August 16, 2008
The Olympics are going on, maybe you noticed. Right now I've got the TV on and the women marathoners are plowing their way through chewy Beijing air.
I'm reminded as I watch these amazing athletes run, of an interview I heard on NPR's "Fresh Air" years ago with an Olympic swimmer (not Michael Phelps) and Terry Gross made some comment like, "You must be really health."
The swimmer grunted or snorted and said, "Uh, there's nothing terribly healthy about exercising at the level needed for the Olympics."
They push themselves well beyond fitness. Most professional athletes do. The key is to push yourself to that balance point between peek performance and injury. Pushing yourself to that level wears down your immune system, among other things.
For those of us who are just trying to maintain our weight and stay fit, what world level athletes do isn't even on the radar. But what should we do?
I propose that prior to joining the gym and beginning to lift weights I was sort of "active." That is, I'd walk a couple times a day. I could be convinced to play some tennis with my kids, play in the pool. On a vacation I'd think nothing of a several mile hike. I don't think I was terribly "fit" and it didn't do much to keep the weight off or keep my cholesterol levels down, and once I hit my forties it became very clear that my overall fitness was fading, despite my so-called "active" lifestyle.
I wasn't fit. I wasn't quite to the level of the "weekend warrior." Still, I was probably a little better than the couch potato whose only exercise was picking up the TV remote.
Once I started at the gym and began lifting weights 3 days a week, I moved toward the outer spectrum of "active" and into the very wide realm of "fit." Then I added "Cardio," biking or running or using the elliptical. And in karate, I added some flexibility and range of motion and the occasional power move.
But am I athletic?
On some days I suspect I'm edging out of "fit" and into "athletic." But I have to be very careful about that, I think, so I stay healthy without injuring myself. That the urge to bike 10 to 20 miles, 3 or 4 days a week doesn't become an urge to compete in 50 mile races.
Unless I want to.
Any thoughts? When does active become fit When does fit become athletic? When does athletic become crazy?