Ever since a young age, I have loved learning about the human body, especially a moving human body.
In 1999, just shy of turning 18 years old and a year away from graduating from High School, my birthday present was a book titled "New Atlas of Human Anatomy" which came with a CD ROM explaining all the human body systems.
Throughout my undergraduate years at Transylvania University, in Lexington, KY, I couldn't get enough from my exercise science classes. Every topic was interesting and exciting and as a student athlete, I was able to apply almost everything that I learned to class to "real world" situations.
While majoring in Exercise Science, I quickly fell in love with strength and conditioning which gave me aspirations to be a strength and conditioning coach. Forced to start strength training at the age of 10 as part of my swim team conditioning helped me appreciate the health and performance benefits of a properly designed strength training program.
(I've been strength training for nearly 24 years!)
I remember interning at the University of Kentucky with the men's and women's basketball and cheerleader teams, which gave me a lot of hands-on experience in writing strength training programs for athletes (most of those athletes towered at least 1-2 feet over me).
In the fall of 2004, off I went to graduate school in sunny and warm, Davie, FL at Florida Atlantic University.
While studying to earn my Master's in Exercise Physiology, I worked as a research assistant. In addition to my classes, which required me to get familiar with all the testing equipment in the laboratory, I spent many long days and nights collecting research, and testing subjects, for research studies.
Sometimes, I was even able to test myself.
Although my love tank for exercise physiology was filled to the top while in graduate school, something was missing....my own athletic pursuits.
Although my free time was limited during graduate school, I just wasn't feeling complete.
The athlete part of me was missing as I was only a student.
Seeing that I spent the last 22 years of my life competing in sports, I knew that I needed to find something that would physically challenge me.
Well, since my longest swimming events lasted anywhere from one-minute to 2.5-minutes (or 60-150 seconds) and my longest ever run was a 10K (less than an hour), I thought, why not.....
I'll train for a marathon!
If I can run 6 miles, what's 20 more miles??
It only took a matter of time before an endurance bug bit me hard.
But here I go again....
I was convinced that the athlete part of me was here to stay as I found great joy as an age-group triathlete and runner but I still felt that I needed to learn more about the human body.
Rather than going the PhD route, I decided to follow my new found passion in nutrition, thanks to endurance sports (and a few bonky workouts) sparking a need to learn more about sport nutrition.
Fast forward to June 2011, after three arduous years of learning, studying, paper writing, interning (9-months) and test taking, I finally received my RD credential.
With an ultimate goal of becoming Board Certified in Sport Nutrition, I waited and worked until I was eligible to apply, study and then sit for the CSSD exam, which I successfully passed last summer.
So why do I write all of this?
Every Olympic year (in addition to any big competition in the sports of running, track, swimming, cycling or triathlon), I find myself itching to learn more.
I LOVE watching the human body in motion.
My obsession with the human body will never go away because there is so much to learn as it applies to the physiology of the body during exercise.
When I see the human body, I don't see what's on the outside.
Perhaps to most people, efficient movements, a lean physique and defined and sculpted muscles are easily seen by the human eye.
When simply looking at the body image, it's easy to look at the outside of the body and associate words like fast, strong, high, powerful and skilled with the athlete.
But within the body is a very complex system that always, sometimes, most of the time or rarely works smoothly.
This is why I always feel it is necessary to thank the body as there is great physiology complexity when you want your body to go long, far, easy or hard.
Many times, it is easy to take your human body for granted.
What's interesting about the human body is that it can be trained, physically, but also mentally.
And for the body's metabolic systems, among many other things, to work efficiently, there needs to be water and energy, supplied from food and many times, sport nutrition, to support the many complex movements that are needed for a given sport.
The most beautiful thing about the human body is that it is not perfect.
There is not one size fits all sport.
The human body comes in all shapes and sizes and there is a sport for everyone.
Starting tomorrow, for the next 17 days, the 2016 Olympic games will be feeding my body obsession as I watch, marvel, learn and study the many bodies in motion.
Athletes from all of the world will be putting many years, if not a lifetime, of hard work, dedication, money, time, energy and effort, all to compete in their chosen sport, to be the absolute best athlete they can be.....with their one and only human body.