Monday, March 24, 2008

Hitting My Stride

Throughout my life and in this blog, I have maintained that I am not an athlete. When asked to participate in intramural sports in college, I passed. "I'm not athletic," I would say on my way to the weight room. In high school I had a job in the afternoons and a friend lamented that it meant I couldn't join the track team with her. I shrugged it off. "I'm not sporty," I would explain, and then get on my bike every Saturday and hit the pavement for a couple of hours. And as my exercise video and DVD collection grew and I wore out more than my share of sports bras and lifting gloves, I have stood by and watched athletes do their thing and wish I was athletic.

In college I started running every day and purposely looked for routes with challenging hills. I spent every possible moment in the weight room or the pool, and showed up at the local Gold's in pre-dawn hours and complained that the weights were never organized from the night before.

After college I hired my first trainer and started taking serious steps towards working out deliberately and strategically. I began to look at fitness as a destination instead of a habit.

On my maternity leave I put my baby in my hiking backpack and hit the streets every day for an hour or so, marveling in the extra cardio that I was getting for carrying a heavier load. I admired my calves.

Last summer I donned my speedo and swim cap and spent most of my lunch hours swimming laps in the community pool. I even went so far as to buy a waterproof watch so I could try to beat my best time.

And now, I am in the gym lifting almost every day, eating for performance, and wearing a knee brace so I can run every morning at 4:45 am. Somehow along the way, I think I became an athlete.

I didn't mean to do it. I'm a bookworm, a TV junkie, a card-carrying nerd. So how did I find myself standing in the shower this morning thinking about muscle repair? When did I make the transition from voyeur to active participant? I've stopped picking up the muscle mags in lustful envy and instead read them for strategy. When did that happen?

I've been thinking about what I want out of this experience of training for a competition, and I've come to the conclusion that what I want is transformation. At the beginning, a friend commented that I might lose my curves in the process of shedding fat and getting into tip-top shape. Now, when I look at my physical and emotional naked self in the mirror, I see that happening. I'm okay with that, I'm happy with that. I am transforming.

But the transformation I really desire is mental, and I think it is beginning to happen. I've always enjoyed exercising and being active, and I have always craved a lean, muscular body and worked towards that goal. But this is the first time I have considered myself part of that world. Instead of being an outsider looking in, I feel legitimate. I don't know why it has taken so long to make that shift when exercise and fitness has been prominent in most of my life, but I've learned enough in the past few months to know when to stop asking questions and just accept.

I guess what I am trying to say is, maybe this athlete isn't quite so reluctant after all.


EDP said...

Maybe what's happening is that you've awakened a part of you that was always there. You've gone from being a physically active person to a performance-minded athlete — a psychological upgrade, for sure. It's like the way a couch potato starts going to the gym and then gets hooked on it. You become a person you never thought you could be. Kudos!

Sghoul said...

Sorry dear, you aren't an athlete. Until you start participating in (and excelling in) sports you are simply someone who is working out very regularly.

I write, but I am not a writer. I used to play music, but I was not a musician.

I know this is being harsh, but I am a big believer in allowing titles to have some meaning. If we allow everyone who works out regularly to be an athlete, then it lowers what that term stands for.

To me, most terms like that imply a certain level of natural aptitude. And you yourself have said that you aren't good at sports.

H F said...

Define sport. Running is a sport, as are swimming and weight lifting. I am good at all three. Just because something is not done professionally or as a team does not make it irrelevant.

You've actually foreshadowed my next blog entry; stay tuned; should post today.

Sghoul said...

I don't count running or weightlifting or swimming as sports.

H F said...

well, that will just have to be one of the many things we disagree on.

NE said...

I am a writer. And I just wanted to clarify something for sghoul. The word “sport” has many definitions including “a physical activity governed by rules.” Participation in a sport, however, is not requisite to being an athlete.

An “athlete” is “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.”

So, someone training for a contest of physical agility, stamina, or strength is by definition an athlete.

Thanks, pumpkin.