Tag Archives: Olympics

The Real Olympic Takeaway

The 2018 Winter Olympics have come to a close and if you’re like me, it was time for them to be done. I’m a much bigger fan of the Summer Games but I would be remiss to say they didn’t have my attention. I spent many a nights up late watching them (couldn’t make it for the women’s hockey gold match though), cheering on the USA even in games where I didn’t know what was going on. Some of the events left a little to be desired but in all it was enjoyable to watch. The thing that really struck a cord with me every night is the relentless pursuit of the athletes to be the best at their craft. For some, the Olympic medal pursuit is a full time job, but for others it’s a part time thing among day jobs and other commitments. Can you imagine the focus, dedication, and commitment to a skill that many don’t even see or know about until the Olympics come around every four years? That is where they have my utmost respect.

The Will To Do It

Not everyone has the ability or desire to be an Olympic athlete. Most if not all of the athletes discover their talent or want at a very young age. They spend many years fine tuning their skills in the hopes that someday they will be chosen for the national team. Some make it; many more do not. The Olympic team represents the best of the best to go up against the world’s best of the best – in any discipline. But my take away isn’t about who makes it or who wins. It’s about a trait many think they have or possess but never really come close to having. And that is will.

So What About You?

The definition of will has several meanings but here it goes without saying; it’s determination. The Olympic athletes have a will, a determination to be the absolute best; a gold medalist. Even the silver and bronze carries a lot of significance – to be the number two and three respectively in the world is nothing to scoff at. So what does this have to do with you? What about your goals? Do they carry the same weight as being a gold medalist? Probably not, but they should. What about your will, the determination to achieve that goal? Is it something you’re truly committed to or just a few select times? You would never succeed as any athlete, let alone an Olympic one. And why do we accept our lack of progress or achievement as just something that happens, year in and year out? Because we lack a true vision. Losing a couple of pounds is insignificant in the big picture. What changes? What does that number mean? Imagine racing down the slope and the difference between you medaling or not is hundredths of a second. Those numbers really mean something. Whether you lose 5, 10, 15, or even 20 pounds matters little if the road to get there was traveled and executed through wishing, not pure will. Let’s say your goal has nothing to do with weight loss. Perhaps it’s just to exercise more. What’s realistic? What can you do rather than focusing on what you’re not doing?

The point here is this: we all live our lives the way we want. No one can make the choices for us and tell us how to live. What you do is indeed your choice and no one or nothing can be blamed for it. When you have the will and determination, absolutely nothing can stand in your way. No excuses, no short comings, no under achievement; only success.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

Age is No Excuse

downloadsaWith the Olympic Summer Games winding down, one thing’s for sure I’ll get a better night’s sleep getting to bed at a more reasonable hour. It’s such a fantastic time to not only cheer on our country, but to see the level of competition among the athletes who for the most part are forgotten until perhaps the Summer Games resume in four years. They work hard, train tirelessly, and make no excuse for a chance at winning an Olympic Gold in their chosen craft. One aspect I pay more attention to now is the age of some of the top level competitors who certainly make no excuse that their age is somewhat of a hindrance. Most of the naysayers would say they’re too old or they should act their age to which they valiantly show the proverbial finger by competing and sometimes even winning.

It Always Comes Down to Thoughts and Choices

News flash: you’ve been aging since the day you were born. Today you’re older than you were yesterday, last week, last month, last year. A 20 year old is old to a 6 year old; a 43 year old is old to a 30 year old. Age is a chronological measure of the distance you’ve made it in this life. Old is a relative labeling of who and where you are as a person, or at least what you think that is. Age is an indisputable measurement; old is a subjective state of mind. One’s age doesn’t determine what they can and can’t do based on how old they think they are or chose to be labeled. So it all comes down to if you think you’re old, then old you must be. But you need to really think twice about passing judgement on someone else your age, perhaps older, who refuses to use age an excuse to keep them doing the things they want to do when no one wants to expect or believe that they can.

The Biological Facts

There are those that will always say, “you just wait until you get to be my age” triumphantly waving the flag as if they accomplished something great. Greatness in life shouldn’t be measured by the number of years in one’s life, but the life in those years. There are physiologic process at work that change for everyone as we chronologically age: decreased muscle mass; decreased bone density, decreased flexibility, greater skin elasticity, etc. But never should they be used as scapegoats to stop moving/living. Then there’s the excuse of having no energy or too stiff to move. Not rocket science here, but most if not all of these symptoms can be reversed with regular physical activity, not necessarily competing at high levels of fitness. Physical movement is not only a necessity of a healthy life, it is what keeps others moving and others sitting and waiting.

A Few Age-Defying Olympic Champions

 As a fitness professional for close to 22 years, I’ve had the fabulous and fortunate opportunity to work with clients of all ages, even those most would think are too old to have a trainer or be in the gym. Never, not once did that ever stop them from always putting their best foot forward. Instead, they’ve become some of my better clients; completely coachable, hard working individuals with nothing to prove only that they can. But not all “old” people have white or no hair. Some are currently competing in these current Olympic Games and defying age as a barrier to their success.

  • Oksana Chusovitina: at 41 years young and five feet tall,, she is the oldest Olympic female gymnast in history, competing in her seventh Summer Games.
  • Kristin Armstrong: U.S. Cyclist, who just a day before her 43rd birthday won her third consecutive gold medal in women’s time trial. She’s the oldest female cycling medalist of all time.
  • Julie Broughamm: a 62 year old equestrian who actually just competed in her first Olympics in Rio.

As previously stated, one does not have to compete in the Olympics to prove age is but a number. I’ve made it a point to collect stories of other examples of age defying logic and shared with my followers on my Facebook Business Page. They’re all worth the time to watch, listen, and or read. Enjoy!

  • The Iron Nun – my most recent favorite featured in an ad for Nike. Here’s also an interview with her. Makes you just want to hug her.
  • Ernestine Shepherd – at 80 years old, the world’s oldest bodybuilder. Her story behind how she became what she is touching.
  • Random video of a gentleman squatting what appears to be 405lbs!
  • Shirley Webb – an 80 year old grandmother deadlifting 225lbs!
  • Lan Yin Tsai Lan Yin Tsai – a 90 year old woman who rides the 2 day, 75 mile option of the MS City to Shore I participate in every year. I’ve even had the privilege to ride by her several times over the years. She rides her bike in a dress and heels to boot!
  • Ida Keeling – a 100 year old (that’s not a typo) woman who runs regularly and even competed in the Penn Relays this past spring in Philadelphia. By the way, she’s the reigning national champion in the 60m dash, 95-99 age group.
  • Kay and Joe O’Regan – an octogenarian couple who race marathons together and celebrated their 57 wedding anniversary by running the Cork City Marathon one final time, holding hands as they crossed the finish line,

If you’re still not inspired and convinced that age is but a number, you have missed the whole point of taking care of what you got and doing the best you can with it. Proper nutrition and exercise are a key component to that but if your state of mind is just content with where it is, then that’s just a shame.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and do better.

Lessons To Be Learned From Watching The Olympics

skiierI’ll confess, I’m not as big a fan of the Winter Olympics as I am the Summer Olympics, but any chance to see the best in the world compete in their sport is still captivating to watch. I’m also not a fan of the events in which points are awarded objectively rather than decided by points or time. To have years and months of work graded on a score sheet rather than something that is measureable and concrete is unjust but that’s for another discussion. Everyone has their reasons for watching (or not) the Olympic Games but there is without a doubt some very powerful lessons to be learned and unlike reality TV (which I am also not a fan of), has some real world relevance.

Commitment

The level of commitment every one of the athletes has to their craft is unfathomable. Unlike professional athletes who are outrageously paid to play their respective sport (and sometimes cry poor about), most of the athletes competing in the Olympics are still in school, have families, or work jobs on top of the countless hours spent perfecting their skills and chasing their dream. Can you say you have a similar commitment to your dreams and goals?

Dedication

Most of the Olympians participate and excel at a sport or game that hardly gets any of the attention or notoriety of what we recognize as sports. Imagine doing or participating in something that gets little to no accolades or press coverage. With may be the exception of being a name thrown around for a few weeks every four years, perhaps eight to twelve if you’re lucky, there is little praise for the day to day work required. The same can be said about your fitness – it’s about being dedicated to achieving a thankless gift and working at it without so much as an expectation of acknowledgement from no one.

Preparation

There is simply no excuse for not being properly prepared as the Olympic athletes are honing their skills daily as their competition is doing the exact same thing. Do you do the little things daily (a lifestyle) for your health success or do you piece mail it from day to day in the hopes that it will be sufficient towards your success?

Expectation

There’s not a single competitor that heads to the Olympics thinking they don’t have a shot. Sure, there’s always going to be someone who’s faster, stronger, scores higher, but they don’t go in thinking they don’t deserve to be there. Are your health and fitness expectations realistic or do you just hope things will work out for the best?

Perseverance

Unfortunately, not everyone is going to get a medal and in some events that could mean tenths of a second. But does mean they quit or beat themselves up for not reaching the pinnacle? Absolutely not. Sure, it can be upsetting and emotional but they keep going – some having a chance in another event in the same Games or coming back to compete again. Regardless, their desire to achieve their goal makes no excuse for feeling bad about themselves or quitting all together. As with your fitness, some days are just going to be hard and not the best. Tomorrow is another day and it’s all about learning and moving on than wallowing and complaining.

I hope you are enjoying the Games but even if you’re not, know that it is more than just athletes competing for National pride and personal excellence. It’s all about working towards a concrete goal; working when no one else is looking. Quite simply, it’s about training smart, eating well, and just being better.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

A Workout Of Olympic Proportions

OlympicRingsWith the London Olympic Games just about to wrap up this week, some of you may have experienced joy and elation watching our athletes compete for the gold while others may have felt sorrow and compassion for the tough defeats. (or perhaps that their normal TV programming has been put on hold.) For some however, the Olympics spark a rebirth if you will of stepping up their current fitness routine, starting a new one, or creating dreams of competing in four more years in Rio. Political opinions aside, there’s certainly a lot of good that comes from watching the Olympic games and if you feel so inspired to train or compete like an Olympian, here are some tips I can suggest to make you feel worthy of standing on the podium.

  1. Create a clear goal – It’s cliché and you hear it all the time but it’s so true and can not be avoided.  You MUST develop clear, concise, and concrete goals.  Every single one of the Olympians knew what their individual goal was and did everything they could to reach that one goal.  Anything less and you will be in an endless state of “wish I could’s”, “I tried”, and “I can’t” excuses.
  2. Train smart – Anyone can train hard and nowadays that’s what seems to attract the previously sedentary.  “I’ll just train really hard with no direction or concern for my safety and I’ll be fit in no time.” But training hard just for the sake of getting sweaty, sore, and bragging rights is far from training smart.  Training smart is knowing what you need to do, executing it properly, and understanding the principles of proper nutrition and rest.
  3. Think, Sleep, and Live Success – If you have any doubt, you’ve already conceded defeat. And to be average is just like saying you’re just as close to the bottom as you are to the top.

Designing A Champion’s Workout

What I enjoy most about watching the Olympic Games is seeing the different shapes and sizes of the athletes, the individual skills they have to perfect, and thinking about the type of training they had to endure to get to where they are.  Imagine if the Olympic athletes trained like most that workout at the health club or follow a mass produced fitness program and how they would fare. There would be no specificity to their training; no structure to their program; no specific outcomes; just a bunch of organized chaos leading to marginal if any success. Does that sound like a good idea? Of course not. So why not train or approach your exercise regime like an Olympic champion instead of just trying to be average or worse yet, just get by.

Your Training Template

Without getting real technical, the best approach is to think of your body as one complete machine where the strength is only as good as its weakest link.  Yet many only like to train or do what they like despite the fact that it yields the same result– zilch!

Let’s start with a clean slate.  First, think big, then small and what I mean by that is choose multi joint, big movements like squats for the legs or chest presses for the upper body and if there’s time afterwards, small movements like bicep curls or deltoid raises.  Second, if you’re going to change the muscle, it has to be stressed differently and progressively if you want it to change. Change the number of sets, reps, rest periods, and most importantly the weight lifted periodically to create stress that the body has to adapt (i.e. change). No matter what your goal, simply doing the same thing all the time will yield little change over the long haul. And finally, attack the movements of the body, not just mindlessly moving from exercise to exercise. A training method that I strongly believe in is known as training the four pillars of movement and it will serve as the foundation of any program what ever the goal.

Pillar #1 – Push and Pull. All of your pressing motions – chest press, shoulder press, leg press, shoulder press, etc.; moving resistance away from the body. All of your pulling motions – pulldowns, rows, curls, hamstrings, etc.; bringing objects closer to the body.

Pillar #2 – Locomotion. The simple act of moving the body from a state of rest to a state of motion.  Walking, running, jogging, swimming, etc.

Pillar #3 – Rotation. Any movement where the hips and shoulders move in opposite directions, such as swinging, chopping, twisting, and believe it or not, walking.

Pillar #4 – Raising and Lowering of Your Center of Gravity. Like the other three pillars, just as the name implies. Squats, deadlifts, lunges, jumps, etc.

A compound movement from each pillar builds the foundation of a solid program.  All the rest is simply accessory, like putting the finishing touches on a great suit.  Here’s what a sample base workout might look like:

Bench Press
40 yd sprints
Medicine ball rotations
Deadlifts

Pillars can be combined and chosen exercises are endless but the point is to train the body as if it were going to compete in the decathlon or the check out line at the supermarket.  Either way, no reason for you to not come out on top.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

My 2012 Fitness Challenge personal update – 22,000 push ups done as of publishing time