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Ask E. Jean For DearSugar: The Olympics Have Me Down, How Do I Get Motivated?

Dear E. Jean,

I’ve been watching the Olympics. How do I get as motivated as these athletes? Watching all this extraordinary achievement makes me feel like such a loser. And the worst part is I can’t stop watching them.

I’ve been glued to the TV since they started, and I mean glued! Tonight while I watched the gymnastics I ate three bowls of cereal and a plate of lasagna! God! Am I the only person who's stopped exercising completely and is doing nothing but getting fat watching Shawn Johnson and Michael Phelps? I want to be successful, too!

I keep watching and hoping I’ll find out what their secret is, but nobody can put it into words. Should I just hire a life coach? — Coach Potato Girl

To see E. Jean's answer,


Miss Couch, My Kumquat,

Oh, but the Olympic stars are revealing the secrets of their success. (And I’m not talking about Michael Phelps disclosing that he eats 12,000 calories a day or Nastia Liukin saying she likes to keep her “legs together on the dismount.”) Anybody watching the games has picked up a few Tips of Triumph:

  • Don’t focus on what’s wrong, concentrate on what’s right.
  • When an opponent falters, seize the opportunity.
  • Half the battle is knowing exactly what you want to do.
  • Play to your strengths. Know what you’re good at. And concentrate on it to the exclusion of everything else.
  • When you can’t go on, go on.
  • And the single idea which seems to be shared by nearly every athlete: “I suffered all those horrid practices, pains, tears, sweat, blood, and set backs . . . and now that I’ve made it to Beijing, thank God I didn’t give up!

As for hiring a life coach, well now. I’ve seen a couple of specimens on Oprah who were so brilliant that I gained a brain size just looking at them, but, alas, in the real world, 99 out of 100 life coaches are total douchers.

The motivation required to find a good coach (i.e. a coach who did not receive his “certification” from an online moron factory) and the patience needed to listen to his bull hockey if/when you do locate one, will waste any energy you have left.

Best to form a “Just Do It” group with your friends and enjoy a hilarious time energizing one another, or read Self-Reliance by the great Ralph Waldo Emerson. Old Ralphy will jam you so full of success strategies, you’ll run the 100 meters of life in 10 seconds flat.

To see more advice from E. Jean, visit Elle magazine and

Join The Conversation
Muirnea Muirnea 8 years
I agree lickety split , there is SO much more involved than just the skill of the person. And I also agree it's better to be well rounded than good at just one thing. I mean, when their olympic career is over, what can they do!? Pretty much just coach another athlete, that's about it. But watching the olympics is inspiring to me. I just wish they would show something other than swimming all the time! I mean it's great that Phelps is winning so much, but come on, there are other sports out there that are awesome too. ::cough cough:::horse riding, eventing in particular:::cough cough. :-P :)
CYL CYL 8 years
just start small..go for a 1/2 an hour walk twice a week than build it to three. Go do some crunches during commerical breaks and snack on healthy food instead of cereal and lasanga. Think whole wheat pita and hummus or furit and veggies (without all that ranch sauce). And before you eat, think about if you are really hungry! Or just comfort eating. Once you have walked 3 time a week for 1/2 an hour. Go for 45 minutes...than maybe start a jog, and walk and jog and walk routine. These things are cheap. But if you can afford to hire a life coach it is much easier to hire a trainer that will help you develope a plan and reach REALISTIC healthy goals. Lickety split is right not many people can achieve what the Olympians have. It is a mix of raw talent, and training from an early age. But that doesn't mean you can't be fit. Start small and work your way up.
lickety-split lickety-split 8 years
no offense, but you could swim your ass off everyday for the next 12 years and you aren't going to the olympics. elite athletes are rare, most people don't fall into that class. besides being born to do something based on genes, you need the coaching, money, time, and even then if you get injuried it's over. isn't it more important to be a well rounded, kimd person than be good at ONE THING?
ESPNgirl ESPNgirl 8 years This website has a lot of great articles about how to train/improve nutrition similar to that of an Olympian's. You can also research by sport to help find classes or events in your area, teams, or also different tips to help you in your specified "discipline." It takes some navigating, but is a great, inspirational site :)
Sun_Sun Sun_Sun 8 years
i think their athletic success is definitely inspiring! i know my husband and i have been hitting the gym more often. i think im a little jealous of how good they are at what they do! i mean michael phelps!!! hes superman! and im a little annoyed at my parents for not enrolling me in extracurricular sports. yea, but mostly inspiring!
K-is-For-Kait K-is-For-Kait 8 years
Don't just watch! DO! It doesn't have to be a sport, either! And you don't have to be amazing at it! Just find something healthy that you enjoy and stick with it!
chicobo chicobo 8 years
It should be inspiring not a de-motivator. It's making me want to go to the gym everyday so I wont pass out running a 100 meters in 10 seconds. Well you get the gist.
kristyy kristyy 8 years
My response would've been: Get off your lazy ass and stop complaining! If you have the money "to just hire a life coach," why not hire a trainer instead? (And a shrink to help with your self esteem.) I'm tired of people who complain about how fat they are and then proceed to wolf down 2 pints of ice cream. It's one thing to put in the effort and feel like you're not getting results, but it's another to just sit on your fat ass and whine. The latter will guarantee that you will succeed nothing.
k8-rckstr k8-rckstr 8 years
my mom likes to rub in the fact that the athletes are so much younger than me but have accomplished so much more... i feel ya sister.
amybdk amybdk 8 years
meant "WHO doesn't"
amybdk amybdk 8 years
"Nastia Liukin saying she likes to keep her “legs together on the dismount.” How doesn't?! ha! priceless.
skigurl skigurl 8 years
good job E-Jean! you need to get yourself going by engaging others. don't watch tv and think it will help! join a class at the gym or a martial arts studio! buy a road bike and join a cycling group! you don't need to be a pro athlete, you just need to learn that getting moving can be fun!
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