What training camp teaches

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Football mirrors the normal life in many ways and this week reminds us that age is relative. Over thirty used to mean washed up in the NFL but no longer. Veterans, closer to 40 than 30, are playing at the highest level of their sport. This was unheard of a generation ago, but pro athletes are no different than Joe and Jane Public. They want more out of their bodies and are willing to work hard to achieve those results.

Not so long ago, the preseason was an opportunity to get bodies back into playing shape after months of lazing around. Now, the preseason is a time to compete for a job and woe to the athlete who shows up in camp unprepared. There is no off season as players try to stretch their careers to a decade or more in length.

The real world is no different. The time invested early in healthy activities allows the opportunity to enjoy life in later years. This is especially true for people with chronic illnesses like diabetes or high blood pressure. If not well controlled, the complications are initially silent, but as time goes on, the potential for heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and eye disease (among other nasty illnesses) increases. A person who is twenty or thirty may have a hard time imagining life half a century away; invincibility or willing blindness are too common in the young. The rookie on a football team can see the future in the locker room and understands that it takes hard work year round to maintain that level of performance.

Everyday, we rely on our body to do amazing things. Actually, our body is designed for one thing and that’s to take our brain to different places to do stuff. We take our brain to work, to visit friends, to play or vacation and to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells around us. If our body was to fail, the ability to enjoy the world would decrease. And while we are fastidious to perform preventive maintenance on our cars, we fail to do the same thing for our bodies. Perhaps it’s because we have to pay lots of money for a car but we get our body for free. Regardless, we understand that a piece of machinery as complicated as an automobile needs tender loving care for it to last.

Our bodies need similar care. We need to nourish it well and avoiding overindulgence. It needs routine exercise and routine maintenance. Our goal is a little more important than lasting another season in the pros. We want to be able to play in the backyard with grandkids, travel and enjoy retirement. While our genes and environment may have some say, every day is an opportunity for us to maximize our potential.

The NFL may be entertaining but it’s also instructive. Game time is just a fraction of the time an athlete spends to rise to an elite level and stay there. In life, we all have the goal to stay there forever; not all of us have the will to train to get to that goal.

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