I have been talking to many people lately about whether or not they think of themselves as athletes. It is amazing to me how many people don’t think they are an athlete. They think of themselves as “fitness enthusiasts”, or “active” - but not an “athlete”. These include people who regularly compete in running races and triathlons.
Many people think an athlete is a paid professional. Others see athletes as someone who is competing against others. For others still, an athlete is simply someone else, but not them.
When I look it up in the dictionary, this is what I see:
- a person trained or gifted in exercises or contests involving physical agility, stamina, or strength;
- a participant in a sport, exercise, or game requiring physical skill.
When I read this definition, I can’t help but think everyone who is active is an athlete. For those who are not active, they can aspire to be an athlete. There isn’t an elitism associated with being an athlete.
Being an athlete boils down to two questions:
- Are you trained?
- Are you a participant?
If you can answer yes to either of those questions, then you are an athlete. This includes people who compete in events. This also includes the yoga enthusiast, who is both trained to do something most can’t and is most certainly a participant.
Here is another test. Common to both definitions is the word “exercise”. Anyone who exercises regularly by definition is an athlete. Looked at this way, there are a lot more of us athletes running around than we think.
Being “gifted” does make you an athlete. But it’s not the only way. I love Nike, but I hated the commercial they ran a few years back that said “Second place is just the first loser” - or something to that effect. What a horrible message to send to people. It perpetuates the notion that only the truly gifted (or genetic freaks) are considered athletes. It discourages the less gifted from embracing the athlete within them. The message is just plain wrong!
Being an athlete is available to everyone. There are many who are not active, and in their minds have no hope of ever being an athlete. But that’s not true. All that is required to become an athlete is to make the commitment to move from a sedentary lifestyle to an active lifestyle. Take up walking, take up bicycling, take up running. You may or may not ever compete. But guess what, you will be an athlete.
So - do you consider yourself to be an athlete. . .