Lesson 2. Be brave (even if you’re afraid)

Here is number two in my blog post series, Life Lessons from Olympians. I’m going to continue with more from Eli Bremer’s compelling story. He was a member of Team USA and competed in the Summer Games in Beijing 2008 as a modern pentathlete Check out #1 to get up to speed.

As Eli got older, another challenge he faced was from his own body. His workouts were becoming difficult.  In searching for the reason, he discovered that he suffered from a low blood iron condition. His doctors were baffled.

They recommended a dietary approach, but eating liver and onions with a side of spinach every day wasn’t fun and it wasn’t moving the needle. Though supplements were a bit of a slippery slope for a high caliber athlete such as Eli, he agreed to let his doctors put him on megadose iron supplements. Still, he saw no significant improvement.

Lucky for him, his mom was a PhD human nutrition expert and she guided him to the supplements that finally corrected his blood work. That was a revelation to him, and his first clue that not all supplements are created equal.

He persisted to the point of eventually being ranked in the top 10 in the world in his sport and at one point being rated the second fastest run-swimmer in the world!

Eli Bremer’s journey took him to the world stage as an Olympic pentathlete in the 2008 games in Beijing. He almost didn’t make that competition either. A few days after the opening ceremonies, Eli was doing some practice on an unfamiliar horse and he sustained a spinal injury that very nearly ended his athletic career, never mind his Olympic dreams.

With the help of some very quick thinking coaches and doctors, and some lifestyle choices that allowed his body to respond optimally to the challenge, he was able to compete. He didn’t win a medal that day, coming in 22nd in a field of 36. Still a pretty impressive showing, if you ask me.

Amazingly, only six weeks later, he came very close to beating the world record.

Maura and Eli Bremer in Las Vegas 2019
Me and Eli in Vegas 2019

The somewhat bumpy road to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing probably wasn’t Eli Bremer’s toughest journey. His personal life has seen some challenges, too. I’ve been privileged to meet Eli a few times over the years and seen some of his story unfold.

He and his wife had a son a few years ago. Not only was his birth something of a statistical improbability due to the mother’s health challenges, but he was born a micro-preemie baby. At one point their son was on the verge of what is known as a “failure to thrive” diagnosis. That basically means that the doctors couldn’t find anything in particular that was wrong, but the child wasn’t growing and developing correctly.  They were frightened. Despite some great advice from professionals in the medical community, they didn’t know what to do.

Again, Eli was driven to seek the counsel of his mom and some of the nutrition experts he had begun working with when his own health was shaky. Even though the pediatric doctors that were treating the Bremer’s son were some of the best minds in their field, it took some simple, targeted nutritional supplementation to take the boy from that scary “failure to thrive” point to finally catching up to expectations for his age, and even in some cases exceeding them. Another case of not all supplements are created equal and the point was driven home.

Cami, Struthers and Eli Bremer
Cami and Eli Bremer with baby Struthers

The good news is that now Cami and Eli’s little boy is doing very well. And the family never gave up, despite the frightening circumstances in which they found themselves.

Lesson two I’ve learned from an Olympian: be brave, even if you’re afraid. I’ve always said (and I’m not the only one) that courage doesn’t mean that you’re not afraid. It just means that you go forward despite your fear. Now, don’t misunderstand. I’m not advocating for doing anything that makes one genuinely terrified. We each have our own threshold. For example, I’m not going skydiving. Never wanted to, never will. Don’t try and make me. (Sorry, Brendon Burchard.)

Here’s a non-threatening example. Maybe you think of yourself as an introvert and you don’t talk to strangers. (After all, your mom always told you not to, right?) Next time you are in line at the supermarket and you catch someone’s eye, smile. Find a reason. Make an observation or give a compliment and engage them in a conversation. If it falls flat, so what? You tried. The next time it will be easier. The smile is truly enough.

If you enjoyed this lesson, there are six more where that came from! Please search my blog posts for more life lessons from Olympians.

Thanks for taking the time to read my post.



p.s. You’ll find more articles and videos on wellness topics in my wellness resource center a.k.a. Your Wellness Project. I’d like to invite you to create an account for access and I’ll send you a weekly email with more great info plus my e-newsletter. You can sign up at bit.ly/maura-wellness or click the signup widget at the right.

Featured image photo credit: Andreas Wohlfahrt

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