The toughest training regimes of professional athletes

A footballer, a strongman and a long-distance runner: who trains the hardest? We explore the gruelling regimes of the people at the pinnacle of sport to find out.

Peter Iantorno February 17, 2015

We often look at the lives of elite athletes with envy, bemoaning how lucky they are to be in a profession that will pay them a small fortune to do something that most people do for their own enjoyment.

Take Cristiano Ronaldo for example: not including any of his endorsements (of which he has many), he earns more than AED 71 million per year from his contract at Real Madrid, simply to show up to training for a few hours a day and kick a football around every once in a while. Madness.

However, while we're not convinced that anyone is worth AED 71 million per year, when we look a bit deeper into the kind of training and devotion it takes for an athlete like Ronaldo to maintain his level of performance, perhaps we can concede that the life of a pro sportsman isn't that easy after all.

So before you lose all respect for professional athletes and think they have it easy, have a look at these training regimes and diets of some of the world's top sportsmen, then tell us you wish you had their job instead of yours...

Cristiano Ronaldo - Football

As well as being one of the most naturally gifted footballer players in the world, having won three Ballon d'Ors, Ronaldo is also one of the fittest. Performance analysis statistics show that he runs an average of 10km every match, reaches a top speed of 34km/h, can jump almost a metre in the air from standstill and can smash the ball at up to 80km/h. Cristiano Ronaldo champions league final celebration.

Training: Depending on his match schedule, Ronaldo trains an average of five times per week for around four hours per day. This includes periods of high-intensity cardio such a sprint drills, longer-distance running exercises, weight training and technical drills to enhance football skills and ball control. It was also reported that he completes up to 3,000 sit-ups per day, and even has his own AED 255,000 cryosauna installed in his house to help him get over injuries faster.

Diet: According to Portugese national team chef Luis Lavrador, Ronaldo's typical day will start with a nutritious breakfast of cereal, fresh fruit and tea, followed by mid-morning snacks of yogurt, dried fruit and more tea. Lunch would typically be vegetable soup, salad and pasta with some kind of lean protein such as grilled chicken and dinner would be whole grains, vegetables and more lean protein such as grilled fish. Under no circumstances would Ronaldo ever touch a drop of alcohol or eat anything that's been deep-fried. Cristiano Ronaldo training.

Mariusz Pudzianowski - Strongman

Widely considered as the greatest strongman of all time, Mariusz Pudzianowski has won the World's Strongest Man title a record-breaking five times. The Pole retired from strongman in 2009 and went into the arguably even more gruelling sport of mixed martial arts. Mariusz Pudzianowski world's strongest man Training: At the height of his strongman career, Pudzianowski famously trained twice a day, working on general conditioning and muscle building in the mornings and specific strongman exercises in the evening. His strict regime would see him complete exercises ranging from pull ups and chin ups to back squats and leg extensions, in at least four, but usually six sets of 20 per exercise.

Diet: In a 2008 interview just after he'd won his record-breaking fifth World's Strongest Man title, Pudzianowski gave an insight into his diet. "Breakfast is 10 eggs and two to three pounds of bacon," he said. "Between meals, I eat lots of candy… I need it for energy. Lunch, at 1pm or 2 pm, is a double meal of a Polish pork chop, sauerkraut and potatoes. An hour later, I work out, then take lots of supplements: magnesium, creatine, amino acids, all that stuff, and more chocolate. Dinner is whatever meat I can get: steaks, pork chops, bacon, plus more sauerkraut and potatoes. [After I work out] I have a protein shake and more chocolate."

Mo Farah - long-distance running

Mo Farah became the darling of British athletics in 2012, when he triumphed in both the 10,000- and 5,000-metre races, taking home two gold medals for the host nation of the Olympic Games. As well as track running, he's also an elite marathon runner, and hold's the British record time of 2 hours, 8 minutes and 21 seconds in the London marathon. Mo Farah 2012 London gold medal. Training: As you'd imagine, the training schedule of an elite runner is gruelling to say the least. Farah's coach Alberto Salazar divulged the details of an average week in his regime, which includes twice-daily training sessions featuring a mixture of long-distance and sprint training, strength and conditioning training and a marathon-distance run every Sunday. The whole schedule adds up to around 135 miles of running per week.

Diet: In an interview with the BBC after his London Olympics double victory, Farah gave details of the strict diet he had to follow while training. Breakfast was coffee and cereal (surprisingly his cereal of choice was Frosties, but he said that they gave him much-needed sugar to get through the early part of the day), lunch tended to be pasta, steamed vegetables and grilled chicken and dinner would be more of the same, with only lean proteins, carbs and veggies. After his victory, he tucked into his first beef burger in more than a year!