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Tom’s Fitness & Paris Martial Arts


Posted: August 17, 2008

I had the chance to watch some Olympic coverage last week. They were showing women’s gymnastics and the announcers were talking about how the girls were struggling a little bit, but still made the team finals.

Two had injuries serious enough to limit their events. That had to be pretty tough to take after preparing all their lives. A couple others took an extra step on their landings, and one over-rotated, sitting down on her dismount from the uneven bars.

Big mistakes if you’re in the Olympics, I guess. But did you see what they were doing right before that? Only a few people on the planet can move that way. To me, they were fantastic—extra steps and all.

I also saw a 33 year old woman in the vault—more than twice the age of most of the other competitors. She’d just made the finals. It was her fifth Olympics, a record for women.

Their quest is amazing to watch—their dedication, the commitment to excellence. We can learn a lot from these athletes.

But I’m just as impressed when I go down and watch my cutie-pie and the others at the gymnastics center. Right now, her group is learning how to do better cartwheels, back bends, and back walk-over (basically a backwards cartwheel). I think we can learn a lot from them too.

Right now, they’re light years from what I saw on TV, but they’re just getting started. And if someone rises to the top from here, that would be great.

But if none of them ever takes it to that level, that’s O.K. They still got a lot out of it—better fitness, coordination, balance, confidence, fun—all of which make it worthwhile.

I believe we’re all created for a purpose and we’ve all been given certain gifts. Some people are so gifted, that with hard work, and given the right opportunities, they can be rise to be the best in the world at what they do.

I also believe that we don’t have to be the most gifted to benefit. We don’t have to be the best to make the pursuit worthwhile. Take my running for example.

You don’t have to look far to find a better runner. It’s always a struggle just to finish, let alone try to improve my times. When I run that marathon next month, it will take me more than twice as long as the winner and they won’t even be world class.

I’m always near the back of the pack, and that doesn’t look like it will change much. But there’s something about the pursuit that makes it worthwhile for me.

If I push myself it gives me the moral authority to push others. It helps keep me lean, especially since it’s easy for me to eat more than I need.

It also helps me learn how to be more disciplined in other things. If I can keep going when I don’t exactly feel like it (anything over 13 miles), then I can make it through other things too. You learn how to finish something.

I’m amazed when I see the best in the world do what they do, but the pursuit was just as valid when I was slugging through my snail paced 18 miles earlier in that day. It went pretty well. Nobody died.

It’s just like the spark I see when someone finally gets it. They’ve started working out—and have just figured out that they’re going to be able to make it.

They’re doing things they didn’t think they could do. They’re feeling stronger and know they’re going to be able to take off the weight—and keep it off.

It becomes a pursuit for excellence. It might have started in desperation, but then it becomes a quest, a journey. They’re learning how to enjoy being physical. They’re feeling good about themselves.

I just watched the American men swim to the gold in the 4x100m free relay. They had the fastest split time in history and smashed the world record. They also beat France, who’d been trash talking all week. I’ll bet they’re feeling pretty good about themselves too.