London Olympics 2012: Couch potato or coaching potential?

Tammy with cake

Tammy watching the London Olympics

The London Olympics – I’m loving the sporting action from the 2012 Games.

This Saturday I spent eight solid hours watching the TV coverage whilst sitting on my sofa.  I have become the most appalling couch potato.

During my mammoth TV viewing stint I ate three lemon and orange drizzle cakes, consumed a bottle of wine and sat motionless apart from occasional bursts of air punching when a gold medal was won.

I know that I’m not alone.

As well as the headliner events, I have become obsessed by minor sports including dressage, judo, sailing, beach volleyball and the triathlon.

So whatever happened to the Olympic legacy to inspire people to participate in sport – or at least go to the gym on a fitness drive?

‘Inspiring a generation’ is the 2012 Olympic motto.  More like inspiring a generation of couch potatoes. It’s enough to make the Olympic organisers weep…

Olympic regime

It was during the women’s Olympic heptathlon that I started to feel really guilty about my lack of fitness and sloth-like existence.

Olympic torch 2012

Could Tammy carry the Olympic torch in 2016?

Watching 50 prime specimens of athletic womanhood go through their paces in seven challenging disciplines is enough to make anybody  feel inadequate.

Britain’s gold medallist Jessica Ennis is a remarkable athlete; despite her petite physique  she has a six pack and a perfect figure without one ounce of fat.

Russia’s bronze medallist Tatyana Chernova is an Amazonian 6 feet 2 inches tall and has muscles to make Jean-Claude  Van Damme jealous. She started her sporting career at the age of four so the rest of us have a bit of catching up to do.

These women train every day and follow a strict diet and gruelling fitness regime. Lesser mortals can only open another bag of handmade crinkle crisps and stuff their faces with comfort food.

My fear is that I wouldn’t even manage carrying the Olympic torch for a short distance.

So how can we ditch our bad habits and get inspired to be sporty, even if we’re never going to hit the heights of Olympic success?

Going for gold

Tammy on bike ride

Tammy tries mountain biking

Watching the Olympics I had a revelatory moment on the road to Damascus.

No more cakes and crisps for me. Instead a weekly routine of athletic excellence lies ahead.

Last week, I was inspired by cycling golden boy Bradley Wiggins to take a 5 km cycle ride – admittedly to the pub… but it’s a start!

Today, I undertook a vigorous walking trip to Kielder Observatory, attempting the dynamic style employed by Olympic walkers.

After these small successes I wondered if I could respond to the challenge of trying a different Olympic event every month over the year ahead.

Tammy’s Olympic challenge

Where to start? Which events to tackle?  Could I qualify for Rio 2016? These were the big questions in my mind.

Sailing book

Tammy tries sailing from the comfort of her couch

Athletics – OK, I’m not the fittest person on the block so perhaps this isn’t the right sport for me. As a teenager I broke the record for launching the shot the shortest distance in the history of school athletics. Due to poor stamina my 800 metres was equally appalling – in fact, I didn’t get round the track.

Conclusion? Athletics is a non-starter for Tammy.

Gymnastics – As a school kid I was picked for the gym team, mainly because I had natural balance and grace (ha ha) and could perform on the high bar without breaking my neck.

I’ve also been known to perform a few moves on the dance floor when drunk. This event has potential for 2016.

Swimming – Slight problem, I can barely swim and don’t like getting my hair wet. Think this one is a definite ‘no’.

Rowing –  I can’t swim if I fall out of the boat but does that matter?

I’ve never tried this sport before and don’t have a boat – but that didn’t stop the British gold winning rower who only took up the sport two years ago. It’s on my shortlist…

Shooting – This sounds lethal. The nearest I’ve come to this sport is shooting a friend’s dodgy air rifle at a tin can in the garden – and nearly hitting a next door neighbour. Best avoided.

Table Tennis – I used to be pretty good at ping pong at school. Playing at home, I once made a large hole in the dining room wall in my enthusiasm to smash the ball. Nevertheless, a possible Olympic event for Tammy.

Cycling – I already have a bike so that’s a good start. I’m not very good uphill so mountain biking is a non-starter. Perhaps the velodrome could be my perfect Olympic territory? It’s a ‘possible’ if I can improve my speed and stamina.

Equestrian – Dressage could be my perfect event. I’ve worked with horses before and have an affinity with our equine friends. Only trouble is that I need to borrow a horse from someone.  Tricky.

Weightlifting – Somehow I can’t see myself lifting weights… I find it difficult to lift the Le Creuset pans in the kitchen never mind juggling super heavy weights above my head. I’m told this sport is all about technique but don’t think this event is really me.

What next?

Tammy walking

Tammy gets her running shoes on for Rio 2016

This Olympic athlete body match quiz is a great way of finding out which sport might suit your physique. Apparently, I’m most like Team GB’s Olympic swimmer Caitlin McClatchey, which is a pity given my lack of swimming ability.

The BBC has a great guide to getting involved in different Olympic sports which has handy tips about getting started with a new discipline. Table tennis and badminton look like the easiest options for me as neither involves anything heavy, dangerous or expensive.

Olympic legend Michael Johnson has produced his top tips including this test of how beginners would cope under pressure in a sporting competition.

Johnson recommends that I use ‘self talk’ during sport to help my sporting performance. He suggests I should stop suppressing my emotions and yell a lot more during ‘pain barrier’ moments – like a grunting tennis player. Not sure about that!

Amazing but I did score highly for ‘sporting focus’ so perhaps archery or shooting is the sport for me?

On balance, I don’t really think I’m cut out for competitive sports but I will be trying harder to keep fit in future, perhaps on my bike or walking.

On the whole I’ll be continuing to focus on sports tourism… after all, it’s hard not to be seduced by other people’s sporting prowess.

Guess, my next move is to book tickets to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympics!

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