A few weeks ago, I was traveling in Dominican Republic and we rode horses (or, in my case, a donkey) through the mountains and then hiked down to a waterfall. It was a loooong way back up some rough-hewn stairs. I was stubbornly determined not to stop and take a break during the difficult climb. After all, my guide had walked next to my horse – er, donkey – the whole way so far, so surely I could walk up one steep incline.
Long story short, I made it without stopping. The fact that I then collapsed in a chair and could feel my heart beating in my whole body is beside the point. As we all sat there recovering, I started chatting with a woman about my riding back home. When I mentioned that I ride competitively, she said, “Oh, you’re an athlete! No wonder you have such strong legs.”
I had never really thought of myself as an athlete. Sure, I was in sports in high school – and horseback riding is a sport. But I don’t think I’ve ever really defined myself as an athlete. And I certainly haven’t done so in regards to my riding. I would never hesitate to call the riders at the high levels “athletes.” So why wouldn’t I be considered one?
athlete, n. / a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina
Am I trained and/or skilled in something requiring physical strength, agility or stamina? Check. On top of that, there is a huge mental game – I have to understand not just my own body, but the effect my actions will have on another living being. Have I spent years learning, adjusting, making mistakes, getting better, getting hurt, winning, losing, working, sweating, freezing and striving? Check.
All of this has been bumping around in my head ever since that conversation. I’m an athlete. I like how this definition of myself feels when I try it on for size. Oddly, it makes me feel stronger and more capable. It also makes me feel like I owe it to myself and my horse/teammate to treat myself more like an athlete. I wrote a post awhile ago about the idea of “riding” when I can’t actually ride due to the bitter cold. Confession time: I was going to work out every day for a week and I only did it once. I was so sore from that Jillian Michaels workout that I could barely move for several days, and no, that’s not an exaggeration. That being said, I want to commit to treating myself as an athlete. I want to be stronger and fitter so that I can be a better rider and a better partner for my horse.
At work, we have a new wellness initiative going on where a very well-regarded personal trainer/wellness coach is coming into the office and helping it be a healthier workplace. As part of this, we are free to meet with the wellness coach for one-on-one sessions to help us personally become healthier. Yesterday I talked with him about being an athlete and wanting to be stronger. He has a workout program that will be simple, easy to fit into my regular life and doesn’t include going to the gym (thank GOODNESS. I hate going to the gym.). In addition, he is working with me on nutrition and healthy eating.
So, I’m happy to say that I have a plan for making myself into a better athlete. I’m very excited for this newfound awareness of myself and the gameplan that should start showing good results just before our first show!
Do you consider yourself an athlete? Why or why not?