Friday, July 27, 2012

Olympic-effort habits for a mere mortal like me.

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Nothing gives me chills quite like the Olympics. This morning, telling my first-grader that he could stay up late to watch the opening ceremonies, I honestly got goose bumps as I told him how each country would bear their national flag, wear traditional costumes and clothing (except the Americans, who will dress like 1980's cruise directors), and parade in for what is, in my eyes, one of the last real salutes to sportsmanship and the rewards of good old-fashioned hard work.

I know its idealistic to frame the Olympics, which is not immune to scandal or drama, as an entirely wholesome event free from flaws. But in our over-hyped sports world of smoke and mirrors, where headlines revolve more around paycheck disputes than love of the game, the Olympics brings me back to the basics of fitness. As a kid, Olympic athletes were the top of the top for me. I mean, OMG. That was just the epitome of success. Watching the 1984 Summer Games as a klutzy 8-year-old book worm catapulted my seemingly unreachable daydreams of athletic prowess feel a little closer, like if I could just capture a little crumb of what they did every day, I too could transform from mere mortal to machine. I was completely, utterly captivated.

I've spent a lot of my life emulating Olympians. So, imagine my glee when I read this article sharing the nutrition and motivational tips of some of this year's athletes!  They're strikingly...normal. LOL Okay, normal for me, a masochist of discipline and a bit (ahem) of a martyr. Here are the highlights: success secrets from the Olympic training ground:

1. Sleep. I struggle with this one, but elite athletes consider sleep and rest to be on par with their sweat and grime workouts. I've experienced the injury, poor health, and (duh) fatigue that comes from not getting enough rest, so this advice really strikes home for me.

2. Eat Clean. Television ads for sports bars, drinks, gels, and powders try to convince us that athletic ability is just a pill away, but in reality many Olympic athletes rely on vegetables and clean eating for their super-human strength. Other tips: prep meals in advance, travel with your own clean-eating snacks, and eat as close to nature as you can. Hmmm....wonder where we've heard that before?

3. Quit the excuses and dig deep. Olympic athletes may seem like super heroes, but they are actually mortals who suffer from lack of motivation just like you and me. I love reading how they have to sometimes talk themselves into a workout, get themselves through those first few steps, and most importantly, suck it up and do it anyway because that's what it takes to be the best.

4. But allow yourself to be human once in a while. Everyone needs a break now and then, and Olympic athletes know when its time to press pause (see tip number 1!). But often, their "break" comes in the form of cross training rather than slacking off. Doing a different sport, enjoying a lighthearted exercise class, or taking a day off from the grind of over-achievement can be as important as giving it your all in a regular training session.

I'll be watching the games this summer with a heavy helping of idealistic nostalgia and patriotism, letting myself get all swept up in the pageantry and hype. I hope that you will, too. Let the Olympic Games light a spark in you, and fuel a childlike ambition towards a healthier life and body. 

Get out there and get healthy today!

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