Before becoming a parent, I thought I knew exactly what it meant to be an athlete. Being an athlete meant pushing myself to the limit — racing for a personal best, an age group win, or to outkick my nemesis at the finish line.
With age, though, comes wisdom.
At first by necessity, then later by choice, my perspective has changed. Fitness is still a top priority in my life, but I no longer gauge my success solely on performance. I don’t have to compete every weekend to feel energized by exercise. Runs don’t always hurt anymore. I’m not always racing against the clock and I don’t care as much if someone passes me on the trails. I love running while my kids ride their bikes; stopping to let them pet a dog or pick a flower isn’t a bother. I’m still an athlete, though, perhaps even more than I was in my pre-mommy years.
I’ve come to realize that being an athlete isn’t so much about physical prowess or building an impressive athletic resume, it’s about character. You are an athlete when you decide you’re not going to let life’s uncontrollables bring you down, or when you pull yourself off the couch and get moving when you’re feeling a little down in the dumps. It’s about finding ways to make a visit to the park a workout too. Just enjoying an easy bike ride, resisting that temptation to push hard, can be a significant accomplishment. It’s all about knowing what you need to do at a given stage in life, and then doing it.
That’s right, the concept of “ages and stages” refers to motherhood, too.
There will be times in your life you need or want to race hard and often; at other times it’s best to use that energy to attack the mundane. Take a look at where you are right now and then figure out where you want to be, where you really want to be. Start taking steps in that direction — Olympic strides or small baby steps — just get moving. Do that and you are an athlete.