ath/lete: a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina; from the Latin athleta, from the Greek athletes, from athlein — to contend for a prize, from athlon —prize, contest
So says Merriam-Webster.
The premise of this blog though, is that you need not be ‘skilled’ in a sport in order to call yourself an athlete. Being an athlete is deeper than ‘prizes’ and ‘contests’ and goes further than donning a uniform and representing your community or country. Whether your glory days lasted until high school, or you never had any glory days to begin with, my hope is that whatever physical activity you participate in for your health and wellbeing you embrace as a part of who you are and what you can become.
We call this exercise identity—
“when an adherent integrates the activity into his or her own conception of self.” (Ellis Cashmore, 2008, Sport and Exercise Psychology: The Key Concepts).
Even if you take a different class each month at your gym, or never enter a competition for speed-walking or weight lifting, or only use cardio equipment and never step foot outdoors, or only walk your dog around the neighborhood, embracing that activity as a part of who you are—that you are an active being—allows you be an athlete.
Be dedicated to bettering yourself. Make time to be physical. Take new routes. Try new things. Give it 100%. Take pride in your accomplishments. Set goals. Crush your goals. Recover. Sweat.
Set aside your excuses. Turn off the voice in your head that’s telling you you can’t do it, shouldn’t do it, are too out of shape to do it, that’s telling you to wait for a more convenient time. It may never come, for life continues to charge forward even while we’re gazing backwards wishing it hadn’t changed. Whatever your sport is, whatever your exercise routine consists of, embrace it as a part of who you are. You are not a poser just because you don’t have the grace of your instructor or the speed of an elite professional.