The Athlete You Want to Be
Through my life I have been amazingly fortunate to have solid people always surrounding me. I brag to people all the time that all four of my Grandparents are alive and well and happily married. My parents and Ambers parents are married and great examples to us of being dedicated to and loving each other. I spent my childhood with my Dad, Grandpas, and Uncles towing me along on bike rides, fishing trips, up into the mountains, and teaching me to skateboard. The leadership and examples I have had from family and countless friends fill me with gratitude. I look back at the idyllic youth I had and shake my head in amazement.
From the earliest ages I can remember the chief occupation of my mind has been how to become a more talented athlete. I remember clearly in the fall of third grade watching a TV special about Erik Dickerson that showed clips of his training and him talking about his desire to be the best running back in the NFL. I went outside with a football and set up an obstacle course like I saw him running through. I remember feeling so excited at the possibilities.
As my life has gone on, and even more so in recent years, my athletic pursuits have narrowed and my dedication to being the athlete that I want to be has only grown. The concept of the Athlete You Want to Be is incredibly important to me. This is different from “the best athlete within you” thinking that I often hear coming from the fitness and sport community. How can we know that the effort we gave in all of our preparation and execution was the best within us? What all avenues should I pursue in getting better to make sure that it was the best within me? I find it completely unreasonable to think that win, loose, or draw on the race outcome or achieving my goal that I can look back on my preparation and say unequivocally that was the best within me. I do not think that “the best within me” is even an end road I want to be standing at.
But I can look back and say with confidence that the way I prepared and executed are 100% in line with being the athlete and person I aspire to. And I find this extremely satisfying and wildly motivating. If you stop and think about it I bet you can rather easily picture the athlete you want to be. It is going to be unique in each of our cases. Some people want to be the lean and strong hammerhead that crashes through their morning workout with the vigor that they intend to smash the rest of their work day with. Some want to be the person that can hop into whatever race or competition is that weekend and have as much fun at the Halloween 5k and dodgeball league as they do racing the local cyclocross series. And there are people that are out to beat everyone on a specific date at a specific place. And of course there is no right or wrong answer here, and endless possibilities, but there is an important commitment to searching honestly for who that person is and the courage to go and start the process towards realizing it.
My belief is that people are integrated beings. Yet we carve apart our training and athletic hobbies from the rest of life and act like they are something superfluous to fit in to our “free” time. What could possibly trump taking care of our bodies and pursuing our goals? This is who we are both in the very real physical sense of our bodies and the very real spiritual sense of our conscience. The elements that comprise the eventual success we seek in our physical development are made of the same material that comprise the bedrock of all that we will do that is life furthering for us. Not only are these pursuits going to bear fruit in the life of the athlete, it is my belief that a father that puts effort into going after being the athlete he envisions for himself is a better example for his kids than the dad who never missed a soccer game. My belief is that a woman who works to have the results or the body she wants offers more to her family and community than she could by hitting every PTA meeting. These people are the examples of hardwork, honesty, pride, and integrity that are desperately needed to inspire the world forward.
The stark differences between Amber and I always point clearly to this concept for me. I think nearly constantly about bikes, racing, trails, training, diet, tire choice, tire pressure, on and on. Of course it is a natural outpouring for me to train hard and race hard and be the person that is about these things. I push myself and where I stop in my pursuit of being a better athlete is well beyond where most people will go to. But I do stop. I eat ice cream, I don’t stretch, I stay up late, and I am perfectly content with these things. It is not a sacrifice for me to spend the effort to watch the calories I consume in a day, because bike racing is more important. But it would be a sacrifice to slog out intervals on my road bike when I want to be hammering my singlespeed with buddies. This is the bike racer I want to be.
Amber has an entirely different mindset for life than I do. Her interests are wide and in one day she will likely spend time drawing, play the guitar, fret over what lamp to get for our living room, read an amazing amount of the Wall Street Journal, and clean places of our house that I could not even fathom to think about. She has no interest in competing in events and although she has adopted bike racing into her life by necessity she really does not care about how I blabber about the conditions of the dirt after every ride. Physical development is incredibly important to Amber. Since we were married young I have had the opportunity to watch her evolution and see the ripple effect through her whole being that has been created from challenging herself to be more physically fit. The daily discipline required to keep the course towards her fitness goals has brought a new level of confidence to Amber to know that she has what it takes to succeed in what matters to her. From meeting the challenge there is a realization of new growth and then new goals ahead that she could not have foreseen. Each time we have taken the legit daily steps toward that new vision we have created the person who is capable of achieving our goals.
Spend some time with your thoughts and think about the Athlete you Want to Be. What does that person do on a daily basis? What confidence would you carry by living like this? Project forward the ripple effect that would have on your life and the people you love around you. If you have a vision that is as clear as what I expect it is, tell someone about it. I am not saying start a new training plan today and for God sake don’t scrap carbs! But talk it over with someone and see what they think, then see what happens from there. If you need someone to talk to about it, I am happy to make the time for you.