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A few weeks ago I was getting ready to do a WOD at my boyfriend’s CrossFit box, and when the coach called us up to the whiteboard to go over the workout, she did it by saying “Athletes! Come gather around!”
It may seem silly, but at that moment I felt a little excited at being referred to as an “athlete.”
When I was younger, I had the secret dream of being an athlete (it was secret mostly because I was unhealthy, overweight and very sedentary). When I was in middle school, I would think of high school and imagine myself on the swim team…or the softball team…or the track team…or on the cheer-leading squad.
But my hate and avoidance of any type of physical activity kept me from doing so. I was too overweight and self-conscious to even consider trying out for the cheerleading team. I loathed running, so track was definitely out. I was too uncoordinated and afraid of the ball to attempt softball. I went to one swim-team practice in my freshman year, and after being embarrassed about being two laps behind everyone else–and feeling like I was going to die from all of the physical exertion–I faked being sick and left…and never went back.
I hated exercise. I used excuses to try to get out of any physical activity requested of me. I would cringe every time I heard the words “exercise,” “workout” or “gym.” A P.E. class was required in high school, so I took tennis class thinking it would be the easiest and least physical activity. Boy did I hate being wrong!
But I would look at the girls around me that were members of the various team sports and envy them. I wanted to be active, but had some serious barriers that kept me from doing so. So instead, I would just feed my jealousy and eat my bags of chips from the sidelines.
So when I was casually referred to as “athlete,” it got my attention. I found it crazy that little ol’ me, who once upon a time was the most inactive person and afraid of exercise, could be called an athlete. And then I found myself wondering “what exactly is an athlete?“
Truth be told, although I’d consider myself athletic, I have a hard time considering myself as an athlete.
The very first thing that pops into my mind when I hear the term “athlete” is the Olympics. Growing up, when I’d hear the term “athlete,” I’d always associate it with a football player, or a basketball player, or a marathon runner, or a swimmer…Basically, someone who was competing. And although you can definitely compete in CrossFit, I don’t think I’d ever want to do a serious competition.
But does being an athlete neccessarily mean that you compete? According to the Oxford dictionary, an athlete is defined as “A person who is proficient in sports and other forms of physical exercise.” By that definition, I would consider myself an athlete. I’ve worked hard to improve myself as a crossfitter and am always learning to master the various movements.
But a part of me still thinks that if I’m not competing, I’m not an athlete. Maybe it’s just the years of associating the term with a sports player or competitor in my mind.
I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on this. How do you define “athlete?”