How To Start Your Day Like An Olympian

Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images.
Olympic athletes seem like superhuman images of perfection. But behind all the prep and training that goes into performing on a world-class stage, they use some of the same basic tools that everyone does these days: Apps.

We're not just talking fitness apps, either — although those certainly play a key role in everyday training. We're talking about the apps pro athletes use to sleep better, travel smarter, and even stay on top of their PMS schedule. (You can see slide 12 for proof of that one.) And with a few small exceptions, most of the apps that top athletes use are completely free.

Although most of us can't make it to Rio or set our sights on Beijing 2020, we can still download and play the same games, listen to the same music, and workout the same way as the Olympians we're loving right now.

Click through to check out top picks from three of Team USA's best hopes for gold. You may already use some of the apps these pros swear by — or may find your new favorite. Just be warned: Trying to beat your own reaction time is insanely addictive.

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Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images.
Rio is English Gardner's first step into the Olympic spotlight. The 24-year-old star sprinter will be competing on Friday, August 12, in the women's 100-meter dash and on Thursday, August 18, in the women's 4x100-meter relay.

Here are six apps that help take her performance to the next level.
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Photo: Courtesy Nike+ Running.
Nike+ Training Club & Nike+ Running

Gardner uses Nike's running app and the new Nike+ Training Club app to stay on top of and keep variation in her workouts. The Training Club app makes it especially easy to put together a workout with the right balance of strength, endurance, and recovery exercises.

There are also a number of Olympic athlete-designed workouts, including one from Gardner's track and field teammate Allyson Felix and Team USA teammate Gabby Douglas, so it's also got gold medal-worthy advice.
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Photo: Courtesy Instant Heart Rate.
Instant Heart Rate

If you don't have a Fitbit or a fitness app that pairs with a heart rate monitor (such as Wahoo's) do what Gardner does and download the Instant Heart Rate app. All you have to do is put your index finger on the camera lens and hold it there, and the app calculates your heart rate.

"Your heart rate can elevate too much when you overtrain, so I use the app to figure out whether I can keep going or if I should slow down," Gardner says.
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Photo: Courtesy Reaction Test.
Reaction Test

When you're doing a race as quick as the 100-meter dash, your speed off the starting blocks is crucial. Delaying even slightly after the gun can be the difference between gold and bronze. To keep her reflexes quick, Gardner plays the Reaction Test game.

"I usually do it leading up to a meet just to sharpen me up because the 100-meter is all about reaction time," she says.
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Photo: Courtesy Sleepy Time! zZz.
Sleepy Time! zZz

When you're pushing your body to the limits during the day, sleep becomes something else entirely: recovery. That's why Gardner tracks hers on her phone.

"When I started using this app I noticed that I was getting a lot of REM sleep and not enough deep sleep," Gardner says. "I train in six-week cycles and normally, by the fourth week, my body is starting to break down. I noticed that when I was getting more deep sleep, I was able to make it to the middle of the fifth week."

The Sleepy Time! zZz app works as an alarm clark and as a sleep cycle calculator. Just place your phone in the top corner of your mattress with the screen face down and it can detect how light or deep your sleep is.
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Photo: Courtesy SoundCloud.

Note to self: When traveling, do as Gardner does. "I use SoundCloud, since you can save music offline," Gardner says. "When I'm overseas, I don't have to use up all my data [on streaming music]."

Her current pump-you-up pick? "I listen to a lot of Drake. When [Views] came out, I was like, this is not good. But it ended up growing on me and I started having an emotional connection to the songs."
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Photo: Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images.
Rio is also the first Olympic outing for distance runner Emily Infeld. Infeld, 26, is competing on Friday, August 12, in the women's 10,000-meter race.

The apps that she uses help her recover and hit reset.
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Photo: Courtesy Stepz.

Sometimes, you just have to go back to the basics. If you ever doubt the power of a walk, know that Olympians track their steps, too.

"I watch my step count, because some days, when I'm feeling really tired and don't feel like I can get out the door, I'll go to the pool and then take a long walk," Infeld says. "It's kind of nice to be like, well, I walked a mile and a half and I feel pretty good."
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Photo: Courtesy Rain, Rain Sleep Sounds.
Rain, Rain Sleep Sounds

How do you fall asleep and dream sweet dreams of winning gold? For Infeld, an app with ambient noise helps.

"Rain noises are really nice because I have trouble sleeping, especially at altitude," Infeld says. "They're super soothing to me."
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Photo: Courtesy Under Armour.
Natasha Hastings, 30, already has an Olympic gold to her name and will be going for two more in Rio. She'll compete on Saturday, August 13, in the women's 400-meter race and on Friday, August 19, in the women's 4x400-meter relay.

Hastings is known for her playful presence on Instagram and when it comes to apps, finding caffeine is important.
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Photo: Courtesy Apple.

Everyone uses the weather app, but it takes on extra significance when you're outside all day and constantly heading to new climates to compete.

"I check my weather app every morning," Hastings says. "I train outdoors, so it’s imperative that I know what the weather will be for that day. I also use it to plan my packing for trips."
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Photo: Courtesy UA Record.
UA Record

Hastings uses Record by Under Armour to track four areas: sleep, fitness, activity, and nutrition. Of those four, one is paramount.

"I use this daily, mainly because I like to track my sleep, as it can sometimes become a challenge with my heavy training schedule," Hastings says. "It’s an important part of my recovery routine, so [I need to] keep track of just how much sleep I’m actually getting."

The app is also ideal for using with friends, since you can set goals and compete against others in challenges of your choosing.
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Photo: Courtesy Instagram.
Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, & Snapchat

You and I use social media to show pretty pictures. Hastings uses her accounts for a more practical reason: It's a way to keep her family up to date on all her travels.

"I update my social media a couple times a day," Hastings says. "It’s important for me to stay connected with my fans. A lot of people like to follow my journey, and some have even said they feel like they have been on the journey with me based on what I share. It’s also a great way to keep friends and family in the loop on my schedule."
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Photo: Courtesy Starbucks.

Even athletes need a boost of caffeine to start their day.

"I am OBSESSED with Starbucks coffee," Hastings says. "I collect the mugs from around the world, and sometimes stop by on my way to practice for my pre-workout caffeine spike! I use the app to pay for my drinks, and collect star rewards. I also use it to find nearby Starbucks locations in new places."

Good news for Hastings: Even though the Starbucks store locator shows that she'll have to travel outside of the city center in Rio to get her caffeine fix, the coffee chain has quite a few locations there.
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Photo: Courtesy Clue.

"This may be TMI but I do use this," Hastings says of Clue, an app for tracking your menstrual cycle. "[It's] been helpful for my training and competition schedule, as my cycle can sometimes have an effect on them."

The app makes it easy to track everything from cramps to emotions to cravings, and also creates a visual report that you can use to draw insights from and talk about with your doctor.

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