Dr. Bruce Kidd was a member of the 1964 Canadian Olympic team and is a professor in the University of Toronto’s faculty of kinesiology and physical education. A documentary film, called The Runner, was produced about his life.
What’s been your most profound Olympic moment?
I would say, at this point in my life, rhyme off the number of encounters I’ve had where, in this diverse and sometimes divided world, sport and particularly the Olympics brought people together for a conversation.
There has been talk of yoga’s inclusion as a sport in the future. Thoughts?
Yoga is a wonderful form of physical activity, but I don’t see it as a competitive sport. There are many forms, and it is almost like a religion … but as a competitive sport in the Olympics, I just do not see that.
Do you support the Own the Podium program?
I have a nuanced opinion. I love the idea that Canadians should try to be the very best we can be, and I love the ambition that is captured in Own the Podium, but I was very upset with that as a slogan for Vancouver hosting the Olympics. You know, it is like inviting people to your house with the slogan “I’m going to beat the s**t out of you” — very unwelcoming, very contrary to the Olympic spirit. I welcome ambition, but the Olympics is about affirming the effort of everyone. To single out only those that make the podium is contrary to the Olympic spirit.
I get the feeling we don’t produce our fair share of elite athletes. Is it just me?
You know, Ontario used to lead the Canadian system. Now we are in a hole because of 30 or 40 years of neglect and bad decisions. Facilities and grassroots programs have fallen behind and athletes now go elsewhere to train. There are certainly very good people in Queen’s Park, and the Pan Am bid is part of the effort to change that … but just as the economic leadership has shifted to Western Canada, so has sports leadership — to the west, I’d say, and Quebec.
Why are we becoming a nation of couch potatoes?
My sense is that it is not a single pattern [behind the trend]. A dismaying level of inactivity among children and youth has been documented … but certainly many are very active in sport and other forms of physical activity, as are many adults. The headline is that, yes, there is a crisis of physical inactivity that has contributed to a frightening increase in non-communicable diseases [such as diabetes]. What’s interesting is that if you walk, cycle, drive around Toronto, you see runners.… The overall pattern is the alarming one, but beneath that, there are some very encouraging signs.
So what caused this mess?
You know, there is a combination of factors. You can point to worldwide trends and you can point to Ontario’s and Toronto’s specific factors.
Should we, as parents, be pressuring schools, local officials?
Yes, but you also should be doing stuff with your kids. There is a powerful correlation: if the parents are physically active, so are the kids. Sometimes kids get parents [active], sometimes it is the other way around, but active families tend to be more healthy families.
What do you do to keep in shape? Do you still run a lot?
I don’t run. I have some injuries that persist. I cycle or walk. In the winter, I cross-country ski or snowshoe every day, and I do Pilates twice a week and some strength fitness with small weights. I do something every day.
How do you get addicted to exercise and develop an overall fitness habit?
I would say, think about something you’d like to do: manageable and gives you a sense of satisfaction and pleasure, and find someone to show you the ropes and do it with. The sociability side, the friendship side is really important … number one factor in women’s running — the women’s groups that run around the city.… As a runner, in earlier times, the men’s networks I was part of — it really helps during the rough periods to have someone to talk to: how they dealt with the small nagging stuff, like plantar warts.
What do you think of Rob Ford’s Great Waist Challenge?
Well, I wish him luck in it. I mean, I commend him for his honesty in recognizing that the extra weight he is carrying is both a health risk to himself and a very bad example for people in Toronto.