We’ve all had them. They read like the Best Of ESPN sports reel in our memories. They fill us with pride and awe and emotion and strength. And confidence. I’m talking about the good days. Not just the good days but the days when you are really on. Somehow you woke up with boundless energy, the sun is shining and everything in your body works as it should. You don’t just run, you are liquid lightening separating the clouds. You don’t just lift the iron, you almost throw it. It’s a perfect 10 stuck landing with no hop. It’s touching the edge of the pool with enough time to turn around and see your competitors still coming. It’s hitting that last double arrow on Dance Dance Revolution with both arms stuck out in the air, sweat streaming down your face and knowing you hit every count on the hardest level. (What? DDR is intense! Don’t believe me? Go check out the teens high-flying over those wicked arrows at your local arcade. Try not to be creepy about it though. No trench coats is all I”m saying.) Sometimes, on those days, a little voice may creep in warning you to rein it in. Hold back a bit. You don’t want to get hurt. But you go for it anyhow. Because deep down you know you own it.
More often are the other days. Not the truly horrible ones – although you know I love to talk about those – but the mediocre ones. The ones where you realize that every day for the past month something on you has hurt (usually something strange and nagging, like your xyphoid process, that makes you – okay me – automatically and hypchondriacally think cancer). The ones where the treadmill is a chore, the iron seems heavier than the last time and strangely you are crazy sore despite cheating your way through half your workout. Occasionally, right before I’d step onto the balance beam or while I toed the line for the vault my heart would drop out and my legs would go weak. It wasn’t nerves. It was just… well, I knew I wasn’t going to stick anything that workout. I’d be lucky just not to get injured. The blah days. (Note to the wise: if you feel like this every day, it might be your first clue that you are overtrained and need a break.)
Whether we are an Olympic athlete tripping over a hurdle or the mom with the jogger stroller huffing around the lake while arcing goldfish crackers over the rain fly to a whiny toddler, everyone has the blah days. But it’s the memory of the really great days that keeps us going. I honestly believe that how well you can keep those beautiful flying memories alive is your exercise barometer. Everyone fails. The inimitable Dr. J recently posted about using your failures as a tool. The lesson is in the falling. People who don’t struggle, don’t learn.
I was recently reminded of this when I got an e-mail from a Dr. John Farr. Remember the controversy surrounding swimmer Dara Torres? Dr. Farr writes:
I’ll admit to a great sadness at the bitchy backlash ( male and female ) to the great reentry of Dara at the top level in her sport . Yes, there have been a number of proven drug cheats in a host of sports, but the basic and irrefutable truth is that the vast majority of athletes in all disciplines do not use performance-enhancing drugs . As a doctor, and one-time athlete, I have had occasion to review Dara’s training regimen, both physical and dietary, and have found nothing which would lead me to suspect any form of doping . Dara has the unhappy situation of being asked to prove a negative, where the reality is that those who make the accusation should and must produce evidence to corroborate their allegation . This they cannot do since there is no evidence to adduce .By way of personal illustration, I am a sixty-nine year old who still works (reasonably) hard at staying in good shape . My blood pressure is 120/70, my pulse at rest is 45 bpm , I weigh 161 pounds, my chest is 42 inches unexpanded and my waist is 28 inches . This is as a result of good nutrition and two exercise sessions daily, thirty minutes in the morning and forty-five in the evening . If I can do this, anybody can, so do I think Dara Torres is cheating her way to the Olympics ? No way, Jose !I would just like to wish Dara all the best for her Olympic competition and I hope that she gets more than one gold medal
And Dara? Just won a silver medal today. Girl is on and is one step closer to hushing her critics. I’m glad.
Photo Credit: National Geographic