Elite Athletes Don’t Give Up – Why Should You?

With the NFL Draft kicking off last night, I got to thinking about the excitement and anticipation that each of these NFL-bound college stars are experiencing this weekend. Listening to some of the stories these men shared – personal health scares, parents’ illnesses, poor upbringings – and having read about the sheer volume of tragedy that Clemson’s own 2013 first-rounder (in case you missed it, DeAndre “Nuk” Hopkins was the #27 pick, chosen by the Houston Texans) – it hasn’t always been an easy road to success. The one thing that I find so impressive about these men, that rings true with so many elite athletes: their positive attitudes and their incredible determination to be the best at their position and at their sport.

Though most elite athletes are born with an innate and natural talent, they have to put in the same time and hard work that us “normal” people do to find success. But the one component that both the elite athlete and the weekend warrior do have in common? The mental element. It really does play a big part in not only wanting to succeed, but envisioning yourself as a success. Not only thinking you can be stronger, or faster, or better … but knowing you will be.

By this time of the year, many a casual exerciser has thrown in the towel. They got bored. They got busy. They weren’t seeing the results they wanted. They did see the results they wanted (just a heads up on that one: putting the weight back on is easier than taking it off … again). If you met your goals, great. It’s time to start working towards a new one. If you didn’t, why did you give up? Elite athletes don’t stay elite by being satisfied by what they’ve accomplished – they find the little things they can make even better. They don’t give up because they miss a catch, or come in last, or lose a game – the pick up, dust off, and think about what went wrong, and how to make it right next time.

It’s easy, too, to let the “stuff” of everyday life get in the way. But if you pay attention to sports, you see the struggles and the tragic stories that many of these elite athletes – people many grown adults admire and children look up to, even idolize – and they still come out on top. It’s not because they are lucky (for the most part). It’s not because they are rich (some of the greatest players have come from nothing). It’s because they recognize their talent, and they do what it takes to help ease the pain in their lives. Though many of the wrongs in life can’t be righted, and many of the struggles can’t be forgotten, and disease and injury doesn’t always go away, they don’t let their misfortunes bring them down. They use them as motivation. A source of fire. A reason to be not only the best they can be – but the best, period.

Bottom line, if you’re in a rut, or on the brink of giving up (or already have), check your attitude – a little positive thinking goes a long way. Check your head – it will try to tell you that you can’t do something your body is very capable of doing … so don’t let those negative thoughts hold you back. And perhaps most importantly, let the bad situations fuel you. A good workout should be a release … and on those worst days, the harder you push, the better you will feel when you’re done.

Now, on to the second and third round today … and the question being, where will Andre Ellington end up playing next fall (we should – hopefully – find out this evening)?

Pilates: It’s Not Just for Women!

One of the biggest misconceptions out there is that Pilates is just for women (another one is that it’s easy, but that’s a whole other myth for another day). Although women outnumber men in most Pilates classes – my classes tend to average one or two men to every dozen or so women – the benefits to men are just as prevalent. In fact, Pilates was created by a man (boxer Joseph Pilates).

Pilates is based on functional fitness, which can help to increase strength, balance, flexibility, coordination, endurance and range of motion throughout the body. Focused on building core strength – through the abdominals, back and hips – Pilates engages the smaller muscles in the body that are often missed in weight-based strength workouts. The exercises are designed to hit the deeper, often under-developed muscles that lead to weaknesses, and potential injuries, in the body. And if you’re doing your cardio, you may even (finally!) find the solution to uncovering that sexy six-pack.

Many athletes have turned to Pilates to help them improve their game. A strong core allows athletes to lift heavier weight without compromising form, and improved posture can also lead to more efficient breathing. In fact, sports-specific Pilates classes have started to pop up across the country, focused specifically in improving your golf or tennis game.

Still need a little convincing? Professional athletes who have turned to Pilates include:

  • Basketball players Jason Kidd (see what he has to say about Pilates here), Lebron James and Kobe Bryant
  • Football players Calvin Johnson and Ruben Brown
  • Baseball players Curt Schilling and James Loney
  • Golfer Tiger Woods
  • Rugby player Ugo Monye
  • Hockey Player Carlo Colaiacovo

Many professional sports teams, including the Minnesota Timberwolves, New Jersey Nets, Orlando Magic, Washington Wizards, Milwaukee Brewers, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders, also include Pilates in their strength and conditioning regimen.

So, men, don’t be afraid of that room full of ladies. You’ll gain strength, flexibility, coordination, and improved overall sports performance – and maybe even finally see that six-pack you’ve been working toward. You never know, play your cards right, you might even get a date out of it (just don’t be creepy about it!) 😉