Going for Gold: How to Champion Your Inner Olympian

By Marilynn Preston

February 20, 2018 5 min read

I'll miss the Olympics when it ends, if it ever ends. I've been tethered to the tube night after night, chip after chip, dazzled by the incredible athleticism on display, constantly humming the Olympic theme song that keeps repeating and repeating: Dum-dum, da-dum-dum-dum-dum... It almost makes me want to run out and buy a Toyota.

Can you believe how fast Mikaela Shiffrin skis? How high Aljona Savchenko flies in the triple twist lift? And I'm loving the human drama, from Nathan Chen's shocking falls to Lindsey Vonn's phenomenal grace under pressure — and what about all those fabulous things Johnny Weir is doing with his pompadour?

I hope you've been watching, too, but even if you haven't, there are lessons to be learned from the 2018 Olympics that can help all of us be smarter, stronger, safer athletes:

FIND YOUR INNER OLYMPIAN: After the king of Japanese skaters, Yuzuru Hanyu, won his Olympic gold medal in Pyeongchang, he wept with joy. He also thanked his right ankle, NPR reported. Yuzu had badly injured it just three months before the Olympics, ending up in a wheelchair, and after his spellbinding long program, he wanted to express gratitude to his wounded ankle for doing so well.

So? We will never be able to do the flying quads and spectacular spins that Yuzu does, effortlessly, impeccably, but one thing we can all do is tune in to the body we have, on the deepest level, and be grateful. And take care of it. And keep it healthy and happy.

DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME. During the 2014 Winter Olympics, a friend's son almost died in a snowboarding "accident." He was so inspired by Shaun White at Sochi, he went out and tried some tricks way, way beyond his level, and crash landed with four broken bones and a badly bruised brain.

These Olympic champions make it look so easy, but the truth is, it's not easy, never easy. In fact, making it to the Olympics is very, very hard and takes years of training, coaching and risk-taking. Injuries are expected. While it's fantastic to feel inspired by these amazing athletes, it's folly to think you can imitate them. You can't. They spend eight, 10, 12 hours and more a day, every day, perfecting their skills. They are Olympians, and we are mortals. Remember that the next time you're tempted to try a triple lutz.

BEINGS CAN DO EXTRAORDINARY THINGS. One wonderful upside of watching these top competitors is that they can inspire you to reach for your highest potential. U.S. figure skater Adam Rippon is a marvelous example of someone who refused to give up his dream. "It's taken me 18 years to get here," he told NBC's Andrea Joyce. He moved to LA six years ago to train with the best coach. He had no money, he said, and lived on free apples from the gym. That may be an exaggeration, but he made his dream come true. And if you're willing to give it your all, your dream can come true for you.

BRING YOUR MIND INTO PLAY. Are you including visualization and relaxation techniques and breathing exercises in your sports training? I hope so. The Olympics is a great reminder to all of us that your mental game is a huge factor when it comes to performing your best, no matter your sport or level of skill.

"It's all mental," said Chris Mazdzer, the U.S. Olympian who won a surprise silver in the luge. "I'm just so comfortable with who I am."

"I'm disappointed but I'm not upset," Lindsey Vonn said after placing fifth in the slalom race that she was expected to win. "I'm here. I'm healthy. And I'm so grateful."

Olympic phenom Mikaela Shiffrin's story is fascinating on many levels. In spite of being one of the greatest skiers ever, male or female, she used to be overcome with anxiety and nausea before big races. She ended up seeing a sports psychologist who helped her accept her imperfections and celebrate her gifts. Now her mantra is "I am," as in "I am good" and "I am strong."

You don't have to be an Olympian to find the mantra that calms your fears, frees your spirit and delivers gold.

And yes, sometimes Shiffrin still throws up.


"I try to ... put away the pressure ... and just enjoy my day." — Skier and 2018 gold medalist Frida Hansdotter

Marilynn Preston is the author of Energy Express, America's longest-running healthy lifestyle column. Her new book "All Is Well: The Art {and Science} of Personal Well-Being" is available now on Amazon and elsewhere. Visit Creators Publishing at creators.com/books/all-is-well to learn more. For more on personal well-being, visit www.MarilynnPreston.com.

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