Home' Nonahood News : NONA 100116 Contents Take a Deep Breath and Mindfully Reduce Your Stress
Three-Time Olympic Gold Medal
Swimmer Visits Lake Nona HS Aquatics
It’s official. We are busier than ever.
Our schedules are packed, we’re always
on the go, and we can’t seem to keep up.
Technology lets us communicate with
anyone 24/7, 365 days a year and work
from anywhere in the world. This can
lead us to not being fully present in our
lives because our minds are always on
the go! We’re getting things done, mov-
ing from one task to the next, but our
minds and hearts are not fully there. We
are more productive than ever, but for
many of us, it has come at the expense
of also being more stressed, anxious and
uptight. The business of life has become
Good news is there is a wide variety
of methods and practices that can help
us become more present and aware
as well as reduce our stress levels. Cue
mindfulness. This is not some mumbo
jumbo where you have to go to a retreat,
remote location or invest a lot of time or
effort to practice. It is all about a shift in
perspective, an attitude, a new
way of looking at the world.
Mindfulness allows us to
become aware of our sensa-
tions, emotions, thoughts and
surroundings. It lets us get out
of the “auto pilot” mode we live
in and grab the steering wheel
again. In a world in which we
are always doing, mindfulness
shifts the focus to simply BE-
ING. And the results can be
There is now significant re-
search available on the many
benefits of mindfulness. Prac-
ticing mindfulness can help improve
your state of mind, physical and mental
health. Both science and experience re-
peatedly show that being more mindful
in our lives has positive effects on our
health, relationships, happiness and
even work. What’s even better – the
positive effects you experience greatly
impact those around you as well.
Here are just a few of the many
ways mindfulness can help you:
1. Mindfulness reduces stress and anx-
iety because it actually shrinks the
brain’s “fight or flight” center.
2. It reduces depression. Did you know
clinical trials have shown it can be
as effective as medication without
the side effects?
3. Produces clearer, more focused
thinking, resulting in increased pro-
ductivity. A win/win, no?
4. Mindfulness techniques are increas-
ingly being used to help people cope
with pain and illness.
5. Some studies show that the practice
of mindfulness increases positive
mood and compassion for yourself
6. In some cases, it may help improve
attention and memory.
7. There is preliminary evidence of
mindfulness having measurable ef-
fects on the brain. Research has in-
dicated that it strengthens the areas
of your brain associated with im-
proved sensory processing and em-
8. According to the American Heart
Association, recent studies suggest
mindfulness meditation can help re-
duce blood pressure.
9. A study conducted by researchers
from the University of Wisconsin-
Madison demonstrated it can “boost
the healing process” when it comes
to colds and flus.
10. Your mindfulness practice can im-
prove your immune system by stim-
ulating the areas of your brain that
act as its command center.
The list of benefits measured in
mindfulness practitioners just goes on
and on. What’s even better, there are
many ways to incorporate mindfulness
in your life. The key is discovering how
to practice in a way that is meaningful to
you. Mindfulness can look very different
for each one of us. Popular mindfulness
practices include breathing exercises,
prayer, yoga, meditation, journaling or
even listening to music.
To get a little taste of what mindful-
ness can feel like, I’d like to challenge
you to try a basic Breath Meditation.
Just a few minutes can help you reap
the benefits of this simple practice:
1. Sit in a comfortable position.
2. Gently close your eyes.
3. Relax your facial muscles; unclench
4. Bring all your attention to your
5. No need to control your breath or
change it. Just observe.
6. Spend the next couple of minutes
paying attention to your breath. No-
tice the cool air on your nostrils when
you breathe in and warm air as you
7. Feel your chest and belly expand
with every inhale and come down
with every exhale.
8. Be curious about your breath and the
physical sensations that come up as
9. Just be.
Mindfulness can literally turn your life
inside out in the very best of ways. Let’s
be real. The pace of our lives is probably
not going to slow down any time soon. But
what if we can take a few minutes each
day to come back to our center? A few
simple practices may actually allow you
to create a new outlook on your life.
I’d like to invite you to join me in ex-
ploring some of the ways that mindful-
ness, positivity and meditation can start
to create shifts in your outlook, your at-
titude and well-being. If you haven’t al-
ready, why don’t you commit to trying to
incorporate mindfulness into your life?
You may just discover that everything
you have been searching for has been
within you all along.
If someone were to tell you they met a person who had swam around the world
(23,000 miles), you would have to think they were a little crazy. Actually, you would
have to call the entire Lake Nona High School Aquatics team crazy. A few weeks ago,
the Lion athletes were lucky enough to have met and listened to three-time Olympic
gold medal winner Rowdy Gaines.
Born in Winter Haven, Fla., Rowdy (as he is nicknamed) didn’t start swimming
competitively until he was a junior at Winter Haven High. He tried out for five sports
and was cut in all of them (football, baseball, basketball, tennis and golf). Swimming
was next, and, ironically, the swim coach was the football coach. He thought to him-
self, here we go again. But at the end of Rowdy’s first year, he realized that he really
liked swimming, and it was time to go to work. Rowdy quickly became a success and
was offered a swimming scholarship from Auburn University, coached by legend
Richard Quick (six-time Olympic team coach and 13-time NCAA champion). From
1978 through 1984, Rowdy set 10 world records but probably could have had an even
better stretch, as in 1980 politics got in the way. The 1980 Summer Olympics boycott
was one part of a number of actions initiated by the United States to protest the Soviet
invasion of Afghanistan. Gaines would have been a favorite to win multiple medals
that year. In 1984, the Olympics were to be held in Los Angeles, and Rowdy almost
quit swimming before the qualifying. Good thing he didn’t because he won his three
gold medals that year (100-meter freestyle, 4×100-meter freestyle relay, and 4x100-
meter medley relay).
As most athletes do, and in life in general, Rowdy faced extreme adversity in
1991. He was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare condition in which a
person’s immune system attacks part of their peripheral nervous system. The disease
can lead to permanent paralysis, but in Gaines’ case this symptom was temporary.
After persevering through his recovery, Rowdy was able to regain his world-class
swimming, and in 1996, at age 35, he became the oldest U.S. swimmer to qualify for
the Olympic trials. Gaines decided not to pursue another Olympic games, instead
continuing his job as a TV sports commentator for NBC’s Olympics coverage. This
is a role Rowdy still holds to this day, with his most recent role happening this past
summer in Rio, his seventh Olympics for NBC. He had the honor of calling every gold
medal win for U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps, and Rowdy says the future is very bright
for U.S. swimming.
message to the Lake
Nona team was sim-
ple: “Never give up
on your dreams...but
achieving them is
“Swimming isn’t for the faint of heart,” stated Gaines, “but the values that it teach-
es are countless.” He went on to add, “Dedication, commitment, responsibility, goal-
setting, self-discipline, and teamwork are just a few.” Even though Rowdy immedi-
ately dreamed about the Olympics, he knows that setting small, specific goals was
one of the keys to his success. Sophomore Cassidy Toro says about Gaines’ message,
“This was a great experience. His words of wisdom have definitely shown me that I
can work harder, and that will be my goal moving forward.”
Rowdy continues to be an ambassador for the sport of swimming, as he often
returns to his alma mater to help coach camps. He once had a camper tell him that
some kids made him feel like he wasn’t an athlete. “They told me that swimming
wasn’t a real sport, like baseball,” the young man said. So Rowdy, being a very proud
swimmer, called up the baseball coach of the school the student attended and told
him the story. Both coaches agreed to allow each player to “experience” both sports
for one practice. The swimmer made it through baseball practice, getting to take
part in batting practice and other parts of the baseball team’s regimen. The baseball
player, however, didn’t have as good a time, as after one 50-meter lap, the baseball
player...let’s just say he came to the conclusion that “swimming was a real sport.”
Senior Pedro Cruz was reassured by Rowdy’s story, saying, “This really boosted my
confidence and gave me some extra motivation.”
Rowdy ended his visit with the Lions with a very important message. He told the
team that he doesn’t have his three gold medals anymore; he gave them away. One
for his mom, one for his dad, and one for his coach. In addition to the fellow swim-
mers, those were his teammates. Without the teamwork of his family and coach, he
would not have had as much success as he did. “Those are the people that should
shape your life: your family, your teachers, your coaches. Athletes that you see on TV
shouldn’t be what shapes you. They are just good at what they do.”
23 OCTOBER 2016
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