If your definition of an athlete is “someone who participates in competitive sports,” then you’ve probably made the jump from casual exerciser to athlete. But what does it really mean to be an athlete? My coaching definition goes a bit deeper.
An athlete is an individual who understands the principles of athletic training and proceeds systematically.
This distinction is important in order to understand an individual’s commitment level, which will help guide you (and your coach) in training. Sound too stuffy? Relax. According to the first definition, you’re still an athlete.
The goal is always to improve performance. And while genetics plays a big role in an individual’s physiological ceiling, lifestyle choices, commitments, economic and social limits, desire and even luck prevent many athletes from achieving their full potential.I am a marathoner. As I mentioned here previously, I do not hold to the theory that you must be so fast, so fit, so whatever to be called a marathoner. In several articles and other self-righteous diatribes, people are complaining that the boom of marathon running is messing it up for the purists. All the people who do it to check it off a bucket list, run/walk it, or raise money for charity are not marathoners. One blogger I follow feels that it cheapens her hard effort that someone who crosses in five hours said they "ran" a marathon.
If I had to make any sort of fine point, I suppose if you did it once, you say "I have run a marathon". If it hooks you, and you are training for another, you are a "marathoner".
But like I said, whatever. Whatever inspires you to take good care of yourself, to explore what is possible, and to make best use of this wonderful body you have been given - more power to you.
I want to qualify for Boston. I don't know if I ever will, but the pursuit is still on. Over the nine marathons I have run, I have cut an hour and twenty-two minutes off of my finishing time (helps to not train properly for your first). I am pretty happy to have accomplished as much as I have in running and biking in the years I have been at it. And to toot my own horn, in the last eight races at various distances, I have set personal bests in seven of them.
Yet I still feel that I have reached a plateau, at least at the marathon distance. Even after training "better" for the last couple, the gains are getting pretty small. I know I can up the training more, but I think to make any sort of breakthrough (and to get close enough to even talk about Boston), something else needs to change. I need to take better care of myself overall.
So that will be July's resolution. I have already started training for the next marathon in October, and I want to take my best shot. In order to do that, I need to eat better, drink less, get more sleep, and lose some weight. "Taking better care of myself" is harder to quantify for these monthly resolutions, but there will be less food on the go, more fruits and vegetables, less liquid calories, and less food overall.
Not that weight is a clear indicator of health, but there is certainly a correlation. And if there is less of me to carry over 26 miles, it will be easier to get there quicker. So the resolution is to make some lifestyle choices to take better care of my body, but the measuring stick will be on the scale.
I am hoping to be at 160 pounds by the end of the month. I have hovered around 170 for the past couple of years. I have weight to lose, but I think it will take some noticeable changes to break through the plateau. I don't know if 10 pounds in a month is realistic, especially with a week of vacation surrounded by treats and home cooking, but I will try my best. This is more of a long-term commitment than a monthly goal, but having a tough thing to shoot for has always helped motivate me.
I don't know that I will ever call myself an "athlete", but it certainly won't be before I take things as seriously off the road as I do on. I need to stop counteracting the training I do with what I put in my body. I need to stop sabotaging myself.