I am an athlete.
You won’t see me on ESPN. I’ll never bring home an income from my physical exertion. My Instagram won’t have a million followers. You’ll never pay to watch me compete. But I’m there, competing. I might be competing against myself. I might be competing against you.
I am not elite. I may not even be special. But I am an athlete.
My resume does not list athlete on any bullet point. I will tell you I’m an engineer or an accountant or a nutritionist or construction worker before I tell you I’m an athlete. I don’t kid myself and think I am an athlete in the same sense that LeBron James or Peyton Manning are athletes. But unquestionably, undeniably, unapologetically – I am an athlete.
I am a desk jockey that considers a 40 hour workweek a short week. I am a CrossFitter. Some days I don’t get to WOD. Some days I am so spent from working with tedious spreadsheets and reading procedures that I cannot muster the energy needed to crush a workout. Some days I will give everything I have to my workout and be left prone on the ground in a sweaty heap. You can find me in my Reebok Nanos, without my shirt, in my happy place. You can find my collection of shirts from the various boxes I’ve visited and competitions I’ve participated in folded in a drawer. I am an athlete.
I am a single mother of two working a 9 to 5 job. I am a runner. Some days I don’t get to run. Some days I grind out miles on the elliptical while catching up on my favorite TV shows. Some days I put my headphones in and drown out the world while I hit the trails. You can find me in my Lululemon, in my pretty shoes, in my happy place. You can find my medals I earned from my marathons hanging proudly from my closet door. I am an athlete.
I don’t throw touchdowns, hit home runs, or score game winning goals. I’m not sponsored by any clothing company nor do I get my supplements for free. I’m not paid to be on commercials. But I do get cheered. I do get applause. I do get encouragement. I push myself and am pushed by others. I am an athlete.
I am not bigger, I am not faster, I am not stronger. I am too skinny. I am too fat. I am too weak. I am too slow. My golf swing slices. My jump shot is crooked. My passes do not spiral. My fast pitch is a slow pitch. I don’t bend it like Beckham. I can’t do a pull-up. I can’t do a push-up. I can’t run a mile. I am an athlete.
I am an athlete because I have paid the same price as all the athletes that have come before me: blood, sweat, and tears. I have made my offering to the fitness gods. I’ve torn my hands to shreds, I’ve soaked every inch of clothing on my body, I’ve cried from the pain of my exertion. My sacrifices, while on a different order of magnitude, resonate with the same frequency as the professionals. They give their whole lives for sport and as such are athletes first; I give my all when I can and still earn the title of athlete.
I differ from the professionals only by degree. They are trying to be the best they can be at their given sport, at their chosen way of life. I am trying to be the best that I can be in my endeavors. Their percentage devoted to being an athlete is bigger than mine. To that degree, they are more of an athlete than me. To the degree of what can I give in a given workout or competition, we are athletically the same. They can give their all, I can give my all.
Athlete is not a term reserved for the privileged; athlete is a term bestowed upon the worthy. One is not born an athlete. Sure, some are born with traits that give them advantages at becoming athletes, but the designation still must be earned. You might be a runner, but you aren’t a runner until you cross that first finish line. I might have been a CrossFitter 6 months ago, but I wasn’t a CrossFitter until I gave a WOD my all.
There is a difference between fitness enthusiast and athlete. Do you have a physical goal? Are you actively pursuing that goal? Are you making improvements towards your goal? Are you bleeding, sweating, and tearing? Yes? Then you are almost an athlete. Why almost? Because there is one more ingredient in the recipe of an athlete.
To be an athlete, you must have passion. Going through the motions of physical fitness will not grant you athlete status. Athletes have a insatiable drive, an unquenchable thirst, an undying flame to improve in their sport. CrossFit. Running. Olympic lifting. Football. Basketball. Soccer. Lacrosse. Snow boarding.
Passion, athlete. Look at your PRs. Are you improving? Look at your race times. Are you getting faster? Look at your free throw percentages. Are they increasing? Before you couldn’t run around the block, now you can run for miles. Before you couldn’t lift the bar over your head. Now you can lift the bar and more weight, much more weight.
Do you do everything in your power to ensure that you are better than yesterday? Yes? Then hello, athlete. I am also an athlete. It’s a pleasure to meet you.
Your turn –> Do you consider yourself an athlete?