I Am an Athlete

Growing up there were many things I believed without question – negative things – things that have shaped me in ways that, to this day, drive those nearest and dearest to me absolutely insane – from my family and friends who have attempted to calmly apply logic, (Beth, you can… you are…) hoping reason would give way to those who have wanted to violently shake sense into me (only to stop short after begrudgingly coming to the conclusion that it might not be the orange jumpsuit opportunity they were looking for).

I’ve spent a lifetime riddled with self-doubt, what I would smugly describe as “self-realization,” and have rarely allowed myself to pause and celebrate my accomplishments. (Although, make no doubt that I have had some glorious “WOOHOO! Go me!” moment. I’m not a complete self-deprecating monster. Come on!)

I would try to unpack all of that, but you’d be here too long, and quite frankly, you’re not paid enough (or at all – turns out I’m cheap) to try and counsel me through it. Plus, I suppose I’m reasonably nice and don’t want to completely torment you today (although, no promises for tomorrow).

But for this post, I’m going to focus on one belief, and that is: “I’m not an athlete.”

My Mom was the athlete. She lettered in basketball, speed ball, tennis, and badminton. I grew up surrounded by her trophies decorating the shelves. My Mom bowled, swam, ice-skated, and played volleyball. A good time for my Mom would be any moment she was outside playing a sport – whether she was dribbling a ball, shooting hoops, spiking balls over a net, or endlessly batting one against the garage door. She not only loved sports, she was great at sports – like the rest of her family. In fact, all of my cousins were good at sports. That’s my family.

I came into the world a little different (like we all do). By 10, I’d had three operations on my eyes to correct issues with my vision – issues that would ultimately impact my depth perception. (Mind you, I can skillfully negotiate the world and very rarely walk into all of the walls.) But as a kid, I was thrust into team sports – family tradition – sports that required that finer hand-eye coordination (that thing I lacked) – softball, volleyball, tennis, and I proved to be simply hopeless. In fact, the one summer I “played” softball was actually spent becoming intimate friends with the dugout bench (you and me to the end, buddy). Our team came in first place that year. I’m told that was largely because the Coach had the foresight to keep me off the field. (She was an asshole.)

“You’re just not athletic.” That’s what I was told. That’s what I believed.

That became part of my identity, and that was ok. I didn’t need to be an athlete.

Fast forward to the day I met my trainer and she asked, “Beth, have you ever done sports in the past?” “Not really. I was told I’m not athletic. I’ll be challenging to work with.” Months later, “Beth, you move fine. There’s nothing wrong. I’ve trained people who don’t have athletic ability, and you don’t have those issues.” Ok.

I’m not an athlete.

I work out six days a week. I’ve worked out 5-6 days a week for 5 years.

I’m not an athlete.

I’ve rowed a half-marathon on a Concept II rower. I never stopped.

I’m not an athlete.

I deadlifted 165 lbs. last week, my personal best. I think I can do 170 lbs. Other people can do more.

I’m not an athlete.

During COVID, I started training with her husband as well. He asked, “Have you ever been an athlete in the past?” I’m not an athlete. “You pick up movements quickly.” Ok.

This self-doubt came to a head last week when I basically and quite rudely announced, “I don’t believe you. I don’t believe your other, stronger clients can’t do a physical task that I can do.” “Beth, I don’t need you to believe me. Can they do that same physical task? Yes. But it will take them multiple sessions to get to where they can do it properly three times in a row. I can hand it to you and say, ‘Do that 30 times’ and you’ll do it. The only way I can slow you down to where you can only do it three times is to increase the weight. The problem isn’t that you aren’t athletic, it’s that you have no self-confidence.”

Oh.

I talked to my trainer about that, and she agreed about my self-confidence. I then asked, “What would I have been good at if I’d discovered I was an athlete when I was younger?” She thought about it, and never said volleyball, tennis or softball (the sports I had been thrown into). Instead, she said: “Track – you probably would have been a good hurdler, distance jumper, sprinter, swimmer (which makes me miss swim lessons all the more), or even a defender in soccer.”

My DNA shows I have fast-twitch fibers, like Dad’s side of the family – muscles built for quick/powerful movements – not for stamina. I suspect Mom’s side was built for endurance. I wish we’d figured that out decades ago – that I was never going to be an athlete like her, but I definitely had athletic ability. Sure, I was never going to catch or hit balls (my eyesight wouldn’t allow it). I wasn’t going to run endlessly back and forth across a court. I was different, but I had innate ability.

I’ve spent too much time letting myself believe that “different” meant “incapable,” and that was never true. I just wasn’t an athlete like one parent.

The truth is: I am an athlete.

I say this on the 5th anniversary of training with Jenn.

I am an athlete.

And it doesn’t matter that I don’t look like one to you or perform exactly the same.

I breathe it in every single morning I wake up.

I am an athlete.

6 thoughts on “I Am an Athlete

  1. John Skaarup says:

    Well, it’s about damn time.

  2. Sheila says:

    Interesting how our own self talk gets in our way. Of course you are an athlete. But, I get it. I’m still certain my Eastern European genes are not supposed to be riding a bike the way I do. I still don’t call myself an athlete. At the same time, I wonder how it would have gone if this passion was stoked at 8 instead of almost 40.
    💪🙌

    • Beth says:

      Thank you, Sheila! I’m really surprised you wouldn’t call yourself an athlete because to me you’re an elite athlete; you’re amazing! and you’re always pushing yourself. You’re one of the toughest athletes I know. I wonder the same thing – who would I have been if I’d figured out that track wasn’t just distance running – that I could do these other, shorter things that might have played into my strengths. Running laps made me really think track would never be something I’d excel at.

  3. Heather says:

    You ARE an athlete! 165?! Amazing!!!
    I also love you are are kicking those limiting beliefs to the curb and contributing to learn and grow!

    • Beth says:

      I love you, HB! Thank you!!!! I still have a ways to go, but I’m working on kicking those beliefs – they’re kind of dug-in a bit – baby steps!!! Miss you!!!!!

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