CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As the giant copper petals were ignited and their flames ascended toward London's skies, the 2012 Summer Olympics opened. For 17 days, the eyes and ears of the world will be tuned in to an elite group of competitive champions determined to stretch limits, break records and most of all -- win.Everything about these young men and women fascinates us, from their superhero figures complete with Herculean abilities to their fearless attitudes and hyper-developed mental prowess.Watching these games, it's impossible not to compare our technology-addicted, sedentary bodies to those who are swimming, running, twisting, flipping and diving into Olympic history. I mean, I'm fairly sure they don't recognize the word mediocrity; it doesn't compute and for them, perfection isn't a dream, it's an expectation.Where's the remote?
A few days into witnessing one phenomenal performance after another is enough to make anyone feel like descendents of an inferior species. So, we search back trying to pinpoint our most recent personal best, only to come up empty-handed and depressed. Self-preservation kicks in and we explore reasons other than our ancestors to justify our lack of superpowers. We need something to keep us from throwing in the towel and giving up. And by now, we're all aware how big a difference even a 10th of a point can make on the medal stand. In any case, we long to feel medal-worthy.Are they from another planet?
The voices in our head say, "OK, who are these people, and how did they get this far no longer than they've been on this planet? How in the world do they defy gravity and have extra-bendable bodies that also seem to be made of solid steel? They have no problem adhering to the Olympic motto -- 'Citius, Altius, Fortius' -- faster, higher, stronger. Plus the fact they never seem to get tired. It's definitely suspicious." We rationalize these super men and wonder women must be aliens instead of mere mortals like the rest of us.I can live with that
Once we determine that these remarkable athletes are not like us, we breathe a sigh of relief. The comparisons stop and our own fitness goals resurface. We accept the fact that our best physical efforts are probably their worst, nevertheless, they are still worthy. After all, we're grownups with real responsibility and have far less time to devote to ourselves. The point is, our gold-medal standards may look different than an Olympian's, but it's still imperative to have them.Focusing on a plan
Determining your expectations and creating a plan of action is the first and most important step to achieve the benefits and rewards you desire. You're in charge. So, when you are setting the bar in terms of your health and fitness goals, set it high. Make them doable, but don't waste time with activity that is easily conquered. It will be different for everyone. For example, while an Olympic gymnast may strive for a perfect score, you may simply want to perform push-ups perfectly. A diver may want to enter the water without making a splash, but you may set a goal to splash in the water four times a week.No doubt about it, goals are essential if you plan to improve the way you look and feel, but the biggest mistake is to compare someone else's goals to yours. Be clear about what you want out of each physical workout and go after it with regularity. Continue to raise your own bar so that you always feel the challenge; without it, all progress stops.The Olympics Creed, which should be adopted by Olympians as well as mere mortals, says it best:"The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."Take part and fight well.
Cindy Boggs, fitness presenter, author and Activate America director, has been an ACE-certified instructor/trainer since 1989. Send your questions about fitness, training or health to her at YMCA of Kanawha Valley, 100 YMCA Drive, Charleston, WV 25311, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Look for Cindy's award-winning fitness advice book, "CindySays ... You Can Find Health in Your Hectic World," at www.cindysays.com, or contact the YMCA at 304-340-3527.