02 26 2014.

i am an athlete

A few days ago my spinning coach asked the room whether they considered themselves athletes or not. My immediate reaction was to shake my head: no. I’m not an athlete. My head shake garnered her attention and she asked me why I didn’t consider myself to be an athlete.

I recounted my high school years. I never did school sports. I had joined a travel soccer league in middle school, participated in half a semester of track & field as a sophomore and dabbled in softball and snowboarding. The truth was that I had tried a myriad of sports but never committed or fell in love with any.

Somewhere along the way, I got it stuck in my head that if I didn’t play sports in high school, I wasn’t an athlete. If I didn’t train as a youngster, I could never be an athlete.

I have no problem calling myself a runner. I’m a runner! I run. I love to run. It took almost a year of running to comfortably assign myself that title. But athlete? Something about it sounds like a step above. I feel like I need a certificate to call myself an athlete – the same way that I carry a college degree.

Shortly after I answered my coach’s question, a woman next to me who is in my swim class (another of my triathlon training classes) caught my attention and said, “You’re a swimmer.”

I’ve been thinking about that question since that evening. I’ve been thinking about the older women around the room who nodded when asked and confidently answered, “I am an athlete.” Reflecting on my current situation: I’m 23 years old. I’m more active than I’ve been in years – perhaps in over a decade. I care more now than I ever have about my health and fitness. I seek to improve and make physical progress. I’m training.

As a fairly modest person, I’ve realized that I should be proud of my accomplishments. Physically, I’m making leaps and bounds. Mentally, however, I’ve been holding myself back. Once an athlete, always an athlete – sure. But for someone like me who’s late to the plate, it’s never too late to start.

I am an athlete.


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