Friday, August 15, 2008

What You Can Learn From Olympians

I know lots of people have been recently showing up to work bleary eyed from staying up late watching the Olympics. Most of us are in awe of the physical abilities of these athletes and think of them as very different from us.

While I doubt that any of my readers will one day win a medal at the Olympics, there are traits and habits of these elite athletes that anyone can emulate to help them reach their goals.

* Believe in yourself.

If you don't really think that you're capable of decreasing your body fat, learning a new skill, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, starting a business, going back to school, etc., you won't succeed.

Remember what Henry Ford said,

Whether you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right.

* Have clear, definable goals.

Saying "I want to get healthy" is too vague; it's not measurable. Completing a 5K race, eating 5 vegetables every day for a month, strength training a minimum of 10 times a month for 6 months, trying out 50 new, healthy recipes, performing a certain number of Chin Ups or Single Leg Pistol Squats- those are definable, measurable goals.

* Be passionate.

You can't be wishy washy. The goal has to be something you really desire and you must be fully committed to achieving it. If your goal is based on what someone else wants- spousal nagging, parental expectations, societal pressures, medical warnings, etc. - you will ultimately fail. You may succeed in the short term but it's unlikely that you will be successful in the long run.

* Learn and master the fundamentals first.

Athletes don't start out running marathons, powerlifting hundreds of pounds, doing triple flips, etc. They learn and practice the basics and build up to more difficult challenges.

If you can't perform a Bodyweight Squat or Lunge with good form, don't use weights. If you get winded walking down to the corner, don't start out trying to jog a mile a day. And, sorry guys, but if you can't do 25 strict Pushups, you shouldn't be loading up the bar with a bunch of plates to Bench Press.

Let's be honest, is it really doable for most people to go from a primarily fast food diet one day to a super restrictive nutrition plan the next? Does it make sense for a couch potato to follow Mike Musclehead's 25 sets per body part routine from the latest issue of Muscle & Steroids magazine?

* Consistency.

They, "Just do it."

Even elite athletes are human. I'm sure that there's plenty of times they feel like staying in bed rather than getting up and training but they do what they need to do to get where they want to go.

Whatever your goal, you need to take consistent action. And it can be done; we find ways to do the things we really want to do. If people spent as much time finding solutions as they do making excuses, their capabilities would amaze them.

* Work hard.

Yes, it's obvious but it needs saying. Regardless of your goals, going through the motions won't cut it. If you want to drop fat but can read a magazine while on the treadmill, you're not working hard enough. If you want to learn to play the piano but only practice 15 minutes a week, that won't cut it. If you want a promotion, doing a half-assed job won't get you far (at least in most cases).

* Don't allow others to impose limitations on you.

Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team his sophomore year. Instead of giving up, he worked harder and ended up making the team and leading it to the state championship. Jordan was named college basketball player of the year in 1984 and went on to win 2 Olympic gold medals and multiple NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls.

Who would have ever thought that a 41 year old swimmer and mother of a two-year old could have qualified for the Olympics, let alone be competitive? Had Dara Torres listened to "conventional wisdom", she'd be sitting at home right now instead of collecting more medals to add to her collection.

As Harvey Firestein says,

Accept no one's definition of your life; define yourself.

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