The Olympics of Inspiration: The Olympics (what else??)

The Olympics are here.

This means precisely 3 things.

1)      Every tech gadget I own, including the original iPod touch, is in use, sometimes simultaneously, to stream events, watch replays, double check live standings, and re-watch live events in prime-time

2)      I’m digging up old pics of myself.  Like this one:

minnie

In a can’t-help-but-reminisce type of fashion.  Feel free to judge.

3)      I’m jet lagged.  In my apartment.

Watching the Olympics is like hooking yourself up to an IV of inspiration.  Yes, there are disappointments, the occasional curse word, and displeasing shows of emotion (I’m looking at you Ashley).  But then there’s sportsmanship, dream moments, heaps of stories about overcoming obstacles, language barrier breaking, and underdog winning humbling moments.

It’s the Winter Olympics in Sochi day 15.  These are my favorite moments so far.

Women’s half-pipe final run hugs.  I’m not sure if the snowboarding half-piping female athletes are just all friendly by nature, that’s the culture of the sport, (or they all had a drink before), but damn.  When the final scores were announced and Torah Bright, the defending gold medalist from Australia found out she won the silver, losing to Kaitlyn Farrington from the USA (go USA), she jumped up and down hugging and congratulating her.  You would’ve thought she had won.  It was refreshing.  And kinda funny.  Mostly refreshing.

The I love Shaun White series (and why Shaun White is awesome).  Clearly Shaun White has inspired many snowboarders in his time and will continue to do so.  But I’m pretty sure no one has been as inspired as Iouri Podladtchikov.  This young snowboarder has been pushing his own limits and hoping to rock out in the half pipe against White.  But as he clearly stated in an interview, with excitement and straight up glee – all he really wants is to meet Shaun in Sochi.

Dreams came true for Iouri; he met Shaun during the final round, when they were the last 3 athletes to go.  He won gold and beat Shaun.  And then he hugged him and wouldn’t let go.  I’ve never seen a happier person.  And Shaun handled himself in the coming days with poise and sportsmanship, refusing to complain about the course (like the other athletes), saying he was happy for the others, and showing humility in the face of defeat.  Go Shaun.

The figure skating underdog games.  Once upon a time there was a little girl named Adelina Sotnikova.  She won Russian nationals at the age of 12 and was hailed as the new representative of Russian Figure Skating (a program that, well, basically fell apart after the Soviet Union collapse).  Unfortunately, this little 12 year old is now a 17 year old, and was largely pushed aside during these Olympics, to make room for a little girl named Yulia Lipnitskaya, a 15 year old powerhouse.  Figure skating can be a cruel sport (no Kumbayah or hugs with the other athletes here folks).  So when Sotnikova was passed over for a spot in the Russian team event at the beginning of the competition, she got, well, pissed.

A big part of competing on a stage like the Olympics, is having the ability to step up and do the job in the moment when it needs to be done, under immense and unmatched pressure.  Sotnikova did just that.  While the world was checking their Olympic programs trying to figure out this girl’s name, Sotnikova skated two incredibly powerful and clean programs.  She gave Russia its first gold medal in female figure skating.  Ever.  And she beat a woman, who until today was basically unbeatable; someone who has been nicknamed “the queen.”

Ummm… you go girl, Adelina.

I’ve also enjoyed: a husband and wife snowboarding duo, whose events happened to be one after the other, and who happened to both medal with the gold and bronze, respectfully.  Watching these two bawl their eyes out together was an unrivaled newly-wed moment.  I can smell the movie rights.

It’s cheesy, but I love feeding off the inspiration.  Seeing the hard work of the Olympic athletes pushes me to ignore the sub-zero temps and trade in my warm blanket and the couch for a treadmill, for a figure skating session, for some off-ice practice, for a yoga/pilates class, for some stretching.

This week I had a burst of energy while running, something that’s admittedly been difficult this winter.  I started skating again and attempted jumps I haven’t in some years (pic below).

What can I say, I love watching these athletes kick ass and push themselves.

Awesome.

skating

Home-Running it Through the Bucket List

chicago sport and social softball

Number 11 on my bucket list this summer was to join a summer sports league.

I put it on my bucket list because I’ve never actually joined a recreational sports team for young professionals.  I’ve seen many a group walking around sporting ZogSports or Chicago Sport and Social Club t-shirts… and really wanted one.

There are a host of excuses for why in the 6 years post college I have not yet participated.  I’m busy.  I’m a figure skater (i.e. not a soccer/football/baseball player).  None of my friend groups have ever organized a team.  Games are held in inconvenient locations.  The last time I played football in fourth grade I was tackled and couldn’t feel my body for a bit.  The other girls have more experience.

Basically, I’ve been too chicken-shit.

Time to amend this issue.

This summer I’ve joined a Chicago Sport and Social Club softball league with about 20 of my co-workers (read: public humiliation is even more fun when carried to the workplace).

And today was the first game.

Today was also, conveniently, the hottest day Chicago has seen this summer.

Let the shirt-soaking fun begin.

I took a cab found my way to the field and joined everyone for beers warm-ups.

I quickly found out that laying low wasn’t in the cards.  Turns out league rules state that each team must have at least 4 girls on the team at all times, 4 girls in the outfield and must rotate a girl batter every two players. (I haven’t decided how I feel about this gender equality driven rule-book as of yet).

Either way…we had 5 girls.  I had to woman-up and learn fast.

I started the game as the Center-fielder.  By the grace of some guardian angel, the other team’s first line-up couldn’t hit a ball the size of a kickball had some trouble and struck out quickly.  I had another beer with my teammates/coworkers and prepared to bat for the first time.

Everyone started to cheer me on as I went up.  I swung once and missed and then got a walk to first.  I was pretty psyched.  We struck out shortly after, but I was starting to get the hang of it.

My next turn at center-fielder, I was the recipient of a giant welt on the side of my knee stopped a ball hurled straight towards me and was able to get it to the second-base in time to hear “out” called on the other team.

At some point during the game the other team started to kick our ass play really well.

Any judgment passed in the beginning of the game flew straight out the window (lesson learned).  This team didn’t have matching uniforms, seemed disorganized and had one member with an artificial leg.

You’d think the score would have at least been close.  NOPE. (I will refrain from divulging the actual score)

We lost.

I’m pretty sure that bystanders couldn’t tell the difference though.  We immediately began toasting and drinking beers on the field and continuing the hyper excitement of the past 2 hours.

After on-field drinks, we moved the matching t-shirt party to a local bar where we toasted to our next game.

Playing with a team of coworkers/friends/new team members at sunset on a summer day was Awesome.

Looking forward to next week’s game.

The Running Path

chicago path

I started running outside this week.

As mentioned in previous posts, I really started running last year.  Previous to that time, I ran because I was a) forced by figure skating coaches b) wanted to beat my brother c) wanted to beat the boys in gym class (this is true).

As I’ve matured (loose term), running has become a great way to get in a short workout, be outdoors and push my competitive needs.

Ever since I moved to the Windy City, all I’ve heard about is the famed lakefront path.

This is no exaggeration and I have a sneaky suspicion that anyone who has spent more than 35 minutes in Chicago will attest to this.  I have heard about running outdoors by the lake from my dad (he was on a work assignment in Chicago once…decades ago), from former co-workers overseas and from friends who spent a hot second doing an internship out in the Miwest.

This week I got to experience it for myself.

Chicago enjoyed warm temperatures for a whole 72 hours.  And I took advantage.

I mapped out a course and figured out how to cross the lakeshore highway (tricky underground tunnels!).

I set out running through the streets, meandered through heavy traffic on Michigan Ave and finally made it to the path where my fellow runners were.

I joined the rhythm of the other runners, turned up the volume on David Guetta’s Night of Your Life and aimed for North Avenue Beach.

Running right along the sand and the lake with no guard rail is an experience.  It reminded me of why I loved lake Michigan so much as a child and why I love it so much now: it looks like an ocean.

When I reached the tip of the bay where the beach curves and sets out in the other direction, I stopped running and turned around.

The view was incredible.

Awesome.

chicago

Valentine’s Day with Balls

bowling

Today is (was) Valentine’s Day.

I wouldn’t have known…

Except.

When I got to work this morning there were numerous tables with roses covering our enormous lobby and multiple individuals were walking towards me with arms extended.

Initial reaction was to initiate the palm-heel strike (used to ward of your attacker) but then I took an awkward pause and thought… oh.  Valentine’s Day. (I’m not a morning person).

Naturally, I took one (two) roses.

And anticipated tonight’s glamorous V-Day activity.

It involved new shoes, multiple beer tubes and heavy balls.

Yes.  February 14 of 2013 had me and a friend joining a bowling league for the night and playing our hearts out.

It was a classy night.

Mac and cheese and tater tots, a couple party fouls and some bowling instruction by some “pros” had us obliterating pins, making new friends, reconnecting with old ones and getting all sorts of hyper.

It wasn’t your typical V-Day.

But it was…

Awesome.

Just Do It.

keep calm and cycle on

Today’s workout was Awesome.

Why?

Because.

I set a goal and I met it.

I told myself that no matter what — I was going to get to a certain number.

No excuses.

Recently, I’ve been feeling more lethargic during class and falling well below the level I know I can meet.

The burrito I ate before class didn’t help (stupid).

Neither did the lack of sleep last night (stupid).

But.  There’s always an excuse to pedal at a lower rpm.

A few things did help.

Friends. Music. Mental game.

I’ve found that the key to cycling consistently every week is getting your friends involved (evil plan).  I’ve introduced spinning to a number of friends who now go every week.  Knowing they’re reserving bikes pushes me.

The playlist was perfect (Careless Whisper by Seether is new favorite).

I put everything out of my mind.  For 45 minutes.  Nothing was going on in my life besides Enrique Iglesias (that’s right).

I sang along. I cheered out loud.  I passed my goal.

I was pumped.

Awesome.

For the Love of Role-Modeling

skating coach

This past week, a younger co-worker asked to shadow me at work;

I was offered the opportunity to coach a group of figure skaters ages 6-8;

I was assigned a prospective candidate to interview for my college.

My plate was pretty full and little sleep was had (nothing new)…

But I threw myself into each experience.

And in the process remembered how much I adore mentoring, coaching and passing on wisdom (used loosely here).

Each separate event had me deep in preparation.  I outlined appropriate questions to ask an ambitious high schooler, considered work tasks most interesting and even went on the United States Skating Association website to look up basic skills I may have forgotten (I admit it).

The result was worth the effort.

Offering work advice left me feeling humbled.

Speaking to a high school student determined to surpass insurmountable life obstacles was inspiring.

And helping to mold a new generation of athletic character in the form of 6 and 7 year olds…

Was just plain Awesome.

Let the Sun Shine in

skating

Today the sun came out.

Literally and figuratively.

Yes.  It was the coldest day Chicago has seen in 2 years.  And Yes. It felt like hypothermia was upon me after3.4 minutes out the door.

But.  The sun was shining.

So.

I indulged in this mood lifter by having myself a serious me day filled with fitness.

Although January is usually a hard month for me, for some reason, the winter, in particular, this year is hitting me hard.

Given the fact that I was born and raised in Eastern Europe, grew up in Michigan, went to school on a frigid mountain and spent the entirety of my life figure skating (summers too)… you’d think this was all routine by now.

Not this winter.

I’m shocked every time I go outside and it isn’t 70 and I stare at people who are dressed in anything less than Eskimo-wear.  Secretly I’ve been hell-bent on pretending I’ve never experienced cold while plotting to run away to the other side of the equator.

What I needed today was to indulge myself in the kind of days I love most.  The kind of days I used to have during the summers when my coach would pick me up at 5am for a day’s worth of stretching, working out and off-ice and on-ice training.

Today I pushed myself to remember all those moves that muscle memory ingrained for two decades.

I know I’ve written before about going back to the ice.  Today I felt more confident and trained as if I’d never left.

I thought of nothing but the task in front of me.

It. Felt. Great.

After practice I took the train an hour back downtown for some pilates and yoga where I crunched, stretched and zen-ed through the adrenaline I had left.

By the 7th downward dog, I was exhilarated and exhausted all at the same time and felt like I’d found my center.

I ended the day by watching my favorite show with some tea.

And honey.

And some chocolate.

Awesome.