Finding Your Inner Athlete

Desiree Flicker pro TriathleteThis post is from guest contributor, Christen Cupples Cooper, MS, RD (

If you are like many Americans (and many nutritionists for that matter), you watch the Olympics and wonder how anyone could possibly jump that high or run that fast. You marvel at how your office mate runs five miles before dawn, rain or shine. But for many of us these big-time feats are overwhelming, not inspiring. If this is what exercise is about, we think, forget it!  We could never do that!

Whether it’s due to advertising or celebrity buzz, Americans are always reaching for the stars, sometimes at our own peril. If we aren’t supermodel thin, we consider ourselves fat. If we’re not Bill Gates brilliant, we call ourselves stupid. But there’s a big difference between all and none, and that’s the way Americans need to start thinking about exercise.

Look in the mirror for a minute or close your eyes. Try to remember where you put that athlete who’s inside of you. We’re not talking about a Michael Phelps or a Serena Williams clone, but a kid who once rode her bike around the neighborhood for hours on end or cranked up music and danced like crazy in front of the mirror. Yes, that’s the athlete we’re looking for. According to many studies, that’s the person who holds the key to great improvements in health, mood and longevity.

Most recently, a large European analysis of exercise studies revealed that moderate exercise, just moving your body for 150 minutes a week (about 20 minutes a day)-–is sufficient to lower your risk of death by 10%. And if you crank it up a bit to a more vigorous exercise level, you reduce that risk by 22%.

So forget Olympic feats. Just move and groove—your way. Whether it’s linking up with a friend for a walk before work, walking your kids to school a few days a week, turning on music and dancing to get “pumped up” for the day, or taking a nature walk to enjoy the fall foliage, just get moving. You’ll enjoy the benefits, inside and out.

Tips for success:

  • Ditch the perfectionist mentality. Set achievable exercise goals and raise them when you achieve them. Try to do 10 sit ups a day. When you get there, try for 15, then 20. Walk a mile and once that becomes easy, walk two.
  • Enjoy yourself every step of the way. Walk to someplace beautiful and bring a book to read when you get there.
  • Exercise in front of the TV instead of snacking.
  • Get outside with your kids. Fall hikes, nature walks and other activities burn calories and provide valuable family time.






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