It was a pleasant surprise to see Lowell Bailey, a Lake Placid resident, musician, biathlete, and Winter Olympian, hill bounding through the pages of the most recent Men’s Health magazine. Lowell is featured in the special Winter Olympics fitness section of the February issue of Men’s Health, on news stands today. Lowell has certainly received his fair share of media coverage and has been an Adirondack Lifestyle blog star a number of times, but this particular story grabbed my attention right off the bat.
The story captured my interest because in addition to featuring some very cool photographs of elite athletes, the author, Christopher McDougall, seems to get it. He immediately presents the hypothesis that some 20 million Americans watched the Olympic Winter Games last year not because of a patriotic duty to our athletes or for the pure entertainment value. No, McDougall understands our “gut recognition that we’re not just witnessing fancy tricks, but rather a master class in our own human potential.” He writes, “Basic truths are always revealed in the extremes, out there on the edge of what’s possible. Take biathlon, in which an athlete races on cross-country skis and then suddenly stops, whips a rifle off his back, and takes dead aim at a target 165 feet away. Nothing in life is harder than keeping cool in the clutch, and no sport does a better job of training you for that moment than biathlon.” Exactly - this is one of the reasons I think competitive sports can be a very positive and enriching aspect of childhood.
The Men’s Health article supports one of my basic tenets, the lessons one learns through competitive sports are frequently the big ones; archetypical truths worth applying throughout one’s life. Take for example, Lowell’s comment that he “only improved when he learned to stop focusing on things he can’t control - his heart rate - and bear down on the things he can.” That sounds like the basis for the famous “Serenity Prayer!”
I could tell Lowell had it in him to be a great athlete when I was his cross-country ski coach. I didn’t realize he would be a profound philosopher as well.