In ancient Greece, to be an “athlete” meant “one who competes for a prize.” I interpret that to mean when you train with a purpose, you’re intentionally developing a new skill that changes the way you move — and live — in the future.
The greatest “prize” is never handed to us by someone else. It’ll never air on cable television or become a Netflix special. It rarely happens all in one moment. The greatest prize is an experience that unfolds over time, as the result of countless hours of focused effort and reflection. Your prize is unique to you. Focusing your training and reflecting on your process and outcomes will lead you to shuck ideas that aren’t truly yours. You’ll find yourself focusing more on what really impacts how you want to move and live. Your prize isn’t just freedom. It’s more powerful than that — control. Creating control in how you move develops an agency that empowers you to live a fuller life.
The professional athletes I’ve looked up to all share the principle of competing against oneself. They’re always searching for ways to improve themselves. Their desire to become better than they were yesterday drives them to train and learn more in their given expertise. This motivation contributes to their success.
To me, everyone who trains with intention is an “athlete.” Being an athlete isn’t only defined by the logo on your jersey, the trophies you win, or the way you look. It’s a mindset that informs the way you approach your training practice.
If you’re training for the Olympics, you’re an athlete. If you’re competing at any level (elite, professional, collegiate, etc.), you’re an athlete. If you’re training to get better at a specific skill or attribute, you’re an athlete. If you simply want to move through your day with more ease and control — and you’re training to make that desire a reality — you’re an athlete.
You are an athlete.