Because There Are Only 879 Days Until London 2012

The Olympics have wrapped up and armchair athletes can take a breather. Not a single athlete has been sanctioned over the use of performance-enhancing drugs. But you, Mr. and Ms. Olympic “Could Be If You Only Made an Effort” Athlete, you are fully entitled to the rush to be gained from endogenous opioid polypeptide compounds. Yes, we’re talking endorphins. No need to go to some sleazy dive, no need for illicit materials, no, the source of these is right there in your very own body. You too can have feelings of exhilaration, a sense of power and control over yourself. How, you ask?

Get out of that armchair and stop watching others exercise. Run, swim, bike, take a group exercise class, whatever, it just doesn’t matter, just move something in some direction other than sitting down. (Though of course we do want you to stop moving long enough to read this rant).

Not that you aren’t aware of this already, but the Mayo Clinic (stellar reputation as a pioneer and innovator in medicine) gives you seven reasons to exercise:

  1. Exercise improves your mood, in part because physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed than you were before you worked out. (now that’s what we’re talking about here)
  2. Exercise combats chronic diseases
  3. Exercise helps you manage your weight.
  4. Exercise boosts your energy level.
  5. Exercise promotes better sleep.
  6. Exercise can be — gasp — fun!
  7. Exercise can put the spark back into your sex life.

Really can’t argue with any of that. And may we suggest that the full range of fitness facilities available at the 16th Street J, to say nothing of the nationally-certified personal training staff, are here for you. Run on over (or walk, we’re not particular) and we’ll give you a free day pass to try it out. And if you’re already a member, mix it up a bit—swim if you usually run, take a class if you usually do the bike, try free weights one day instead of the Cybex. And if you ever have questions about membership or fitness, you can’t do better than to go to Lynda Espada, Director of the whole shebang (formally known as the Sport, Fitness & Aquatics Director).

Why I Love the Olympics: A Love Letter to Apolo Anton Ohno and Michael Phelps

Apolo Anton Ono olympic-sized crushI hate sports, I really do. Football is far too slow, baseball a bit boring and basketball – the pro-athletes there now are more celebrity than sportsmen (see: Shaq turned actor, Rodman turned…who knows).

But I love the Olympics. Summer and Winter, I’m an equal opportunity Olympian lover. This love is a fairly new one, only fully discovered in Beijing after experimenting in Salt Lake City, Sydney and Atlanta. What can I say? It takes me time to trust a new love.

Buy why? Why, why do I love the Olympics if I so detest regular sporting events? Is it the excitement of the various games? The exotic (ne Vancouver) locations? The dreaminess and seeming attainable-ness of Michael Phelps and Apolo Anton Ohno? The crazy X-Games-esque tricks of the Winter or the grace of Summer sports?

Nope. (Sorry Michael and Anton, you’re still my boys) In these games, I’ve come to realize it’s the amateur nature of the games and the big dreams; That is to say, most of these (mostly young) people are not technically ‘pro’ athletes. For the most part, these Olympians will complete their games, their Olympic careers, and grow up and do something else. Of course, that is not always the case – we do have Scott Hamilton and the other Stars on Ice. It’s not as sad as it might sound, to end your athletic career so early. For many of these athletes, just getting to the Olympics is the goal. Think of the hundreds upon hundreds of names we never hear or see on screen. They’re not contenders – but they are there, and that is the dream.

I have friends who continue to root for failing and losing pro-sports teams. Now, these athletes get paid thousands and millions of dollars to do a job – to play, entertain and win. If they don’t do these things, then aren’t they failing on the job? Why sill root for them? Why not fire them? We don’t have the same issue with the Olympians. This isn’t a job, it’s a passion and dream. Though not my personal dream to don 12 inch plus, razor sharp skates and risk cutting my hand off in speed skating, far be it from me to tell somebody else that it’s not worthwhile.

And I love the stories. Whether the Olympian is a kid – just 15 years old, or considered “old” for the sport – in their 30’s but still racing for an Olympic gold. These are real people, seemingly someone you could run into on the street. Maybe not the super stars who we hear about most, but the hundreds of other competitors! For me, there is something so insanely amazing and awe-inspiring about seeing someone with supposedly the same genetic make-up as myself doing extraordinary things. These people are determined, motivated, passionate. They are the true role models.

So I guess now when people ask me if I like or watch sports, I can truthfully (and happily) answer YES. Yes, I love the Olympics. Pure, unadulterated, satisfying and unconditional love. I don’t root for the winning team, I’m not disappointed when they lose. It’s not ‘Team USA or Bust.’ I’m proud of each and every one of those athletes, because they are doing something I could never do. Something brave, courageous, and for the most part, something they wont’ get paid for. All for love of their sport.

Already dreaming of Summer 2012…

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