MILWAUKEE, Wisc. – With the 2010 Olympic Winter Games taking place Feb. 12 – 28, the world’s best athletes continue the famed sports competition that began in ancient Greece. In today’s world, the age-old challenge of sustaining an exercise routine is still with us.
Amy Goldwater, M.S., educator, former body-building champion, and physical fitness expert for TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the nonprofit weight-loss support organization, says that a realistic goal is for each person to achieve not a gold medal at the Olympics, but to reach his or her personal best. A healthy weight is the coveted prize, bringing with it lower cholesterol levels, reduced blood pressure readings, increased mobility, and other health benefits that can lead to a longer and happier life.
Goldwater says that the route to one’s personal best is in the personal challenge. “When weight training, hold a position for a set amount of time, and then hold it longer the next time, and so on. Have a goal that’s always a little ahead of where you are,” she advises.
Test and improve endurance, speed, and muscle power – whatever a workout regimen measures – with gradual additions. Stop immediately if strain is created. If a treadmill workout is usually done at three miles per hour, increase the speed to four. If a 30-minute walk outdoors is usually done at a leisurely pace, try jogging for five minutes, and then resume the walking pace. Add incrementally to weight lifted at the gym. Extend the cardio portion of a general workout by 10 minutes on an elliptical machine.
If a bicycle ride is normally completed at nine miles per hour, a personal challenge can be to take it up to 11 miles per hour. Goals should be specific, measurable, manageable, and realistic.
Along with taking on a goal headfirst, there has to be the willingness to change exercise habits, and to practice. Widening the repertoire of exercises and activities will take time. For instance, proper form is as important as strength when lifting weights, and needs to be learned.
Skipping rope non-stop for a minute takes stamina, which needs to be developed. Trying out an exercise ball as a platform for abdominal crunches will feel “new” and require some practice at balancing. Yoga positions to strengthen core muscles will add flexibility to the body, but not on the first day they’re done. Swimming takes more muscle power than might be expected, and endurance will need to be increased.
Today’s Olympic athletes are role models for determination and performance. They win their medals because they challenged themselves to reach their personal best, and they tested their limits gradually but steadily. Average Joes and Janes lacing up their walking shoes at home can gain fitness following the same process.
Keep in mind that even champions take a break. At the Olympic games of ancient Greece, there was a day to revel. On the final day of the games, a banquet was held for all the participants, featuring 100 oxen that had been sacrificed to Zeus. History discreetly does not record who gained weight at these banquets. After all, training resumed the next day.
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