Wednesday, February 17, 2010

So You Want To Be A Superstar

Grams has been working two or three days a week at our local middle school as a substitute teacher. I really enjoy spending time with the students who are 6th, 7th and 8th graders. (Okay, not so much enjoyment with the 6th graders; they should be caged!) The daily lesson plans keep them and me very busy and, as a sub, it's my job to keep them on task, but now and then there is a little time to just talk with them.

I love the opportunity to talk about what they like to do and their plans for the future. I've noticed that at this age the girls seem to have a much more realistic idea of what they may want to do in the future. (Although I actually had a girl tell me that she didn't need to learn science because she was going to marry a rich doctor. Grams responded that rich doctors marry smart girls.) The boys, almost to a person, want to be athletes. I have talked to a few who want to be engineers or doctors, but far and away the answers I get are NFL football player, NASCAR driver, NBA basketball player, professional skateboarder, etc. I always respond with what I hope is an encouraging word but I always follow up with advice that perhaps they should have a "plan b" in case that doesn't work out.

Grams would never want to dash anyone's dreams and I'm a big believer that, within reasonable limits, you can be anything you want to be if you are willing to put in the work. But that's the rub ... kid's don't get the "work" part. It's mystifying to me that in a society where kids idolize professional and Olympic athletes, they don't have a clue how hard those athletes work. This has been on my mind this week because Grandad and I have been spending our evenings watching the Olympic Games from Vancouver.

It's true that many of the top athletes lead a very glamorous lifestyle, but the amount of work they do to get there is amazing. Grams spent a little bit of time researching the diet and workout regimes of Olympic athletes. Here's what I've discovered. A typical workout day is something like this ... thirty minutes of stretching and conditioning ... three hours of running ... three hours of weight training or body weight training (like push ups and pull ups) ... stretching again and spending time in hot or cold tubs. Note that the typical Olympic athlete spends seven to eight hours a day just on workouts and conditioning. At this point they haven't even worked on their particular sport. All this time is just preparing their body for their sport. After this they spend an additional three to four hours on their specific event, whether it's gymnastics or snowboarding. Being an Olympic-caliber athlete is a full-time job. And, I think it's important to note that most of these athletes start training at a very young age. This truly is their life's work.

And, in addition to all that working out, their diets are not enviable. They eat high protein, low-carb diets to maintain extremely low body fat levels. A typical breakfast might be eight egg whites with vegetables, then a lunch of salad with chicken or tuna, an afternoon snack of fruit, then high-protein low-carb dinner. (Very similar to my post-weight-loss-surgery diet, except they eat a much higher volume of food.) You won't find them noshing on nachos, burgers, or Oreos on a regular basis.

Grams is definitely in favor of encouraging the younger generation to dream big. But let's also temper those dreams with a dose of reality. Teach our kids that they must prepare for the future they dream of and for their far more likely future as another kind of hard-working American.

I'm all in favor of encouraging our children to be Olympic athletes. Shoni Davis, Shaun White, Lindsey Vonn, Apolo Ohno have certainly achieved their goals and may be great role models as far as their sports achievement go. And I can't imagine anything better than walking into opening ceremonies as a member of Team USA. You can follow the Vancover Olympics at their official web site.

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