From Kristin Armstrong to Mariel Zagunis, we here at Sharecare have been in full fan mode behind the Olympic athletes this year. But none of us has cheered harder than the actual Olympian in our midst, Sharecare fitness expert Mel Mueller, a member of the 2000 U.S. Olympic women’s pole vaulting team. And while she didn’t bring home a medal from Sydney, she did score some valuable life lessons. Steal ‘em for yourself (with her blessing).
- Try everything. Mueller didn’t start out as a pole vaulter. She competed in track and field through college, hoping to make it to the Olympics in the heptathlon (an event that combines running, jumping and throwing). Finally, though, she realized it wasn’t going to happen. “So I decided to try pole vaulting,” she says. “I had no idea if I would be good at it or not.” Turns out she was — and she achieved her Olympic dream. “That’s the thing. You have to try everything,” Mueller says. “You don’t know what the thing is that you’re going to love.”
- Bounce back. Mueller’s road to the Olympics wasn’t an easy one. There were tough training days, jumps she wasn’t happy about, times she wasn’t improving as quickly as she’d hoped. But they didn’t phase her. “There are always going to be disappointments and plateaus,” she says. “But that’s okay, because they make you realize you’re tough, that you can keep going and move on.”
- Keep at it. Sometimes even an Olympic-level athlete doesn’t feel like working out. How to stay motivated? “I tell everyone, ‘Keep your eyes on the prize,’” Mueller says. “If you want to lose weight or get fit but decide to stay in bed, that’s not helping. But if you get up and do your workout, you’ll feel better about yourself and move toward your goal.”
- Think positive. Mueller experienced plenty of nerves during her training and, of course, at the Games themselves. She relied on her experience to handle the stress, but she’s just discovered an even better solution. “Just the other day I heard an Olympic commentator say that you should relabel your nervousness as excitement. I love that!”
- Join up. “The great thing about being part of the Olympic team was the support. You’re surrounded by like-minded people all with a common goal,” she says. But you don’t have to be part of an actual team to harness the benefits. “That’s what’s so great about gym classes. You’re in the midst of a bunch of people doing the same thing,” she says, whether that thing is spinning or kickboxing or Zumba. “You may be motivated because you’re next to someone who’s better than you and you want to be like them, or because you’re next to someone worse than you so you feel good about your abilities.”
- Eat right. When you’re preparing for one of the most demanding fitness contests in the world, food is a big deal. “When I was in training I needed to take note of everything that went into my mouth,” Mueller says. Put in the wrong thing and your body can’t give its best effort. The same is true in everyday life. “Good food choices are key. You can have ice cream, but you need to balance it out with exercise.”
And that, we think, is gold medal advice.
Who’s your favorite Olympian, and which qualities do you admire most? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Join the largest health conversation in 140 characters or less! Tweet what you want to talk about to @SharecareNow and let’s start chatting!
File under: In the News