Olympics 2012: Do elite athletes inspire or intimidate fitness newbies?

ssorich@ledger-enquirer.comJuly 24, 2012 

It's a little strange when nacho cheese is the guest of honor at your Olympics viewing party.

Hey, I've been there, too: watching elite athletes while disregarding my diet and fine-tuning the butt indentation on my couch. With absolutely no shame.

Is something wrong with this picture?

When the Olympics kick off this week, many people will temporarily enter the world of sports obsession. I couldn't help wondering if the games inspire or intimidate fitness newbies.

I asked Mike Edwards, owner/manager of Below The Knee, if he expects to see an increase in business due to the Olympics.

"I think we probably will," said Edwards, whose Columbus store boasts running shoes, walking shoes and more. "It's fairly motivational."

Olympic kayaking could impact interest in a local whitewater course, Edwards said. And when it comes to running, he'll advise customers in his store to not immediately strive for Olympic-level achievements.

"Start slowly. A good program is Couch to 5K. Too much too soon results in a lot of people quitting," he said.

Rather than trying to mirror their talents, it's best to look to Olympic athletes for the traits that characterize a healthy lifestyle -- things like discipline and dedication.

If the games inspire you to break a sweat, here are some ways to channel your inner athlete.

Soccer: Interested in playing with the Columbus Adult Soccer Association? Fall registration is open until Aug. 19, according to the organization's website. Learn more here.

Running: If you want to start small, there are two local 5K races this week. Wednesday, there's a 5K at 7:30 p.m. at Flat Rock Park. Cost is $5 for Columbus Roadrunners members, $10 for non-members. Learn more here.

Saturday's Dr. Cooper's 4th Annual Run for Their Lives 5K benefits the Russell County Child Advocacy Center. It starts at 8 a.m. EDT at 3700 South Railroad Street in Phenix City. Registration is $25; $30 after Thursday. There's also a 1-mile walk. Learn more here.

Feeling really ambitious? If you're want to train for the Nov. 10 Soldier Half Marathon in Columbus, there's a kickoff run at 7:30 a.m. Saturday for the Jeff Galloway training program. It relies on a Run Walk Run method. Saturday's run starts at Big Dog Running Company, 1104 Broadway, in Columbus. It's free, but runners are encouraged to sign up for the whole program (which requires a fee).

Sonya Sorich, reporter, can be reached at ssorich@ledger-enquirer.com or 706-571-8516.

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