Reflections from Canadian Olympian Martin Reader ahead of the 6th Annual Sandbox Project Conference

Sandbox Project Martin Reader Volleyball

Children and youth across Canada are facing real nutritional, physical, psychological and environmental challenges that will impact them for the rest of their lives. We as a nation have an opportunity and perhaps even a responsibility, to positively shift the course of overall child health. Fortunately, the answers are out there and on January 21st many of Canada’s leading minds and charities will be collaborating in the name of change. 

After retiring from the 2012 Canadian Olympic team to co-found StriveLife and begin coaching health and performance in life, I have come to recognize three simple situations which are better approached in sport. I believe these to be restricting us and encourage you to consider the lessons I have learned on my journey to the Olympic podium.  

While training for sport performance you are always testing yourself to get better. You either receive confirmation you are on the right growth trajectory or not and then proceed to the best of your knowledge. Outside of sport we seek instant gratification for everything. From social media approval to working out and earning our treats we are all caught up in cycles of short term justification. When we seek a reward for every action we lose focus on the big picture. The reward of any life enhancing decision comes in the form of long term success, NOT as the right to indulge in pleasures. Both performance and health are rewarded over time through opportunity in life itself. Drop the mindset of immediate rewards and let the satisfaction of knowing you are improving your life be your driving force.

In sport your body is everything so you have to take care of it. You respect that you can’t always operate at 100% so you work in phases to build, peak and recover. As a society we push hard day to day and rarely think of our physicality and health as a resource. The human body is a magical vessel that will adapt to almost any stimulus until it can’t take it anymore. This is when we seek out one of the many quick fixes marketed to us every day to solve a problem that has likely been developing for a long time. In truth the solution to our most preventable illnesses and health issues lie in a balanced and proactive lifestyle. Performance and Health aren’t quick fixes, they are habits nurtured and progressed over time.

Lastly, athletes know they only have one body to maximize during their careers so they do their best to take care of it or in other instances push the limits and suffer the consequences. In life we rarely consider and make decisions to benefit ourselves in 5, 10, 20 or even 50 years. A conversation topic I very rarely hear is how making positive habits and choices now will create a robust foundation to thrive on in later years. Long term health isn’t easy for anyone to value or understand but whether it be in sport or life you only have one body. Winning Olympic Gold or thriving for the rest of your life starts today because there is no greater investment plan than in a physically capable and healthy future self. 

In our fast paced 21st century lives we have gradually drifted away from how great our bodies are supposed to feel, how clear our minds are meant to function and how positive our lives can be. Whether you will be attending the conference, are inspired to be a change maker in your community or are simply a parent interested in helping your family, it is an exciting and necessary time to be directing focus towards the wellbeing of Canadian youngsters.

Yours in health,

2012 Canadian Beach Volleyball Olympian Martin Reader is a member of The Sandbox Project Board and is Co-Founder of StriveLife.