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I have watched the Olympics faithfully since I was a girl. Back then, I sat on the living room floor watching events on a black and white TV, just amazed at the graceful women skaters and the daring downhill skiers. I do not have an athletic bone (gene)  in my body, so I sat mesmerized by their performances. Indeed, the competitors seemed like demigods.

Now I wonder: are the athletes really that different from the rest of the human race? Is the key simply a superior athletic ability? Are they smarter than the general population? What is the long-term effect of elite athletic performance? As I pursued an answer to these questions, I discovered another lesson from the Olympics.

Lesson # Two: Perseverance is the bottom line in sports and any other endeavor.

World-class athletes are not smarter than us. Intelligence levels average 112, and their intelligence range matches that found in the general population. So, Olympians do not think loftier thoughts. However, they do have enhanced athletic abilities, a genetic trait.

Many people show athletic ability and never reach Olympic status, so there must be something else. According to sports researchers, “The number one variable related to elite performance is time spent in training.” The typical amount of time spent: 20 hours per week for a period of eight years (approximately 10,000 cumulative hours). This kind of training leads to a greater physical intelligence, which is the ability of the mind to command the muscles.  A so-called average athlete, who has the same athletic ability, trains only 12 hours a week.

The difference then, is perseverance and focus. Average athletes do not choose to train more. They have other priorities and life goals and they are not driven by winning a gold medal. The same is true of everyone: we are responsible for our level of focus and we determine how much we want to persevere through life’s challenges. So, no surprise that the Internet is full of advice on how to become a “world-class business person” or a “world-class teacher”, using elite levels of perseverance and focus. Indeed, these practices are the foundation for many self-help philosophies. Anyone can choose elite levels of performance, if they so desire.

Perseverance is also an important aspect of Jesus’ teachings, but for that angle you will have to attend my church this Sunday, or check in next week at my other blog ReverendJane.wordpress.com!

Other interesting facts about elite athletes:

  • They sleep an average of 520 minutes per night – 8.75 hours a night, while the average person sleeps 7.5 hours per night.
  • The average elite athlete will die by the age of 67. According to the NFL Players Association, the average life expectancy of an NFL player is 58 years of age.
  • Male athletes are larger than average. The average male Olympic competitor is  6′1″ tall and weighs 217 pounds. His chest is 43″, arm 15.3″, waist 31″, legs 26.8″,and  calf 16.4″.

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