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Posted by Dr. Allison Smith on Friday, 23 February 2018

Norway, for the win!


Amidst all the hullabaloo about norovirus in the Olympic village, doping in the Russian curling community, and wipeouts of truly epic proportions, the 2018 Games have certainly elevated the entertainment quotient. Norway quietly tops the list for Olympic medals in Pyeongchang this year and as a team, has steadily stepped up their game every 4 years since 2010 which for me raises the question: What can we learn from the Norwegians? 

Don’t do drugs.

For such a contender, you won't find a single Norwegian winter athlete on the doping lists for Olympics dating back to the inception of testing in 1968. I find this fascinating. The use of performance enhancing drugs and supplements (PEDs) became such a foregone conclusion in the 80's and 90’s for its influence on the medal counts that the International Olympic Committee finally had to act. Today, even under the strict scrutiny of the World Anti-Doping Agency, invariably, many athletes are still testing positive for PEDs. 

Norwegians learn very early in life how to incorporate frequent journeys into nature into their everyday lives.

Eat brown cheese and fish for breakfast.

If you can't load up on supplements and medications to optimize your athletic performance, your diet had better be stellar. Made from cow's or sometimes goat's milk, Brunost (or brown cheese) is a defining food in the Norwegian diet and said to taste both nutty and tangy. Many varieties of fish including cod, haddock, mackerel and halibut – those cold water fish that are full of eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA) – swim the waters around Norway and make up a significant part of the Norwegian diet.

Live for the outdoors.

Perhaps part of the reason Norway performs so well in winter sports, Norwegians learn very early in life how to incorporate frequent journeys into nature into their everyday lives – ‘friluftsliv’. Even their work culture supports this understanding of the fundamental need for outdoor living and recreation. Thus, outdoor activities are literally a way of life in Norway and people don’t expect the long winters to keep them indoors. Sports like skiing, skating, and hiking go on through the seasons.

Perhaps ‘friluftsliv’ underlies the foundation of Norway’s winter team: it’s their super power. If so, we all have much to learn from the Norwegian way of living, not just to win more Olympic medals, but maybe even to win at life. 

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