Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The heart of an athlete

The Olympics have always been a huge event in my house.  I grew up with brothers who were serious athletes; they played football, basketball, and did track and field.  Both of them ultimately went to college on full ride track scholarships, and so watching the Olympic track & field trials, and the games, was something we waited for every 4 years.  My mom loved the gymnasts, and I loved the swimmers.  We would sit and watch the opening ceremonies and comment on the parade of nations, searching for our favorite athletes to walk by.  And, of course, we'd watch every event in hopes that our person would be amazing enough to win the ultimate prize, an Olympic gold medal.  With the 2012 Olympics opening ceremonies a couple days away, I find myself reflecting on the last Olympic games four years ago, and how very different my life is waiting to watch these games versus the last ones. 

Quite honestly, 2008 seems like a lifetime ago, and looking back at the pictures, there was a different person living in my body, so it almost seems as if it was someone else's life.  I have a picture from that summer hanging on my fridge, and the girl who kind of looks like me was 295#.  I remember coming home from the family beach vacation that year and thinking how gross I looked in the pictures.

A few weeks after that vacation, the Beijing Olympics opened, and there was buzz about who would win the marathon, whether or not Michael Phelps would live up to the hype, and if the US gymnasts could hold their own against the Chinese.  Track and Field and swimming were always my favorite events, and so I watched every moment cheering like I was there.  I remember thinking how much I missed swimming (although never really competitive, I was on a swim team for 2 years as a teenager), and how it would be a great way to start getting some exercise.  I remember being heartbroken when Lolo Jones hit the 9th hurdle and lost the gold medal, and when Deena Kastor broke her foot and had to drop out of the marathon (which I still considered an insane person's endeavor).  And I was so elated when the US relay team beat those dumbass French swimmers by a wisp of time to snatch the gold medal from them.

Long story short, those Olympic games inspired me to change my life.  I started riding a bike and in September 2008, went to the Track Shack and bought my very first pair of running shoes, pushing 300# on the scale.  I started my journey with Weight Watchers and lost 100#, but gained so much more.  4 years after those Beijing Olympics that shocked awake the heart of an athlete, I'll be watching the London Games a full blown muscled bound, marathon running, cycling, swimming, weight lifting athlete.  I've come farther than I ever imagined possible, and I'm not even close to finished.  I'm finally becoming the person I was always meant to be both inside and out.  Being an athlete is a huge part of who I am now, and I wouldn't have it any other way, nor would I give it up for anything or anyone.  We come in all shapes and sizes, from all walks of life.  And while I'll never be an Olympian, I can sure as hell try my best every single day to keep the heart of this athlete beating.