I like to think of myself as an athlete, though I’m not sure that’s true. I’ve entered many races, but I’ve never won one. I’ve never really played a sport. (Throughout my schooling, my mother insisted that I stay in band. Seriously.) You wouldn’t necessarily look at me and say, there goes an athlete.
And in those precious moments when I feel like an athlete, here’s why I do.
Pushing Beyond Doubt
Many times during a workout or in preparation for an event, I’ll have my fair share of doubts. I doubt my ability. I doubt my fitness. Like the time this week when my trainer told me to do single-leg, plyometric jumps to an 18” bench. I looked at him like he’d lost a screw. Then I looked at the bench, I felt the full force of my doubt ….. and I did it anyway. I pushed aside my doubts to find out what I was capable of. Or like the time my trainer wanted me to do fully suspended push-ups, with my arms in one set of TRX straps and my feet in another. I asked him,”Really, I can do that?”. And then I did.
Lots of days I don’t feel like training, and I show up anyway. I’m tired. I hurt. I’m hung-over. Or I’m sad. Like the days after I miscarried at 11 weeks. I showed up and ran. Or like the days after I miscarried at 23 weeks. I showed up and ran. (I cried through that run). Or like the days after I learned of my son’s autism diagnosis. I showed up and ran and cried and ran some more. I’m not all that fast. I’m not all that strong. I’m not the best trained. And I keep showing up.
Setting Goals That Scare Me
When I turned 50, I decided that I wanted my life to be bigger instead of smaller. I got it into my head, don’t ask me why, that one way of doing this was to climb Mt. Rainier. Mt. Rainier is a glaciated mountain outside of Seattle that stands at 14,409 feet and attracts climbers from all over the world because of its Everest-like conditions. People die on Mt. Rainier every year. I had no climbing experience at all. And I’d decided to do a private climb with one of the world’s most renowned climbers, Ed Viesturs.
For months and weeks before the climb, I was completely on edge. The week before our climb, an experience climber/guide had a fatal fall into a crevasse. I was a wreck. I was afraid I was going to die. I took out my first ever life insurance policy. It scared the crap out of me. I pushed through my doubt, I showed up, and I did it anyway. And my life is better for it.
In fact, the success of climbing Mt. Rainier inspired me to set another big goal the next year, doing a half ironman. What made this a big goal for me was that I didn’t swim and I didn’t cycle. And I did it anyway.
So, I don’t know. Am I an athlete? I’m going to choose to believe I am. Because believing that I am an athlete makes me a better person.
Alison Whitmire is a CEO coach and principal at C-Lever Biz (www.c-lever.biz) and lives in Bethesda, MD with her husband and eight year old son.