Being an Athlete

I am an athlete.

That feels hard to say, but I’ve realized that whether I recognize it or not, it is a fact. Athletes train their bodies. Athletes compete. Athletes adjust their lives to accommodate their athletic goals. I am an athlete.

People have been offering this message to me all year: “You are an athlete.” I’ve shrugged it off, unwilling to reconsider my sense of identity and to carry the responsibility of being An Athlete. I got a massage last month and. The massage therapist reminded me that I am an athelte and should behave accodingly finally got through.

Why resist something so obvious to everyone but me?

I have long thought of myself as a “life of the mind” person. I never liked sports or going outside and being hot and gross. I like reading. I like thinking about stuff. Are these sets of activities mutually exclusive? No. But for me, life has largely been mind over body. Of course, that line of thinking is ruled by the particularly Western notion of dualism. The mind and body aren’t separate entities—the brain is a part of the body, one of the many bits of viscera required to pilot this meat bag through life.

I like lifting weigts and I like playing roller derby, but I still don’t think of myself as someone who likes exercise. I realized it’s because I see myself as a fat person first and an athlete second. Athletes aren’t fat. They aren’t overweight. At least, that’s what years of cultural messages tell me. But it’s not true. Anyone can be an athlete at any size. One of my favorite instagram accounts is that of Olympic weightlifter Sarah Robles. She is a “full-figured” human being, but she got a bronze medal in weightlifting at the last Olympic games. What more proof do I need? What permission am I waiting for to be a chubby badass?

a collage of photos of the author lifting weights and playing roller derby
Portrait of the artist as a fucking athlete

I am starting to treat myself like the athlete I am. Step one was recognizing this for myself, without judgment. I have been living the athlete life in a way already, but mostly focusing on the work and not the care and keeping thereof. My plans in 2018 include eating for my physical needs (that is, eating a lot of healthy protein and vegetables, followed by whatever other food my misguided mind thinks it needs), regular stretching, and more epsom salt baths. I need to rest appropriately and not overtax myself. I’m getting better at listening to my body and learning how to prevent injury (and recently, how to recover from injury). That is what athleticism looks like to me.

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