- Warholm started taking nutrition seriously two years ago, and his performance benefited.
- This article is part of our series The Gold Plan, which highlights Olympians and their values.
The postponement of the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic might have thrown the Norwegian athlete Karsten Warholm’s training schedule off course, but he decided to use the extra year to get better.
“I’m feeling good,” the sprinter and hurdler told Insider. “I’ve been looking forward to this since I attended my first Olympics, in Rio in 2016. I think it’s going to be a special Olympics that we can all remember forever.”
Warholm won the 400m hurdles at the world championships in London in 2017, and he remembers it as his breakthrough event.
“I knew it was going to be tough and no one expected it from me, so to win the race was a huge moment,” he said. “It’s something I’ll cherish forever.”
That win merely inspired Warholm to dream even bigger, and now his sights are set on this year’s Tokyo Olympics.
On July 1, Warholm established himself as a front-runner for the games after he set a world record for the 400m hurdles, running the race in 46.70 seconds at the the Diamond League track and field meeting in Oslo. Warholm beat Kevin Young’s 29-year-old record of 46.78, which was the longest-standing record in men’s track.
Going with the flow is part of being an athlete
While athletes in certain sports found themselves unable to train for months on end in 2020, Warholm, 25, was fortunate not to be too badly affected.
Canceled competitions meant more training time, Warholm said, and he thinks he’s in a stronger position now than a year ago.
Warholm said he tries his best to go with the flow, respond to situations, and make the best of them. He was also dealing with an injury in 2020 and believes his healing process was an important journey to confront as an athlete.
“That is what defines the life of an athlete. You can never plan for anything,” he said.
Warholm trains hard and builds Legos to decompress
Warholm’s training regime involves what he calls “high-quality sessions” on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays – these are tough sessions of up to seven hours focused on sprinting and hurdling, but also including weight-lifting and plyometrics work.
On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, Warholm’s training sessions are shorter and more likely to be based around interval work on a treadmill, for example.
Sundays are for recovery. Warholm gets massages, relaxes in a hot tub, and his favorite way to decompress mentally is by building Lego structures. His latest masterpiece is a recreation of Hogwarts from Harry Potter.
“It’s really nice to have something to do, which is chill and doesn’t take all your energy,” he said.
At the gym, Warholm has to keep an eye on his strength-training to avoid bulking up.
“We do lighter weights and we try to make the movements more specific to sprinting, so more dynamic,” Warholm said. “It’s all about getting more power in your stride.”
Warholm and his coach, Leif Olav Alnes, have a close friendship that has played a key part in his success since they began working together in 2015.
“We hang out and eat together,” Warholm said. “He has a Jacuzzi in his garden, which we use on the recovery days on Sundays. We just talk and have fun.”
Warholm transformed his diet, and his performance improved
Warholm used to be pretty lax about his diet but made the decision to learn more about nutrition a couple of years ago.
For a year, a nutritionist prepared all the athlete’s meals, which helped Warholm learn about how to fuel his body appropriately.
Warholm doesn’t track calories or macros, but prepares his own food, focusing on simple, balanced meals – and he says his performance has benefited.
“Nutrition is very important for health, but also for building what you want to build through training and recovery,” he said. “Now I’m really focused on getting the right things.”
Breakfast most days is bread, eggs, yogurt, coffee, and milk, lunch might be a sandwich, and dinner is often meat or fish with vegetables, plus the occasional protein bar mid-training.
“I have a sweet tooth, and I actually just want to eat ice cream all the time, but I can’t do that,” Warholm said. “I think it’s important to enjoy yourself sometimes too.”
On tough days, Warholm reminds himself that his job is a privilege
Warholm has big goals, and he goes into every training session wanting to work hard and get the most out of it. His training requires discipline, but he knows he has to push himself beyond his comfort zone.
“When we train, we do things that only go straight into my performance and we don’t waste time,” he said. “So when we go to work, we go to work really hard, even though we have a lot of fun.”
In the moments before a race, Warholm thinks about how much work he’s put in (as well as trying to control his nerves).
On the tough training days, the athlete remembers it’s a privilege to do what he does.
“I remind myself that there will be a moment in the near future that hopefully everything will be worth it,” he said. “On tough days, I still like to train because it’s just therapy for me.”