Our own Jen Foley discusses her dream of competing in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and how having a flexible mindset can help even average Janes and Joes to improve their fitness — and their lives
by Jen Foley, MVHNews fitness blogger, Healthy Lifestyles Director at Two Rivers YMCA
The Olympics come around every four years, and the nation gets inspired every time by all the incredible talent we have in this country and in the world. I once dreamed of competing as an Olympic swimmer. From the day I was born I was in the pool, but it wasn’t until I was nine years old when I joined our local summer league swim team where I got a taste of competition.
We want to encourage those dreams and aspirations in our young people, but what about the middle aged American who needs that inspiration to get moving or change a bad habit? Successful athletes cultivate a mindset that can turn even failure into motivation. Not everyone can be an Olympian, but everyone can develop an Olympian mindset that enables them to bounce back from setbacks, learn from them, and solve life’s problems more creatively. True, it’s not easy. Ask yourself and examine YOU:
- Examine your habits. What one thing can you change to inch you closer to your dreams? Passion is a trait Olympians share. I loved swim practice, and the swim meets where I had competition really drove me to do well.
- Write down your goals. Believe in them. Don’t take “no” for an answer. In high school I was unbeaten in the 200 freestyle for all my 4 years. I went to my first national meet when I was 14 years old on three relays, and at 15 I made it individual events and focused on the 100, 200, and 500 freestyle.
- Commitment is the third common trait. For those who identified their dreams early, they made a promise to themselves that they would stick to it, even when times got tough.When it came to choosing a college, all of my friends were going to Cal Berkley, UCLA, and University of Arizona — all great schools and swim teams. One of my previous coaches called and said I needed to come out check out the University of Tennessee where he had moved. The minute I met the team and saw the school I knew I wanted to go there.
- Never give up. Your dreams are real. Live them. As the 1996 Atlanta Olympics approached, so did my final chance to make the Olympic trials. My best event was the 200 freestyle, but I fell .8 seconds short of the trial time. Even without Olympic trial competition, my swimming career was wonderful. And it launched me to a lifetime of realizing athletic goals, including IronMan competition in Kona.
I was fortunate at the University of Tennessee to swim alongside Jeremy Linn (silver medalist in 100 breaststroke in ’96) and Melvin Stewart (gold medalist in the 200 butterfly and former world record holder in that event). These successful athletes are poster children for Dr. Carol Dweck’s theories. (She’s a world-renowned Stanford University psychologist who has performed decades of research on achievement and success.) Her central idea is that people with a growth mindset (“I can work hard and get better at this”) outlast and out-perform people with a fixed mindset (“I lack innate ability, and either you have it or you don’t”). Many successful habit-changers share this Olympian mindset.
|Jen Foley is the Healthy Lifestyles Director
at the Two Rivers YMCA, Moline. Jen majored in Therapeutic Recreation at the University of Tennessee and Gerontology at Sonoma State University. She lives in Davenport with her husband, Tim and their two
pugs Jack and Lucy. She enjoys having an active lifestyle and helping others achieve their goals.For a listing of all of Jen’s blog posts, click here.