Fitness (His Edition)
Do you really live like an athlete?
Everyone loves to assign themselves labels. “I’m a runner.” “I’m a bodybuilder.” “I’m a CrossFitter.” “I’m an athlete.” It’s human nature. This practice meets a deep-seated psychological need to belong – a basic human desire to affiliate and be accepted by a group. It gives both meaning and direction to our lives. Psychologists refer to it as “belongingness.” It’s a central tenant in the formation of ‘self’ – of a self identity we have in our psyche. And there’s nothing wrong with that, except when that label defines you more than your actions do. Go ahead, assign yourself multiple roles or labels – dad, teammate, athlete.
However, what so many in our society today seem to forget is that these words mean nothing without substance; without the actions and traits that define these roles.
Does the fact that you’ve brought life into this world make you a dad? No, certainly not. It requires daily, intentional action to enrich the life of your son or daughter.
Does simply being part of a team make you a teammate? No, not in my view. Anyone can run onto a field to make up the numbers or play for himself. In contrast, a teammate in the truest sense of the word is someone who pulls their weight, sacrifices themselves for the greater good of the team, and whose every action fits in with the broader team plan.
And the same goes for the term ‘athlete’, a term that so many today seem to adopt at will. Does the fact that you train hard for an hour a day truly make you an athlete? Does following a clean diet entitle you to cast yourself in the public eye as the bastion of physical and mental fortitude? Because that’s what athletes are – men and women at the top of their physical game. To reach that pinnacle you need to dedicate more than just 6-7 hours a week to intense training. It entails adopting an athlete’s mindset and an athlete’s lifestyle. It means constantly focusing on how every aspect of your life impacts on your performance, not just those 60 minutes each day you spend training. It means doing the extra work – the prehab, the rehab, the core work, the mobility and the stretching. It means hitting every training session with passion and complete commitment, doing what’s required of you, no matter how you feel and what else you’ve got going on in your life. It means doing the things that the average guy doesn’t have the balls or the dedication to do to realise his full potential.
Some would argue that this distinction separates the elites from the hordes of recreational and social ‘athletes’ out there. But I feel that framing the discussion like that erodes the true spirit of what being an athlete is all about. It lowers the bar. It basically means that anyone, no matter how mediocre their race or competition performance, and regardless of how lacklustre their training regimen is, can consider themselves an athlete for merely showing up and taking part.
I truly believe that for people to identify as an athlete they need to bring more to the table than a regular training regimen or gym schedule. These people are fitness enthusiasts.
That’s not to say there isn’t an athlete in everyone, but that moniker must be earned, not assigned. To consider yourself an athlete you need to live your life like one. That means constantly challenging yourself to improve. It’s about balancing rest and recovery with a properly periodised training programme. It’s about doing all the accessory work, whether you love it or hate it. It’s about understanding that every aspect of your life, from sleep and work, to how many hours you sit and how well you warm up, are all closely intertwined with your performance. It’s about using every opportunity to optimise your life around getting the best out of your body. Of course this all needs to happen within the boundaries and limitations of your life as a husband, dad, business owner or employee. However, everyone can live like an athlete by adopting the mindset and approach we outline for you on page 32. I think it’s time we took back the term ‘athlete’ because it represents a level of dedication and proficiency – an aspiration – in your chosen sport or activity that not everyone is willing to work towards.
PEDRO VAN GAALEN