Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Heroes and Health IMHO

Last week, I ordered my cap to help fund the shark protection Diana Nyad needed. When it arrives I will wear it on my runs as a reminder of what it means to be strong and healthy.

Nyad had to leave the water after 29 hours - 31 hours short of her intended swim. No - She chose to leave the water.

Our culture is rife with role models who have pushed themselves to the brink - or over the brink - with heart attacks, anorexia, OCD exercising and the like. We boast about blackened toenails and dry heaves, and laugh at pictures of runners losing control of their bowels. Even the first marathon runner keeled over when he arrived at his destination and still we all think it was so cool we want to do it, too.

At 29 hours Nyad realized that, the way things were going for her in the water, it could no longer about completing the swim she envisioned. It could have been about pride and about "just doing it" -  if she were a lesser person.

But I believe that when "just doing it" risks damaging one's overall health, when competition (even with oneself) takes precedence over a celebration of human physical ability, it is no longer a reflection of a healthy human endeavor. Being willing to damage one's body for the sake of pride is not a reflection of a healthy human mind.

Obviously, I am not an elite athlete. I never even had a glimmer of an ambition in that regard. I swim slower than lava seeping onto the ocean floor and am terrified of fish. And my math skills are so bad that I can't participate in the upcoming swim meet even "for fun".

So you could, quite understandably, write off my remarks as justification for not pushing myself so hard I get dry heaves after my runs, or for my taking off 7 days of running last week to let my achilles un-swell and de-junk.

Even so, and whether she would like it or not, Diana Nyad is my fitness role model in more ways than one.

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree with you - it is great to have role models that dare to stop when enough is enough. It must have been so hard for her, having gone out so publicly, and it probably took a lot of courage. But it is not always about being the best or the first, the most important thing is treating yourself good. I hope a lot of people learn from her! :)