Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Exerciser or Athlete?

"Athletes don't exercise, they train. Athletes don't diet, they eat. Exercisers are reactive— they're slaves to the scale and the treadmill. Athletes, on the other hand, are proactive. It sucks to be an exerciser, but it's a blast being an athlete." - Charles Staley

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?


Greenteagirl said...

The quote at the beginning of your post is so true. I love to push myself further because it's FUN! Mindless exercise while chasing a number on a scale or a clothing size is all too common. It's really wonderful that you have a husband that is supportive in your goals. We have that in common :).

Kiry said...

Great post! Since working out is so entertwined with/dependent on motivation/your mental state, this makes so much sense. A lot easier to motivate to Train for a Race vs. motivate to Exercise.

Kelley Moore said...

Greenteagirl: I'm glad for you, having a spouse that is supportive makes a huge difference! It seems if I obsess over scale weight or sizes it's a distraction but if I just focus and train I move forward!

Kiry: Thanks for your comment! You are so right about how motivation fits. It all ties back into purpose and goals. When my mental state is out of sync, if I can just do it, I feel so much better afterwards!

Rayna said...

Very true post.

I try to explain to friends/family that occasionally working out does not make you an athlete.

I'm an athlete because every time I work out it's to improve my personal ability to my sport of choice (rock climbing). Everything I do is to improve that and I not only work for health but skill. I compete with myself day in and day out.

I use to think I was an athlete, I was wrong, but now I KNOW I am.

btw- your comment about a tennis ball bouncing back and a confused golden is so true. I also have a golden and occasionally have the same problem. He also gets confused if you throw him a frisbee and it never makes it more than 4 feet. He takes off ready to get it and then watches it hit the ground at my feet ><.

Kelley Moore said...

Rayna, you're a great example of an athlete. It's interesting to understand how people think. Some people think they are athletes (sometimes because they play a sport) when they don't really have the mindset. Others like me maybe never would have been called an athlete, but I've finally found a way to be and think like one.

Hilarious visual with your golden and the frisbee. I know the look! My golden is so lazy that she runs for the first ball, then sits in the shade until you throw the second one so she only has to make one trip back!