How Life, Loss, and Love are Illustrated by Sports

The cover featured a photo of a regal looking black man with dreadlocks piled high on the top of his head and a peace sign tattooed on the back of his left hand. Deandre Hopkins played football for the Houston Texans until he was traded to the Arizona Cardinals in what the article called “the biggest-and most lopsided-trade of the NFL offseason.”

I rarely read Sports Illustrated (SI) magazine but one morning Memorial Day weekend while everyone else  in my family was still asleep I did.

In my medical practice and on this blog, I promote sports as a way to maintain health and fitness, but I’d never pursued organized sports myself-not due to lack of interest, but lack of talent-until I discovered the sport side of ballroom dancing. 

Otherwise, I follow my local sports teams, the Olympics, and the big events -the Super Bowl, World Series, and World Cup. And I admire those athletes who achieve special recognition in their sport, especially those who overcome great odds to get there. 

Hands Dealt 

So perhaps that’s what attracted me to  the May 2020  issue my husband left lying on the coffee table. The cover featured a photo of a regal looking black man with dreadlocks piled high on the top of his head and a peace sign tattooed on the back of his left hand. Deandre Hopkins played football for the Houston Texans until he was traded to the Arizona Cardinals in what the article called “the biggest-and most lopsided-trade of the NFL offseason.” 

I don’t understand or care about football trades. I am interested in what Deandre said about his hair. He says he wears it with pride, because

“we, as people, drew strength from our hair. I will never cut mine, because I know who I am. And there’s power in knowing exactly who I am.”

Deandre Hopkins

I thought, He talks like Samson, in the Bible, whose strength came from his hair. No wonder he looks regal. 

Deandre’s background sounds less regal, but may be the true source of his power. He wonders whether being bow-legged as a child forced him to develop better balance.

Deandre grew up poor, one of five children. His mother was left blind when an angry woman, jealous because they were both dating the same man, splashed acid into her face. His father, who sold drugs, died when Deandre was six months old. All of this, and probably more, shaped his mindset. 

Deal with the pain. People you love can make mistakes. Move forward. 

Deandre, Sports Illustrated, May 2020

Maybe that’s why he isn’t angry about the trade, why he helped his mother start a nonprofit to aid survivors of domestic violence, and why he donated $150,000 to COVID-19 relief efforts in Arizona, where he will move when restrictions are lifted.

Trust me, you need to read how these and other events shaped the lives of Deandre and his mother Sabrina Greenlee ,forging

The Unbreakable Bond

WAter wait 

Continuing on, I discovered open-water swimming which I didn’t know was a sport, much less in the Olympics. Ashley Twichell could swim before she could walk. For thirteen years she has worked to earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic swim team and at 31 years old, she would have been the team’s oldest rookie Olympic swimmer  since 1908 , if this summer’s games had not been cancelled.  And next year, at 32, she will be the second oldest woman to ever swim on the U.S. Olympic team.

“I’ve always taken it year by year. And now I get even one more year than I was planning on.”

faith of a nation

Deni Avdija, a 19 year old basketball champion from Israel, cannot grow a beard. But he has aspirations to play professional basketball. In the United States. For the NBA. Which even a basketball simpleton like myself knows will be historic.  

Last year his team won the under-20 European Championship in Tel Aviv. Playing in the final against Spain he earned the tournament MVP (Most Valuable Player) award. He fell to his knees as the game ended, thinking of his  grandmother, who had supported him, and  had died of Alzheimer’s a few weeks earlier. He told himself,  

“She gave me this trophy. She gave me the opportunity to win this trophy.” 

I hope he makes the NBA. I might watch him if he plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder, they’re just a short turnpike drive from my home.

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Eyes up👀

A post shared by Deni Avdija (@deniavdia8) on

standard of caring

Finally, I name Hayley Wickenheiser, retired ice hockey player, as MVP for this issue of SI. She deserves it on several levels. She earned seven world championship golds.   She played for Canada in five Olympics. She won four Gold medals and one Silver medal. She was admitted to the Hockey Hall of Fame. She even played on a Finnish men’s hockey team. She deserves the unofficial title of history’s greatest female hockey player.

But for me, that isn’t what makes her MVP. Haley sees the coronavirus pandemic from a different perspective; she will soon be Dr. Wickenheiser upon finishing her final year of medical school. She plans to practice emergency medicine.

Hayley serves on the IOC (International Olympic Committee) Athletes’ Commission, a peer-elected board that advises the Olympics’ governing body. In March 2020, she became increasingly concerned about the fate of this year’s Olympic games  as the world became engulfed in the COVID-19 nightmare.

So she took to Twitter demanding the IOC make a definitive plan to give direction to the thousands of athletes in limbo about the games. Her tweets prompted other organizations to make similar demands and by late March the games had been officially cancelled. 

Her concern came not just as an athlete. She said, 

“I couldn’t sit silently anymore, given  what I was seeing in the emergency rooms and hearing from my friends in hospitals across the country.” 

As a student she is not expected or allowed to provide direct care to coronavirus patients. But she stays busy studying, working out, giving hockey tips through Instagram, and using Twitter to encourage social distancing. 

“The calmer we stay, the more we isolate from each other…if we do our part at home and on the front lines, we have a chance to combat this as a mass group of humanity.” 

With Dr. Hayley and her generation of future physicians, I think the world’s health is in good hands.

exploring the HEART of athletes

Thanks for joining me to meet these athletes. I hope you will explore them further and gain new inspiration for your own athletic journeys; we all have one, in one way or another.

Dr Aletha lifting arms like an ice skater shadow behind her
Getting inspired while touring the USA Olympic training center in Colorado Springs, Colorado

Click this affiliate link to learn how you can get inspired with Aaptiv workouts for fun and fitness.

find sports illustrated at barnes &noble

Walking to reach your fitness goals

But in life I think if we “climb on our goals”, we’ll be more likely to reach them.

We’re all struggling to cope with the stress of upended lives, risk of a new and menacing illness, economic instability, and an unpredictable future. Most of us are actively pursuing ways to take care of our bodies and minds so the stress doesn’t overwhelm us.

The Mayo Clinic reminds us that physical activity is one key way to do that.

Regular physical activity and exercise can help reduce anxiety and improve mood. Find an activity that includes movement, such as dance or exercise apps. Get outside in an area that makes it easy to maintain distance from people — such as a nature trail or your own backyard.

I’ve had to adjust my activity routine since my dance studio is closed, as well as the recreation center, that I had just joined prior to the physical distancing protocol started. I already liked to walk, so I have increased that to almost daily. I have a treadmill that I can use when the weather is not so nice, but I prefer to walk outside.

So in this post I’m going to share some photos from my walking journeys with reminders about the benefits of walking.

a walking trail at a park, sign advised social distancing
Multiple signs at the park reminded us to stay 6 feet apart, and everyone did.
Walking-maybe the best form of exercise

The best type of exercise is one that you will do on a regular basis. Walking is considered one of the best choices because it’s easy, safe, and inexpensive.

Brisk walking can burn as many calories as running, but it is less likely to cause injuries than running or jogging. Walking doesn’t require training or special equipment, except for appropriate shoes.

feet in walking shoes, crossed on a bench
I like Skechers for walking but other brands are probably just as good, just choose one that fits well and is comfortable; wear good socks to, to help prevent blisters.

Walking is an aerobic and weight-bearing exercise, so it is good for your heart and helps prevent osteoporosis.

Read more about taking care of your heart at this previous post.

7 Keys to a Healthy Heart

Seniors age 65 and older should get at least 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic exercise (such as brisk walking) every week. That averages out to about 30 minutes on most days of the week. 

a bright blue wood rocking chair on a porch
Yes, I meet the requirement to be called a “senior”. Remember in high school,when that was a good thing? This rocker looked inviting but I kept walking.

Low-impact activities such as walking, biking, or swimming generally go easy on your joints.

handlebars of a bicycle, and iris flowers
Dr Aletha in her bicycle helmet

One day I biked instead of walked; a little harder to take photos though.

Include physical activity in your daily routine.
  • Park the car farther away at work or stores.
  • Get off the bus one stop earlier and walk the rest of the way.
  • Walk to do errands.
a USPS truck parked on a street
The mail carrier was also out walking, part of his daily routine for sure.

Get going and keep going

Everyone can benefit from physical activity. For most people, it is possible to begin exercising on your own at a slow pace. If you have never exercised before, start with a 10-minute period of light exercise. A brisk walk every day is a good first exercise. Slowly increase how hard you exercise and for how long.

  • You can walk outdoors, at home on a treadmill, alone, or with friends and family.
  • Make it fun. Listen to music or books on tape while you walk or jog. Watch TV or a video while you exercise.
a geometric cat chalked on a sidewalk
chalk rainbow drawn on a sidewalk
a tiger face drawn with chalk on a sidewalk
The heart of walking

Aerobic exercise causes you to breathe more deeply. It makes your heart work harder to pump blood. Aerobic exercise also raises your heart rate (which burns calories). Examples of aerobic exercise include walking, jogging, running, dancing, swimming, and bicycling.

a bush with bright red blooms, shaped like a heart
I posted this photo on Facebook and someone commented that it is shaped like a heart. What do you think?
Keep your distance

Honor social distancing guidelines
recommended by public health officials
to stop or slow down the spread of
contagious diseases. If you are running, walking or
hiking outside, try to do so in a location
that is not crowded. If you encounter
others while out exercising, maintain six
feet distance.

a sign says"never climb on goals"

This sign was on the fence at a soccer field where it’s good advice. But in life I think if we “climb on our goals”, we’ll be more likely to reach them. Sometimes “goals” do fall over, hopefully not causing serious injury or death, but often disappointment and discouragement. If your goals fail, climb back up and try again. Just not on the soccer field please.


The fitness advice in this post was taken from, the patient information site sponsored by the American Academy of Family Physicians, of which I am a member. Please visit the site for more advice about exercise, fitness, and other health concerns , including coronavirus disease. (I have no financial interest in the site.)

exploring the HEART of fitness by walking

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