A month ago today, on Aug. 8, the 2008 Olympic Games lit a torch for Global unity in the area of supreme athleticism, if only for a few weeks. For many who watched the expertly chiseled athletes perform record defying feat, an electrical current of motivation began lighting a torch of its own in households across the planet, sparking an interest to reconnect with the body's desire to be fit.
In America, gym memberships rose
in what was called "Olympic Fever."
As a recent athlete who suffered a minor brain injury in March of 2007, I watched unknowingly as my spunk for competition dwindled due to what would later be revealed as symptoms associated with that injury. Partial seizures, tinnitus, malaise, fatigue, nausea and an overall sense that something was wrong transformed a once motivated athlete who loved to compete in the sparring ring as well as run a good 12 - 15 miles (or approximately 20-25 km) per week into a depressed and undriven individual. Luckily, there was no weight gain or the outcome could have been devastating both psychologically and physiologically.
To make matters worse, I was misdiagnosed and placed on high doses of a certain medication that helped with the seizures but worsened the fatigue and actually caused severe memory loss, anxiety and cardiac problems, all of which contributed to my inability to exercise.
As I sat and watched the Olympic Games, I too was hit upside the head with "Olympic Fever," however, I already had a gym membership that I failed to use due to my health issues. My problem wasn't finding the tools, it was finding the right tool to overcome the issues that had weighted me down so much that I felt like I would never again find the euphoric feeling associated with a 3-mile jog.
With a bout of determination and a wonderful article in the September issue of SELF Magazine
, combined with that post Olympic motivation, I found what I had hoped to be the right tool: Reach Your Goal
(free registration required to access plan details).
I had no desire to "drop 8 pounds" or "tone without cardio" or even "lose the baby weight" but I saw goal number 4, "Run 3 miles with ease" and knew it was time. After 11 months of not running and 8 months of very little exercise, I was frightened to say the least. Athletes never enjoy losing, but failure isn't in an athletes vocabulary and with the health issues I had been experiencing, a blizzard of potential outcomes blinded my hopes for some success.
A visit to the cardiologist said I was heart-worthy and the only thing holding me back was my SELF.
In the magazine article's headlines:
Get psyched Fact #1: You can burn more calories in less time by running than by doing just about any other activity. Fact #2: Jogging doesn't have to feel like punishment. "It's not running that hurts your body; it's the way you run," says Danny Dreyer, author of ChiRunning (Simon & Schuster). Tweak your form using his techniques and you'll run without huffing, puffing or suffering.
I read those facts one last time and skimmed over the, what I deemed as an easy four-week plan and then, without hesitation, jumped on the 3 training workouts per week and 2 strength workouts per week.
In the first week, it was about building endurance and increasing speed. The first run was actually a walk/jog interval session that lasted a total of 23 minutes. The second workout lasting a mere 19 minutes but was a walk/sprint workout that required a full-out 30-second sprint, with a 2-minute recovery. And my last one was a full 30-45 minutes of fun. The magazine also had little check boxes that I ticked if I had completed my three cardio workouts and two strength workouts for that week. I did.
Week two was the same as week one, only this time, the walk-time was decreased by 30 seconds and the jog time increased by a minute during the first workout. The sprinting workout was the same, but tried to get me to take it up a notch as far as speed. Workout three was a creative cardio circuit for 30 minutes.
So, now I am in week 3 of the four-week program and I follow the first workout, which is again a walk/jog with more emphasis on the lengthening the jog time and lessening the walk time. I did it. But then a surprise request is made. A friend of mine who is training for a 1/2 marathon and her marathon running buddy ask me to join them in a morning run. I make up every excuse available, but to no avail.
9 am, I'm running. After nearly a year of not running, I run straight for over 2 1/4 miles and after a bit of a walk, run another 1 mile.
As an insider who was motivated by a national influx of Olympic hype, finding something that sparks ones interest and isn't overwhelming as far as steps to follow can lead to results. It doesn't have to be an expensive membership to an expensive gym or class. For me, a simple purchase of a couple of dollars and some residual motivation was enough to do the trick that works. I'm on week three with only 5 workouts of the SELF plan to go.
The true test will be a 10K. However, grabbing a tool and running with it all the while celebrating your own small victories has a much greater impact than trying to achieve perfection in a world of imperfect people.
Maybe my next goal will be a 1/2 marathon.