The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. She is also a member of the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

By Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Lifestyle/Weight Management Coach

There has always been something about the Olympic Games that stirs the soul of every individual watching worldwide. We sit in front of our big screens with rapt attention, holding our collective breath as we watch swimmers powerfully cut through the water, trying to be the first to touch the wall; or as tiny gymnasts seemingly defy gravity as they flip and twirl over a 4”-wide wooden beam. The years of dedication, sacrifice, training and pain culminate at this epic event…..and yet, there can be only one winner, only one athlete in every event who gets to take home the highly coveted gold medal.

As we observe the action and emotional drama from the comfort of our living rooms, what take-home message can we learn from these talented young people? First and foremost, it is this: “Humble in victory, gracious in defeat”. Yes, amid the spills and falls, the triumphs and the tears, teammates pulling together and friends vying against each other, this one common theme is woven into each and every one of these athletes. For some, these Games represent a chance to make a name for themselves, anxious to establish their place on the record books as they await financial offers from sponsors. For others, this may be the last stop of their competitive journey, choosing to turn to other professional endeavors after several successful Olympic Games. However their lives outside of London play out, all we can see is the spirit of good-natured competition, the epitome of hard work, and the importance of teamwork.

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How can we harness some of this winning glory and employ it in our own lives? Perhaps the first step is to realize that for every success we have in the gym, whether it is with weightlifting strength, aerobic endurance, or balance in Pilates, there will be many more days that are less than stellar. These days do not make us any less of an athlete, even in the face of defeat, for that fighting spirit lives within each of us; rather, we can learn from these experiences and allow ourselves to realize that the next workout has every bit of potential for greatness as the one before it……provided we don’t give up. In the absence of teammates, we can learn to rely on fitness professionals or workout partners to pick us up, brush us off, and redirect out efforts when we find ourselves falling short of our goals.

The Olympic Torch, the igniting of which officially signals the commencement of the Games, also represents the tradition of the fire that burns within every athlete, refusing to be consumed even during the most rigorous of conditions. Whatever your chosen sport may be, embrace that flame, fan it, and allow its passion to burn within you.

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center.