Staying Fit a Challenge, Even for Former Sports Stars
> 7/7/2006 9:49:26 AM

In high school Johnny Football Hero or Lacrosse Star Jane might have looked like they were destined for life long beauty and svelte figures, but as the New York Times reported yesterday, more often than not, that is not the case. In reality, it is often those who excelled in athletics in high school or college who have the hardest time staying fit later in life.

The writer relies heavily on anecdotal evidence, providing little in the way of statistics, but nonetheless, her argument makes a lot of sense. As Dan Gould, the director of the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State University in Lansing, says in the NYT piece, athletes must begin to think about exercise in a completely different way. "Basically, they've been to the mountaintop and now they're on these little hills, and that is difficult to deal with," he says. While once on that mountaintop most were in spectacular physical shape, but without competition to drive them, few former athletes are able to maintain their previous levels of fitness.

As the article points out, the problem is that without the constant drive to be better than an opponent or improve a time, many athletes don't know how to relate to the idea of fitness. Some, having grown weary of the never ending demands of competition, even see working out as a chore. As one doctor says in the piece, their lives away from athletics require a complete reprogramming to ensure that they maintain a healthy level of fitness.

One former star, John Deodato, joined the New York city police force after his school days ended. Over the course of his career he would add more than 100 pounds, while always thinking one day he'd shape up and find a new sport to throw himself into. But that never happened, and it wasn't until he'd retired that he began to take fitness seriously again.

The reality of the situation is that maintaining a healthy weight and exercise schedule is much easier than cutting off that accumulated weight from a dead start. A lot of the blame for the ballooning athletes might be placed with coaches as well as high school and collegiate programs. Often, teams are so focused on the next opponent or the next race, that little attention is paid to building a foundation for lifelong health. One need only look to high-profile former stars like Charles Barkley or Magic Johnson (ironically, now co-stars of the same NBA program) to see that even the highest level of competition rarely equals a healthy attitude in retirement.

Especially at the high school level, coaches and schools should be preaching the benefits of staying in shape and taking care of the machines that allow us to compete. At higher levels of competition, this role should fall to support organizations and networks like the NCAA or the NBA Players Association. At the same time, there athletes need to take account of themselves and find that motivation that will drive them to return to the gym. With all the negative health effects associated with ballooning waistbands, one would hope that health would be a motivator of its own, but that is often not the case. Whatever it takes, sports stars desperately need to put the glow of bright lights behind them in building a foundation for a life of fitness and good health.


I completely agree with this article. I am a former College athlete. While in college I was the confrence USA shot put champion. Since I finished my undergraduate work I have been having a difficult time finding my motivation to be fit. I feel like i deserved a break and now my break has been to long. I just feel like I have lost the motivation to get out and run and I almost hate lifting weights. I have been gaining weight because of my lack of motivation and I feel frustrated. I know all the healthy ways to be in shape, yet I feel so apathetic. I find that i will go for a run one day and it will take me 3 weeks to run again. This would never happen years ago. I was determined, consistent and disiplined. I almost feel deepressed about my situation. I have become lazy and I hate it. I wish I could just get out and run or go to the gym but i just keep finding excuses not to. Do you have any advise for me?
Posted by: Bonnie 10/29/2006 6:44:33 AM

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