I didn’t think I’d ever be considered an “athlete” again after I stopped playing soccer in high school. An athlete, to me, was someone who played competitively. An athlete was someone who had been playing for years. Who spent Sunday mornings at games and Sunday afternoons with her feet soaking in a foot-sized pedicure tub because her shoes rubbed her toes in all the wrong ways. An athlete was good enough to play in college, and to be looked at by others and considered an athlete by their standards. An athlete was someone who could say “we/I/you won/lost”.
As a “former child athlete”, I had dreams of playing soccer on the US Women’s Olympic team. And in my off season? Be a Broadway star, of course. Hey, anything’s possible when you’re 7! But as I got older, those dreams changed and my priorities changed, and I realized I’d never be the athlete (or time manager) I needed to be to achieve that goal.
I decided to dedicate my high school days to singing and acting, and affectionately look back on those years as some of the best memories of my life. But with that choice, I lost my identity as an athlete, and instead became a theater kid, something I still cherish and boast to this day.
Then college came and my active theater kid years were behind me. In front were the years of just trying to figure out who I was and how to get around on my own (literally how to navigate the one-way streets in Bloomington).
Nearly 3 and a half years ago I walked into my first CrossFit gym as a former-child-athlete-with-a-whole-lot-of-body-image-issues turned current-college-student-with-a-whole-new-set-of-body-image-issues. Starting out, I never even considered myself a CrossFitter: I couldn’t power clean, I couldn’t do an unassisted pull up, and good lord I did not (do not) look like Stacie Tovar or CLB.
For the first few years I was pretty dedicated to this new sport. I’ll even brag that I still have never gone more than a week without touching a barbell since I started. Somewhere within those first two years I started to understand that I was a CrossFitter, something I should’ve seen from the very beginning. But still, I never saw myself an athlete, just someone who did/does CrossFit.
I’m not sure when the switch flipped. Maybe it was hearing gym owners and trainers referring to their members as athletes, and then starting to train myself. Becoming a trainer was like realizing my peripheral vision. I had never really watched others workout, I hadn’t seen their struggles and successes, let alone offered guiding words and assistance to make those break throughs. But it was through these training sessions that I viewed the members in the gym as athletes, and it basically happened instantaneously. A no-brainer.
So then, by the transitive property, doesn’t this mean I’m an athlete too? Merriam-Webster tells me that an athlete is someone who is trained in or good at sports. How are you defining good? I think showing up to the gym is pretty good to begin with.
This past year I have finally realized that yes, I am an athlete. I actually identify so strongly with this word that I love being at the gym. I feel at home there. I feel at peace there… And it’s not just because of the endorphins. Training there is never work- it is so much of who I am that it is just another facet of how I survive and thrive.
I was an athlete the day that I walked into the gym in November 2013, I just didn’t realize it until recently. And think of the greatness I might have already reached if I had changed my mindset to that of someone who DID, not just someone who could.
As someone who is always searching for a practical, real-life way to apply concepts to my world, here is the transferability for you: If you say you are, you are. Believe it and defend it and live your life like it.
Sending self love,