MHLbannersmallLessons from the recent Winter Olympic Games

As I write this, I'm glancing from time to time at the latest from Sochi and keeping track of the medal tally for the XXII Olympic Winter Games that will be over by the time you read this. With the alternating winter and summer Olympics now bringing the world's best athletes together every two years, I greatly look forward to these two weeks of spectacle and human achievement.

ringsTo use the description of the old Wide World of Sports promotions, it's exhilarating to watch the "thrill of victory" and the "agony of defeat" that accompanies the games, coming respectively from those athletes who mount the awards podium and those who finish far back in the pack. As I watch the Olympics I often find myself thinking about how the athletes can be great role models for all of us when it comes to health and fitness. They show us what can happen when we direct time, energy and large amounts of commitment not only to setting goals, but also to focusing your life around the key drivers of success.

At a minimum, the Olympic athletes are training for four years and some for many more for the opportunity to compete on a world stage in events that can last under a minute and where they can be victorious or defeated by margins as small as 1/100 of a second.

imagesCABZCIC3That's what I call drive and determination! When we get to know a little about the athletes and some share their schedules, we realize that there is an increasing focus on preparation in the last few months and weeks
leading up to their event. Although this peak period is very important, what often determines an athlete's success is the prior years of fine tuning the kind of skills that let her or him compete at the highest level.

Regardless of the event, you can be sure these years are defined by doing the same thing day in and day out to gain mastery of their sport. It can be lonely, repetitive, isolating and even boring. But without this foundation of time and effort they simply won't be able to compensate for this very hard work no matter how much they amp up their focus and intensity in the peak period leading up to the event.

The long years when Olympic athletes are out of the spotlight is when the kind of drive and determination we can all use for our personal health journey kicks in. Those day to day, sometimes tiresome things we do, especially when we don't feel like it, can lead to long-term success.

no short cutsAnd the trick is… there is no trick. There is no short cut. There is no quick way to health and fitness and certainly no quick way to healthy and sustaining weight loss. Simply put, there's no substitute for putting in the work. If you're serious about gaining and maintaining a higher level of fitness that means exercising for 30mins (at least) every single day, choosing the right foods at each meal, and limiting or even eliminating the "cheat days."

Olympic athletes, at least the successful ones, don't cheat and neither should you. If you're exercising, stay with it and stay constant. If you have a healthy diet plan, make sure it's also tasty, fulfilling and satisfying, because that goes a long way to help you avoid what fad dieters do on their cheat days.

We can't all be Olympic athletes but we can all stay focused and committed. Because while gold medals may represent a high level of achievement, your health is a lot more important.

Stay healthy my friends,


Chair, My Healthy Lifestyle Employee Wellness Committee

Editor's Note: In addition to serving as Chair for the Employee Wellness Committee, Daniel Ballin is the Administrator of Riverside's Therapy Group, Wellness and Outpatient Services and oversees all of Riverside's therapy services along with Riverside's Wellness and Fitness Centers in Newport News and Gloucester.)