How did ancient athletes prepare for the Olympics?

How did the athletes of the earliest Olympics train before the Ancient Greek games? Historian Miles Russell explains…

Wrestlers in ancient Greece

Unlike today, there was no prize for coming second in the Ancient Greek Olympics. Winning was everything, so athletes went to great efforts to achieve success, starting with arriving a month before the games so they could train and check out the opposition.

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They not only had to master their own moves, but make sure they stay on the right side of the officials. Referees at ancient Olympic wrestling could whip competitors to make them stop an illegal move.

Housed away from society, much like a modern Olympic Village, Greek sportsmen were subjected to a punishing exercise regime in order to be at the peak of both physical fitness and beauty – they wanted to look good if they were going to compete naked.

Diets were strictly controlled and competitors were expected to abstain from any pleasures, such as sex, which may physically weaken them.

Answered by one of our Q&A experts, historian and author Miles Russell

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This article was taken from the April 2016 issue of BBC History Revealed magazine