Am I an athlete?
A few months ago I was on a group run, and one of the runners brought up my latest nutrition article on the Steeplechasers Newsletter. She said when she reads the word “athlete” in my article, she struggles to identify herself as an athlete. This is a runner who runs nearly every day, completes multiple marathons each year, and has even taken home some age-group awards.
This was not the first time I’ve heard someone say they aren’t an athlete, despite being dedicated to an activity. So why is it difficult to take on that identity and say “I’m an athlete”. And why does it matter what we call ourselves?
Defining the Everyday Athlete
What is an athlete? What does it mean to be an athlete? Likely you’ll get different responses from different people but I believe there’s an athlete in everybody, even if you haven’t been active for a while. Our bodies are designed to move.
I recognize our society tends to reserve “athlete” for the elite: those that are faster, stronger, “better” than us. But Kokoro Nutrition wants you to take back the word and the identity of being an athlete, an everyday athlete. Sure, most of us will never be professional athletes. But I believe: if you have a body, you can be an athlete.
It can be easy to take on the athlete identity when it’s your job or if you’re in high school or college competing at a high level. For the rest of us who are balancing careers (not in sport), family, and life, it feels harder to take on the athlete persona.
Not being the best or reaching a certain elite level, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t call yourself an athlete. After all, the definition of the word is “a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina.”
The Athlete Mindset
There’s not just one trait that defines a great athlete. But a great athlete must have the right mindset. People with a growth mindset think of their physical abilities as something they can improve and develop. At the core of this mindset, it is the belief that your actions can change your outcomes.
We don’t believe that every athlete has the potential to be Michael Phelps or Serena Williams. But understand that even at that professional level, those athletes wouldn’t be Phelps without years of training, practice, and passion. Athletes find a balance between believing in themselves, their current skills, and knowing that in order to keep achieving they will need to grow.
Our bodies may slow down and change, but you can always have the athlete mindset.
Developing the athlete mindset may take some time but can help you feel healthier. Instead of saying ‘I’m not a good runner,’ add the word ‘yet’ to the end of the sentence. This reminds you that you can develop new skills – it will just take time and effort to grow.
Traits I see in You … The Everyday Athlete
I often find it’s easier for us to look at others and say “Yes, they are an athlete” rather than saying “I am an athlete”. What makes us say that about someone else but not ourselves? It may have to do with their behaviors and traits.
Here are just a few traits I see in you that make you an everyday athlete:
- Discipline – Staying discipline can be tough but you’ve shown up, put in the miles, practiced hard. Discipline is more than just doing it for a medal but you have motivation to prove hard work makes a difference.
- Inner Desire to Succeed – An athlete has a desire to do their best and understand success can mean different things.
- Ability to Learn from Setbacks – Every athlete has had a bad day, so learning from it is an important trait. I see this in a lot of runners. They have a bad race, do a little analysis as to why it went bad and then their next race is even better. Regardless of what the set back is, athletes have the ability to move forward and try again.
- Appreciation – Appreciation may seem like an odd trait to identify as an athletic trait but I see it all the time. I see athletes appreciate the ability to move, the early morning alone time to workout, friends who encourage us across the finish line and the overall experiences.
Why does it matter?
Does it really matter how you identify yourself? Athlete … or not? Taking on the athlete mindset is the important part of this. Taking on that mindset can shift how you feel about yourself and how you feel about your activity or sport. For some people, once they start calling themselves an athlete, that means it is important to you and start making different decisions. Change happens when you let go of what’s holding you back and you give yourself permission to succeed. That may just happen when you start to identify more as an athlete.
There’s a certain level of pride that comes over someone when they accomplish something physical. You can see it in their face. That’s the core of being an athlete, feeling good about your commitment to yourself. If you aren’t ready to call yourself an athlete just yet, take on the growth mindset and try “Aspiring Athlete”. You’re not an athlete yet. You hope to be and this mindset will lead you to do the things that eventually make you feel like you are.
Personally, I want us all to be athletes. I want everyone to find passion in some athlete endeavor, no matter at what level or what it is.