Monday, March 31, 2008

A Matter of Definition

I'm in week thirteen of my training, and as I recently mentioned, I am starting to see physical evidence of the hard work I have been doing in the gym. I'm excited because it has been a long time since I've gone through a transformation like this and I am more and more motivated to push myself and see how far I can take it. The realist in me, though, is waiting for the other shoe to drop. How long can this really go on before God wakes up and realizes I've run amok into forbidden territory? Will there be a day when I comment to someone, "yeah, I used to workout all the time..." and wistfully remember an exchange last week in which friend commented that my t-shirt showed off my "guns." Even while I corrected him and said that women don't have "guns," inside I was giving myself a high-five. I like to show off my guns, especially considering the sweat equity that went into getting them.

After I posted my last entry, I continued to think about what it really meant to be an athlete, and why I felt that I didn't fit that description for so long. It occured to me that the complete lack of inate athletic ability was a big part of it. Coordinated? Not me. I can't catch, throw, aim, or otherwise make contact between two moving objects, and I was always chosen last for any team in phys ed. I was on a swim team as a kid for a few summers but didn't stand out; I enjoyed practices but in the meets I was just another swimmer. Athleticism is not something that happens naturally for me.

But drive is, especially when it comes to something I am not good at. I recently read an article on the website of one of my favorite radio personalities, Peter Sagal. I was suprised to hear that the voice I listen to each week belonged to an avid long-distance runner who had completed several marathons. I clicked on the link and sat engrossed in his story. I related to his experience as a clumsy kid who one day asked his dad if he could go running with him the next morning, and the feeling of acheivement when, despite the pain and turmoil of his first run, he got up the next morning to do it again. When asked why he endures such pain as a marathon on a regular basis, he replied with a response that resonated like a belltower with me -"it's not the suffering, it's the achievement despite the suffering. The suffering makes the achievement sweeter."

I knew I wasn't the only crazy person out there.

I still maintain that I am not athletic. But I feel like an athlete. I get out there every day and participate in a sport, and I work each day to become better at it. Athleticism is not inate for me, and that's what makes my achievement so much more than if it was something that I was born to do.

In the end, I have come to believe that athleticism, like achievement, is a state of mind. If transported back to an elementary school gymnasium, I might still be chosen last for the team. That's fine. In my book, an athlete is not only defined by the mascot on their uniform, but also by the end product as a result of discipline, hard work, and strategy to build a better body.

And yes, that includes working on the guns.

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