I’m going to go ahead and say it. I find the Olympics can be a ‘sub-optimal’ (borderline boring) viewing experience when it comes to watching in real-time. My preference tends to be catching the highlight clips with the ‘best of’ victory moments of the day. That said, I do still tune in to watch when I can. I feel on some level that it’s my civic duty as a patriotic American to root for the home team in real-time. While I was watching the other night, it occurred to me that these best of the best athletes, these global elite in their chosen fields, are essentially playing games.
You may say, “no kidding, Sherlock, it’s called the Tokyo Games!”, and of course, you would be right in pointing out the obvious. But…that said, let’s explore the implications of this game playing for a minute and look at how it applies to our own life and fitness regimen.
At the risk of another obvious observation, these Olympians are highly dedicated to reaching the pinnacle of their chosen sport. To that end, they spend a tremendous amount of time practicing, training, and building their skills within their event.
With that, there are two things to consider:
1. It stands to reason that the sport they are involved with is one they love doing (maybe not every hour of the day… but love nonetheless). This theory is based on the ‘Four P’s’ belief: Persistent Pursuit of your Passion equals Progress. At some point early in their life, most of these athletes discovered a sport that lit up their mental circuits when they played/practiced/competed, and they made the determination that they wanted to do a lot more of this particular thing. Of course, there are likely some exceptions to the rule in which the parents were the driving force, and the kids were not quite as into it. Even with that, it seems safe to say that the majority of the athletes in the Olympics found and find the sport they do to be, simply put, a whole lot of fun.
2. This activity they love doing also happens to provide them endless opportunities to get their workout in. We know the expression, “love what you do, and you’ll never work a day in your life,” and this same wisdom can be applied to working out. Love what you do, and you’ll stop seeing a workout as a chore that needs to be completed.
Of course, plenty of people are passionate about exercise. It’s an eagerly anticipated part of their days’ schedule and will not be missed if they can help it. For many others, (my target audience for this topic) the idea of exercising more often and having a regular workout schedule is something they hope to start doing but find this is easier said than done.
Hope, as the expression goes, is not a strategy.
This, though, is a strategy: give some thought to the activities you enjoyed in the past but have, over time and for whatever reason, stopped doing. If you find yourself in the camp of wanting to live a more active lifestyle but less than enthused about the somewhat traditional options of the gym or treadmill, make a list of your favorite activities when you were a kid on summer vacation.
Here’s the exercise for the next minute or so: close your eyes and mentally time travel back to your summer before seventh grade. Think about what a typical day looked like. What activities were you doing most of that summer when you had the wide open horizon of a few weeks of free days before that first day of middle school. For examples, here are some of my most vivid memories from the endless summer of ‘88: bike riding, kickball, swimming, walking in the woods, frisbee, whiffle-ball, water-skiing, skateboarding and ‘spy’ (maybe a Massachusetts thing but sort of like hide and seek combined with tag and played at night). These all had the common theme of being activities that cost no money (aside from the boat fuel my dad paid for) and were things we could simply walk out of our houses and do.
Absolutely zero thought was given to the fact that we were exercising most of every day; we routinely did them simply because there was surefire fun to be had. (And we were 12 years old on a paper-route budget).
Were you able to think back to your summer between 6th and 7th grade and recall some of your favorite interests? Which ones would fit into your life now? What can you re-introduce and simultaneously bring some of the joy from your childhood into your adult life that will also check off that box of getting more exercise in?
If you want some additional ideas, just look at the list of the 33 different sports going on in the Olympics at the moment. While neither Artistic Swimming or the Modern Pentathlon may be your thing (awesome if it is), there are bound to be some ideas that jump out at you. Backyard Badminton, maybe?
As a final takeaway: working out does not need to feel like work. Just getting outside and doing enjoyable activities often brings the bonus of sneaking in a lot of beneficial fitness while we don’t notice. Your 12-year-old self already knows that, though.