As the Olympics continue through the final days of competition, the whole world is watching classic battles take place among the global superpowers, supporting their homegrown heroes along the way. With the greatest media reach ever, observers have been enthralled by what could be called the largest reality television program of its kind. The networks create the drama that unfolds during competition; we focus on the athletes who have devoted their lives to getting to this stage, cheering as they rise to the occasion or sympathizing if they miss the mark they have hit so many times in practices and prior competitions. We adore our greatest athletes and vilify those who beat our favorites by nanoseconds. Watching and supporting the best athletes in the world generates powerful emotions among viewers, and without a doubt the Games encourage even casual viewers to contemplate their own physical capabilities and potential. Former high school athletes visualize a different ending to their personal story, while those who never played sports ponder the idea of what might have happened if they had tried. Dreams are sometimes just that – dreams – but in some cases they are reality waiting to happen.
The Olympics, though, are more than games; they are an example of human potential and what can be attained with focus, commitment, hard work, and the unabated devotion that comes with significant sacrifice. Certainly the focus on the drive and physicality of the participants during Olympic coverage demonstrates the impressive capabilities of our athletes in both spirit and action, but within the two weeks of coverage there also exists the potential to encourage people to realize that many of these activities, among others, can be enjoyed for health, fitness, and improved quality of life. While this is the time to allow the athletes to shine, their dedication to their sport and the sacrifices they make to come so far serve as the greatest marketing campaign for physical activity and personal improvement. Finding your inner athlete doesn’t have to mean competing for a place on the pedestal. It means making a personal commitment to become more physical, to strive to improve in some physical manner, and to stay the course when time, responsibilities, and other life distractions suggest it’s easier just to quit. The best part about investing in one’s health and quality of life is that the journey doesn’t have to be as arduous as that of an Olympic hero; rather, it can take as little as 20-30 minutes a day. Olympians spend hours a day training, but the Games are the pinnacle of athleticism, and while the feats of strength and skill are impressive, such efforts are not necessary for those trying to lose weight, improve flexibility, or achieve functional levels of strength. To reach these goals, one simply needs to make the commitment to try and try again, every day. The Olympics could be the best symbol of personal commitment – we should all use the platform to get on track and start the journey to be our best selves yet.