As the Olympic Games are prepared to being today, I wanted to take some time to discuss how exercise can be incorporated into your daily life. While the winter Olympics don’t garner as much hype as the summer games, it should be noted that these are still the most talented people in the world. In order to get to this esteemed position, they have to train just as hard as their warm weather counterparts. This is a large part of today’s discussion.
I want to begin by stating that I have lived in South Florida for my whole life. I have never had to combat snow storms, freezing wind chills, nor the early evening sunset characteristic of the northern states. During my childhood, I was able to run around my neighborhood as I played various sports with friends. To this day, I ride my bike as a viable mode of transportation because the climate allows me to do so. I guess it could all change if I had to move; but should it? Should our fitness level really suffer simply as a result of inclement weather?
The athletes of the Olympic Games need to perform in cold weather conditions. For this reason, they must train in the cold, in the snow, and in the ice. They prove that training is not only possible but that you can put forth all the effort you would in optimal weather conditions. While most of you reading this email aren’t Olympic athletes, maybe a more practical example will do.
A friend of mine moved to Chicago a year ago. During the winter months, his running season and sport-specific drills take a step back; however, he uses this time to weight train in order to improve power and agility. The point is that having access to a gym, the ability to go outside, or the simply the room for complex movements are all factors of a bigger picture. At the end of the day, you must be intrinsically motivated to exercise and all other things will be pushed to the wayside. A true desire for physical activity will trump a number of roadblocks.
I have a few students who come to the gym every day after school. They don’t know the first idea about anatomy, exercise guidelines, or program development; however, they are some of the most motivated students I have. I post a daily list of exercises on the board and they inquire about the ones that are foreign to them. Even without a plan of attack, the desire to exercise is major motivating factor for these students.
Another student is facing a family issue and he can no longer come into the gym during the week. He asked for some exercises that he can perform at home to continue improving his fitness level. I wrote him a program of body weight exercises (lunges, squats, push-ups, etc) along with plyometric movements (jumps) and cardio intervals. As we ran through the program in the gym yesterday he realized that it was a far superior workout than using the machines at a lower intensity.
What many people don’t realize is that exercise is good for the mind as well as the body. During physical activity hormones are released in the body; hormones that interact on a level similar to drug use. As you begin to associate these feelings of joy and other positive emotions with exercise, it becomes an addiction. You yearn to move, you crave sweat, and you enjoy it all the more.
Once this happens, exercise isn’t an “if” situation but a “when” situation. It is at this point that neither snow, nor rain, nor aches, nor pains can prevent you from improving your fitness level. Options do exist for all walks of life and in all situations (work, home, with/without exercise equipment), everything from mall walking programs to at home yoga tapes. At the end of the day, it is up to the individual to seek exercise in order to appease the mind and the body. I am teaching this to the student body at Columbus High school and I can only hope that those of you reading will learn to embrace this mentality. The human body was made to move, don’t robe it of its most innate need.
As you watch the Olympics, be sure to consider the dedication that each athlete puts in. And be sure to cheer for Columbus’ own Eddy Alvarez (class of 2008) as he competes in the short track speed skating events.