As we all know and recently experienced, the holidays can be a tough time to stay in shape. Cakes, candies and cookies are seemingly everywhere and constantly within reach. It’s no coincidence that the most common New Year’s Resolution is to get in shape.
But the holidays can be an especially hard time of year for athletes who are in training. They might have athletic or training goals that don’t sit well with the abundance of holiday treats. It’s certainly something the 54 SOWI athletes and Unified partners who are currently training for the 2018 USA Games had to keep in mind during this past holiday season.
“That’s what Special Olympics is there for: to have fun and enjoy.” – Team Wisconsin athlete Dean Garfoot
It was in this spirit that SOWI Director of Training Brittany Hoegh met last month with two athletes from Team Wisconsin’s Unified Soccer team for some fitness training and to go over some nutrition tips to help propel them through the holidays and beyond.
It made it extra special that the two athletes, Dean Garfoot and Daniel Janulewicz, are friends, West Madison Special Olympics teammates, and even roommates. It also helped that their apartment complex has a nice new fitness facility that the athletes were eager to try out.
Hoegh worked with Garfoot and Janulewicz on some exercises to build endurance, agility, flexibility and strength – all elements of fitness that will help the pair succeed on the soccer field in Seattle in July. When the training concluded, she went over some nutrition tips to help them sustain their progress through the holidays and right up to the USA Games.
But even before this training session, both have already been making lifestyle changes to help them get prepared for the USA Games and to improve their health overall. They’ve cut out soda and increased activity. Since selection camp in September, Garfoot has already lost 10 pounds – even more impressive considering this weight loss happened through Halloween and Thanksgiving. It likely helped that Garfoot was a member of SOFit in the fall, where athletes met weekly for fitness and wellness sessions.
Janulewicz also trained hard in the fall to help prepare him for the USA Games. In addition to walking more and generally being more active, he participated in the first-ever Unified Flag Football League with students from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Both Garfoot and Janulewicz are adamant about already feeling the effects of being more active and feeling like they’re well on their way to being in top physical condition for the USA Games.
And although being in great shape for the July competition and meeting their own long-term health goals are very important to Garfoot and Janulewicz, they still keep things in perspective and understand what participating in the USA Games is ultimately about.
When asked what he most looked forward to, Garfoot replied, “Meet new friends, get to know your teammates and everything like that… and enjoy. Meet different people from different states and have fun and… that’s what Special Olympics is there for: to have fun and enjoy.”
Janulewicz, when asked about how he felt to be name to Team Wisconsin, humbly replied, “I felt good about that, you know. I just enjoyed the opportunity (to participate in the selection camp).”
Whatever happens on the field at the University of Washington in July 2018 for the Unified Soccer team, with outlooks like these and the tools for lifelong health they’re learning in this training process, Garfoot and Janulewicz are already big-time success stories. They certainly earned an extra gingerbread cookie or two this past holiday season.