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Learning from area athletes

August 24, 2011 | 07:33 AM
Fall is the best time to be a sports writer.

The weather is beautiful, football is starting and teams are back in school with hopes of winning it big come playoff time.

We see all the great things our athletes do on the field, in the pool or on the courts, and it makes us smile, cheer and even cry. But sometimes we can take for granted exactly what it took for that particular athlete to reach a high level of excellence.

Is it genes? Luck? No. While these may factor in, it is becoming more painstakingly obvious that our good varsity athletes benefit from one thing the most — hard work and dedication.

I bring this up because a good friend of mine, Big Foot assistant track and cross country coach Brakken Kraker, said something interesting to me over the weekend at a gathering at a mutual friend's house. If anyone knows Kraker, you know this guy is a star track performer who made nationals at UW-Whitewater and is in about the best shape of anyone I know.

He said he runs miles a day, and I mentioned that while I belong to the Wellness Center in Burlington, I don't really get there as much as I should. But it compelled me to ask, "What does it take to make working out an everyday thing?" His response was simple, "If you can do it for two weeks straight, it becomes routine."

If you're like me, when you get home from a grueling, eight to 10-hour day at work, the last thing on your mind is hitting the gym and working up a sweat. I'm sure a lot of you feel that way. But just think, two weeks straight and it becomes routine.

What does that tell you about area athletes? Kenny Walker, who scored four touchdowns Friday night in Big Foot's season-opening 49-21 victory, probably didn't just wake up and become a star football player. These athletes utilize the offseason, weeks and even months at a time, attending camps to better themselves, lifting weights to become stronger and prevent injury and running and swimming miles upon miles to build up endurance. Many juggle jobs, grades and the sometimes nasty peer pressure of high school to shine in sports. It's truly impressive and awe-inspiring.

Could we as a society take the example of these stud athletes and improve our lifestyles and our health? I would like to think so, but it must become a priority, just like spending time with the family, cleaning the house or sitting down and enjoying a beer and peanuts.

I'll give you another couple examples of weightlifting dedication. Peter Krien, starting quarterback for Badger, lifts six times a week according to a former Badger trainer. That's impressive.

And do you ever wonder why Travis Frederick became so good and is now the starting left guard for the Wisconsin Badgers football team? Once again, hard work and dedication. At 6-foot-4 and 330 pounds, it didn't just happen overnight for Travis. He dedicated himself to the weight room at an early age, and it is paying off ten fold. Travis could have just said, "I'm bigger than you so I'm better" and went the easy route. But he decided, even as a big guy, he could become one of the best. That's awesome.

Frederick recently squatted more than 700 pounds at Wisconsin's training facility. 700 pounds! That's 15 plus 45-pound plates of cold, hard steel. And he didn't just do it once but several times. According to head coach Bret Bielema, the strength staff stopped him because he shouldn't have been able to do that much. Frederick consumed anywhere from 6,000 to 8,000 calories a day to add 30 pounds to his frame for the upcoming season. If that isn't dedication, I don't know what is.

In high school, you have your entire life ahead of you. It's easy to focus on one thing like lifting or running and go all out. When adulthood comes and makes things a bit more complicated, our jobs become our lives. It doesn't have to be that way. These fine athletes show that with a little hard work and dedication, anything is possible.

So the next time you are free, take a walk, a jog or pick up a weight or two. If you can fight through the pain and insecurity for two weeks, it can turn into a habit. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but you have to work hard to get there.

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