A Day At The Park

Saturday was hot. Super hot. I sat at the park, hiding from the sun under the shade of an awning, reading

Writer’s Digest

. Around the park were familiar sites:  kids running passionately in the color-matted play areas, parents hovering close by.  Birthday balloons swayed in the wind, while lovers cuddled up to each other, despite the smoldering heat.

Then I noticed something out of place: a young man punching the air, running.  And while I’ve come to expect eccentric behavior from my fellow Los Angelinos, I didn’t expect to see someone running at the height of the afternoon heat, punching an invisible enemy.  Yet there he was, doing it with hands bound with white tape, clear sweat running off his sun-baked brown skin.

He didn’t seem crazy; he seemed more concentrated than anything.  I concluded that he was training for something – a boxing match most likely.  Questions floated through my mind:

Was he a student? A semi-pro or professional athlete?

When he passed by me the second time, this time walking, I asked him what he was training for. “The 2012 Olympics” he responded, matter-of-factly. 

Wow

, I thought.  I had never met anyone training for the Olympics.  For an instant, I pictured him entering the boxing ring: a red, white, and blue USA flag positioned proudly over his shoulders.

“I’m working through an injury, though,” he said, lifting up his t-shirt that revealed a black brace over the top half of his chest. My admiration for him increased.  We chitchatted for another minute before he left, off for another round of training.

I want to be more like this athlete.  I want to approach the goals I’ve set for my life with the same level of determination.  Today, I want to be preparing for a goal I’ve set for two years from now.  I want to work towards this goal every day, and on a Saturday afternoon, when most other people are relaxing after a long week of work. 

And

I want to do it at the height of something — when the sun is at its peak, when I’m most tired — because if I pursue my goal at the height of difficulty, then I can do it anytime.

Before the 2008 Olympics, Michael Phelps was practicing on Saturdays.  On Christmas Eve, he woke before the sun did, to swim.  And on Christmas morning, while his family members lay in bed, he rose early again, to work on his stroke. The results: eight gold medals.

I’m gonna keep an eye out for Brian Jones in the 2012 Olympics. He may just be the next Michael Phelps.