By Isis Roberts
Even in the midst of a global pandemic, Special Olympics Southern California athlete Brett Laza is still finding ways to compete and stay in touch with his SOSC family.
Brett is currently participating in the Healthy Lifestyle Challenge, a virtual season created by SOSC that encourages athletes to stay fit and eat smart. Through the challenge, Brett is able to view daily health and fitness videos that are designed to help set healthy patterns and routines.
“It’s great!” said Brett, who lives in Western San Bernardino. “It helps me calm myself down, focus and be strong. I like doing it in the morning so I can get my frustration out and get pumped up for the whole day.”
Adjusting to life at home has been a challenge for Brett. Due to the COVID-19 health crisis, he is unable to work, compete, or see his friends. Brett is thankful the Healthy Lifestyle Challenge has provided a routine to help him stay busy.
“It keeps me motivated for when I go back to work,” said Brett. “Without it, I would be lazy and wouldn’t roll out of bed until 12:30!”
Every week day, Brett looks forward to watching the Healthy Lifestyle video challenges that are often led by members of the SOSC community.
“I’m loving learning new tips about nutrition,” said Brett. “I also like seeing (SOSC staff members) Krista [Phillips] and Blake [English] and Amber [Lasher]. It’s really nice to see familiar faces during these tough times, but I rather see them in person and give them big hugs and sweaty hugs.”
Brett is still staying optimistic. As a Special Olympics Global Messenger, he wants to encourage other athletes to stay safe, stay indoors and use breathing techniques to calm down when they feel frustrated.
SOSC had to cancel the spring sports season and Summer Games for the health and safety of the athletes. However, this created an opportunity to develop virtual programming to help athletes keep active, find ways to be social, and have a little fun. Brett believes the Healthy Lifestyle Challenge is a perfect resource for his peers.
“[Some athletes] don’t have family,” said Brett. “Special Olympics is their family. We can all get involved. Special Olympics helps us get in shape and active.”
Brett, who’s been a Special Olympics athlete for more than 16 years, earned a gold medal in floor hockey in March. He’s looking forward to returning to track and field and tennis, where he can be reunited with his friends.
“For some of the athletes, the Special Olympics activities are the only time they have for socializing and hanging out with peers,” said Kern County coach Carlos Ceron. “It’s very important that we stay engaged with the athletes.”
SOSC also created a Dance Challenge as a way to have fun and stay engaged, but this is the only challenge Brett isn’t willing to accept.
“I can speak. I can learn. I can run over the Golden Gate Bridge, but dancing… I cannot do that,” Brett joked.
The Healthy Lifestyle Challenge is for everyone: athletes, coaches, and the general public. Learn how you can get active, eat smart, and have some fun at www.sosc.org/hlc.