Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Athleticism

Yes, I'm still blogging and I didn't wait many months to post my next thing. :)

So, I was forwarded an article about the size and shape of athletes and sometimes the unrealistic expectations that we have, for ourselves, about what we have to look like to be called an "athlete". I know I've posted on this way back in the past, but it's still a mental issue for me that floats around in the back of my brain and I know I'm not alone.

When I pick up my electronic copy of Triathlete Magazine or Runner's World (and I'm not picking on them to be negative, they just happen to be two magazines that I read that I notice this), the athletes on the cover and in all of the articles are either professionals who have the traditional "athletic" image of single digit body fat percentage and very lean or they are age groupers who are also of that traditional "athletic" image. I do not fault these people for the way they look, they train hard, they have amazing skill, talent, and ability.

But, an athlete is more that what they look like.

Athlete: [noun]
"A person trained or skilled in a sport and one who regularly competes with others in organized events."

(Emphasis mine)

No where in the definition of an athlete does it say that you have to have 8% body fat, or have exquisitely define musculature. It says you just need to train and compete. I have volunteered at two Ironman events now (Wisconsin and Arizona). Ironman is considered the pinnacle of long distance triathlon in terms of achievement. One of the things that you will quickly see is that the competitiors come in all shapes, sizes, and capabilities. But I would never, ever dream of not thinking of any of them in any terms except as an athlete.

One of the things that I love about triathlon, is that I've never seen any judgement from the elite athletes of the age groupers or the back of the pack. One of the things that warms my heart is seeing the pro's come back out as midnight gets closer and start honoring those who are coming in with every last ounce of will that they have. All the judgement is in my own head.

Getting wrapped up in the mental aspects of trying to chase an image of a body that isn't yours is wasted effort and a mental drain. It's something I have got to learn and keep with me. I waste more energy chasing something that doesn't matter.

Now this doesn't mean that I won't try and improve my overall body composition. But at the end of the day, what matters is that I cover 70.3 or 140.6 miles and do it with in the time limit and finish (borrowing from my friend J (who shall remain anonymous to protect the innocent :)) upright and out of the medical tent. A finisher is a finisher no matter if you are 250 pounds, 150 pounds, 8% body fat, or 28% body fat. And anyone who trains for an event is an athlete. If you have the courage to get up off the couch, train, and toe the start line - you are truly and athlete. And even if you don't get to the start line, as I well know - life can throw you a curve ball, you are still an athlete.

To me the key part of that definition is the trained word. What matters is that you get up and try.

Now, do I remember this all of the time? No. Should I? Yes.

There are other issues that are wrapped up in this for me that probably aren't ready to bring out on the blog yet, but this is what I'm working on now.

So if you see a big man or woman out there moving along ... think of them as an athlete. Because they are and I suspect that many of us struggle with that.

And if you want to peruse the article that spawned this post, here is the link:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/louise-green/fit-and-fat-what-an-athlete-looks-like_b_5678917.html