Mental and physical health are an important part of the Special Olympics mission. We took some time to catch up with Special Olympics Minnesota Health Programs Manager, Jeff Prendergast, to learn more about how he takes care of his body and mind. Read on to learn about Jeff and his philosophies on health!
What is your favorite way to stay active?
I enjoy staying active by running and playing soccer. I’ve played soccer for most of my life! Soccer is big with my whole family, and it’s been a joy and passion of mine since I was a kid. It’s a great way to exercise while letting my competitive side out.
Running is a hobby that I’ve taken up more recently, but it’s been a fun way to challenge myself and my body. Running races is awesome because it’s individual but still lets me be a little competitive, and it’s a great way to experience new places in Minnesota.
What’s your favorite healthy snack?
I really enjoy homemade popcorn! It makes a great evening snack.
What is one way you take care of your mental health?
Really any exercise—especially running—helps with my mental health. Running has been a great way for me to release any frustrations I may have, and I almost always feel better afterwards. It helps clear my head if I have a lot on my mind and allows me to think without many other distractions.
What is your favorite part about Special Olympics Minnesota’s health programming?
My favorite part of our health programs is that the emphasis is on holistic health, not just health in relation to sports and competing. We really try to focus on all areas of your life and make sure you can not only compete at your best, but have a full, healthy life beyond the playing field.
I also appreciate that our health programs strive to do more than just educate. We help provide resources and make connections to ensure athletes get the inclusive care they deserve.
What is the best part of your job as a Health Programs Manager?
Besides being at the competitions, the best part of my job is being able to work with other individuals who are passionate about health. There are so many people working behind the scenes helping our athletes compete at their highest level and live healthy lives.
We are very fortunate to have amazing Clinical Directors and health volunteers who give up their time and skills to screen, educate and interact with our Special Olympics athletes. They truly care about others’ wellbeing!
I’m also amazed by how many athletes are passionate about not just their own health, but about the health of their peers with intellectual disabilities. Being able to learn and collaborate with athletes has just been incredible.
What is something you’re looking forward to this year?
I’m looking forward to the Inclusive Community Health Fair in October. Last year was our first year offering a fall health fair and the feedback from attendees was fantastic. It was exciting to be able expand many of our health resources to the larger community!
I’m also looking forward to collaborating with more athletes! This year we created a Health Committee, made up of athletes who have expressed an interest or passion in health. The committee has already brought up many great ways to improve health programming and ideas to reach new athletes. I can’t wait to see where this takes us.
Any advice for Special Olympics Minnesota athletes looking to improve their physical or mental health?
It’s a marathon not a sprint. If you are looking to make changes and improve your health, remember that it won’t happen overnight. You will have a lot of success and failures along the way, but if you stay committed and focus on small steps, you’ll see big changes in the long run.
Enjoy taking care of yourself! Find exercise and healthy foods that you love to do and will enjoy. Staying healthy doesn’t need to feel like a chore. There are so many ways to get creative with your health journey!