Maximum effort and Biggest Loser review

The final 100 meters brought the wind. Oh, I’m sorry, did I say wind? I meant strong gusts. The force of the wind nearly blew me over into the second lane. The phrase, “dig deep” raced through my mind as the track interval mercifully ended. My coach gave me strict orders not to run these 300s too fast. Respect the workout, he told me. Respect the speed that’s here. No worries. The gusty morning kept the times on my 300 in check.

In fact, it seems I’m making meaningful peace with numbers these days. While those 300s were in check, they weren’t quite as fast as I would have liked. It irked me a bit, but not enough for me to believe I did anything but nail the workout. My long run on Sunday was, well, kind of ugly from a pace perspective. I walked a bit more for water breaks than in my ideal scenario. But my long run was about the miles, not about the pace, and instead of making the workout a referendum on my upcoming half marathon, I knew that putting in the time and the miles was the heart of it all.

While I’m making peace with numbers, I’m also redefining maximum effort for myself. Seems pretty simple, right? Just go out and run or bike or swim as hard as I can. But some days, my maximum effort will be slower than other days. Does that mean I didn’t work hard and try? Nope. It means that the outcome was different. But the process was the same — showing up, respecting the task at hand, smiling and giving my best effort. Maximum effort doesn’t need to look like exhaustion in action. Sure, the point is to be physically spent, but the focus, the attention, is on the effort. I think about my form. I think about control. I think about being strong and steady and consistent. I revel in the way I feel rather than in what the watch says at the end of the session. And the funny thing is, I get more accomplished when I reach for better feelings than when I reach for attaining outcomes.

The Biggest Loser

Last night was the live finale which capped off Season 11 of the hit NBC show.

The winner was Olivia, a 35-year old opera singer from New York City. While I loved her energy and the bond she shares with her sister, Hannah, my favorite thing about Olivia is her husband, Ben. While Olivia spent months at The Biggest Loser ranch losing weight and transforming her life, Ben was at home — doing the exact same thing on his own. He lost over 100 pounds, noting that he didn’t want Olivia to go through this life changing and life affirming experience and come home to an overweight husband. They each did it on their own, for themselves, in very different ways. Yet there is something amazingly wonderful, powerful and energetic about the couple, even in just the short glimpses offered the audience. They are the type of story which inspires me to make the most of what’s in front of me today.

With Jillian Michaels leaving the show, the new full-time trainer was introduced. And it is … Anna Kournikova? I had mixed feelings at first. Apparently adding the celebrity trainer is part of an overhaul of the show which, according to Media Decoder on the New York Times website, will move toward more overall health and well-being with less emphasis on the tape measure. But Anna Kournikova? Admittedly for me, she is the poster girl for the complex nature of women’s professional sport. She never won a WTA singles tournament and was celebrated for her looks more than for her tennis ability. Without going all academic on deciphering media images and gender roles, she seemed to be the example of misplaced emphasis for women in sports, one that could hold back female athletes rather than spur more progression.

Then again, Kournikova was a top 10 player in the world, and one doesn’t earn computer tennis rankings based on looks. She had talent and she had to work to get there. And perhaps seeing her work as a trainer on The Biggest Loser will recast her image from merely a sexy tennis player to a knowledgeable and serious professional athlete. I’m willing to open my mind.

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