This week I’m answering Caitlin’s question:
When did you first start to think of yourself as an athlete, and why?
I look back and there was NEVER a time when I didn’t think I was an athlete ….even during the times when I wasn’t overly athletic but I felt like I was….on the inside. I wanted so desperately to be seen as an athlete that I did all sorts of weird stuff so people could physically see that I did and liked athletic things.
I remember wearing an ironman bike jersey to high school…like with khaki shorts and running shoes and that was my outfit. Had I done an ironman? No. Had I even done a triathlon? No. But I felt like an ironman….on the inside…so I felt people should know about it on the outside.
One time in biology class the teacher needed someone with a big lung capacity to blow up a balloon quickly for the class and I was furious he chose someone else. Wasn’t I obviously the most athletic person in the room with my nike water bottle on my desk?
When I was even younger I would wear my parents race finisher t-shirts out and about so people could know that although I didn’t actually run the Victoria Marathon when I was 11, I certainly felt like I was capable so I should also get credit. Right?
Honestly it was ridiculous - about as ridiculous as the adorable little fox in Fantastic Mr. Fox, wearing a bandit mask made out of a sock on his head, demanding that the other foxes see him as athletic.
Don’t get me wrong, I was in fact quite athletic – I ran cross-country and track. I played on random school sports teams. I was a competitive dancer – but looking back it almost seemed more important to me to be identified as an athlete than actually being one.
While not everyone is parading around in t-shirts from races they didn’t actually do nor are they necessarily saying they are going to grow up to be in the Olympics in an unnamed sport, and just need to figure out which one (guilty), I think many people aren’t so different from how I used to be.
...We display our finisher medals.
...We wear our finisher t-shirts.
...We get tattoos, bumper stickers, visors.
...We wear our gym clothes when we’re not even working out
...We brag about athletic accomplishments when we’re not at “Race weight”
...We tell people about “race weight”
...We post smoking fast workouts and call them “cruisey pace.”
...We get kudos and badges.
And you know what, it feels good.
…so good in fact, it makes us want to do it more. And there really isn’t any danger unless being seen as an athlete gets in the way of you actually enjoying just doing it. I used to do things so people knew I did them or at least knew I was capable of doing them. I wanted “I’m an athlete” to be the first thing people knew about me and I wanted them to respect me for it. I even felt entitled to that respect. That’s the dangerous part. Acting like that does two things
- It doesn’t make friends
- It clouds the reason you do sports in the first place
Today I feel like an athlete more than I ever have and it’s no longer the first thing I need people to know. Some people don’t know at all and I’m okay with that. I wear exercise clothes only when I’m exercising. I do my best to talk about my interests to people who seem genuinely interested too. I’m not hiding it by any means….I mean look at my Instagram feed alone, BUT I’m also not banking on other people’s respect and awe to keep me going. I of course want to inspire others and I hope that people take something for themselves from what I share, but the rest has to come from me.
Keeping sports closer to my heart and further from the front and back of my T-shirts has let me truly enjoy doing them for MYSELF. I celebrate wins that I truly earned – not the ones I feel entitled to have. I talk about ironman, future goals, toenails lost and feel so very comfortable when people stop listening or think it’s ridiculous.
In its truest sense, I am an athlete…and I hope it’s not always so obvious.