I won’t lie. My first instinct was to be offended.
When I pressed him on why he thought that way, he said that it was because I never watched sports on TV or that I don’t play on a team sport. In his 8-year-old world (and especially because we live right next to UNC, which is a huge force in sports), you’re an athlete if you play basketball, football, lacrosse, or soccer. Lifting weights, running, or anything else didn’t seem to count.
I reminded him that I’ve played a lot of sports and have been on a lot of sports teams: ski team, volleyball, gymnastics, rugby, and even track for one season. But since that was way before he was alive, it’s easy for him to think I’m not “sporty.”
So if you don’t play on a team, can you still be called an athlete? I say, unequivocally, YES.
His comment took me aback because I get almost as much out of playing team sports as I do with my current fitness endeavors, which lately include lifting, running, and taking Pilates and Barre classes. While they’re certainly different than playing for a team—and I really do miss the team thing—running, lifting, and classes have done so much for me. Most importantly, they’ve helped me rediscover my confidence.
The best thing about individual athletic endeavors is this: what you put in to it is what you get out of it.
If you stick to your training schedule, you will finish a full marathon.
If you consistently lift and keep progressing your weights, you will get stronger.
If you keep doing speed work, you will get faster.
If you keep taking Pilates and Barre classes, your posture will improve, you will be stronger, and your joints will be happier.
Put in the work and you will be rewarded.
There are few things better than finishing something that you trained for during a long hot summer, or over a long dark winter. Or through months of continuing to add 2.5 or 5lb plates to each lift.
Mile by mile, plate by plate, you get there.
My current goal is to deadlift and squat my bodyweight. I’m close, but not there yet. I think fear is holding me back a little, and I just need to get past it. Because I know when I hit it, I’ll look at myself in the mirror at the gym and think, “HOLY CRAP. I JUST DID THAT. AND IT WAS AWESOME.” And nobody can take that accomplishment away from you.
There are a lot of things you can’t control in this world. But barring major injuries or illnesses, fitness isn’t one of them. It’s there for the taking, for whatever your goal may be. If you tell me, “Rachel, I’m not an athlete. I can’t run. Lifting’s not for me.” I will tell you this: you can do all those things if you really want to.
So I say go for it. Run that first 5k. Do that first deadlift. Take that first Barre class.
And stick with it, even when you really don’t want to go. It make take a month or so to really start seeing results depending on your current state and goals, but the results will come.
And when they do, you will feel like you’re on top of the world. And it’s hard to beat that feeling.