What Does It Mean To Be An Athlete?

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.

Showing Up

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.

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Author Bio

Alison Whitmire

CEO and Executive Leadership Coach, Advisor and Consultant, “Deeply Committed, Helping CEOs See Clearer, Do More”

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