Ergonomics done right.®
August 3rd, 2012

Olympic vs. Industrial Athlete

By Christy Lotz, CPE

One question we often get asked during training classes is, “Why is it o.k. to have repetition, force, and frequency when you go to the gym,  but it’s not o.k. at work?”  I was thinking about this question while watching the U.S. women win gold during the team gymnastics final.  Those Olympians train non-stop for the Olympics, so I thought I would investigate a little.

Olympic Athlete (Gymnast)

Industrial Athlete

Hours per Week Level 4/5 (ages 7–8) = 6 – 8.75 hours

Level 6/7 (ages 9–10) = 11 – 13.5 hours

Level 8/9 (ages 11–12) = 15 – 16.5 hours

Level 10 (ages 13+) =  18 – 25 hours

40 hours (average full time)

Weeks per Year

30 – 50 weeks

48 – 50 weeks

Years in Competition

10 – 15 years

30 + years

% over 30 years

~ 7.2%

~ 23%

Keep in mind that the average age of current Olympic gymnasts is about 20.  However, Oksana Chusovitina  showed that you can still be an olympian at the age of 37 as she was competitive in the vault for Germany (Note: Germany also had the youngest gymnastics competitor this year, Janine Berger, 16 years old).

During training classes, I always say that you can’t go to the gym and work the same body parts 8 hours per day, 40 hours per week for 40 years without a significantly increased chance of injury. You need the recovery time to ensure that you can withstand exposure to those risk factors (force, frequency, posture). As you can see from the table above, the amount of total exposure in your lifetime is a lot less for the Olympians versus industrial athletes.  There are very few competitors who are not exposed to significant injuries during their careers and often those can be debilitating.

I’m sure there are some tasks out there that make you feel like a gymnast sometimes. If you see someone around your plant looking like they’re in position to do a somersault or headstand, that’s where you should focus on making improvements!