Do you realize that you don't have to be on an Olympic team, or any team at all for that matter, to think and train like an athlete? I think what sets an athlete apart from an exerciser is the overwhelming drive for improved personal performance, the thrill of competition (even with oneself) and the relentless pursuit of pre-determined and ever-morphing goals.
The thought that I can train like an athlete is revolutionary for me. My mother in particular loved watching sports but to my knowledge neither of my parents played one, so it wasn't encouraged in my childhood. I never played an organized sport. I didn't have a natural inclination toward one either. I pretty much couldn't do anything reliable with a ball. I didn't run track because I was afraid of hurdles. To this day my adult, married children still laugh when I run. When they were little I was doing well to get a frisbee airborne. Now I'm very excited when I can throw my dog's tennis ball without it hitting a tree and bouncing back on the patio in my face. Need I mention this is very confusing for a golden retriever? However, I had strange little glimpses of some sort of dormant ability toward something. I loved playing neighborhood kick-ball, rode my bike for hours on end, climbed trees, actually liked running ladders in P.E. and figured out in junior high that I could dance. So I ended up on the pom squad (before the era of gymnastics, of course). About P.E., yes, I was the last one chosen. But in late high school I figured out that I loved lifting weights and I spent hours in the gym, even though nursing school somehow derailed that. Okay, for full disclosure I can't leave out the fact that I was an eighties aerobics queen, big hair, leg warmers and all. This is not where I will be posting a picture. Moving right along...
Fast forward. After a few short stints of fitness effort through the years, my husband and I finally hit the gym for good about 4 years ago. He was athletic in school and early adulthood and has a competitive streak. I still compete with myself, although I do work and play well with others. When we started up again, we thought and performed like exercisers. We hit the gym, did our workouts, tried to eat better and hoped for the best. Now, four years later, we're training and thinking like athletes and we challenge each other daily, because we're still a work in progress. We plan meals together, call each other out on sloppy eating habits, discuss our training daily and work hard to meet our goals so we can reach the next level. It's not easy, but it's very rewarding. Exercising can be mindless and unfulfilling, like miles on a hamster wheel; another task on your perpetual to-do list. However, training challenges you. It pushes you much farther than you ever thought you could go. It helps you realize that you can set a goal and reach it, and then set another.
Tomorrow will you exercise or will you train like an athlete?