Unleash Your Inner Athlete: Your Attitude is the Key to Lasting Weight Loss
I was not at all athletic as a child. While not necessarily the last one picked for a team, I certainly was never the first and I always played tentatively. On a softball team I would move away when the ball was hit in my direction. I wasn't exactly the Alex Rodriguez of my day.
My biggest athletic pursuit was bowling. Still, I was only mediocre. My little sister was a better bowler than I and so our weekly trip to the bowling alley was met with frustration. I took upon myself the label "non-athletic" and it stuck until my adult years.
After I lost over 80 pounds and took up running for exercise, I finally discovered my inner athlete for the first time. Coming to that conclusion was not easy and it was not immediate. When I first began running, I ran a mile at a blazing 14 minute pace. If you're not familiar with running times, many people can WALK a mile in 14 minutes. Not me, mind you, but many people. Probably even your grandmother.
When I ran my first 5k (the
in Kansas City) I experienced that first inkling that I was an athlete. I was surrounded by runners and walkers of all ages and sizes and abilities and, strangely, I felt at home. I felt like I fit in.
It was at this first 5k that I caught the bug for racing. Suddenly I wanted to go farther and faster, as scary and painful as that thought was. And it truly was terrifying. I was petrified before my first 10 mile training run. I almost broke out in hives the morning I did my first 20 miler. But, wonderful changes began. I started setting goals and following training schedules. I did long runs and tempo runs and fartleks. Lo and behold, I began training like an athlete.
Soon my speed did increase and I often placed in my age groups at 5k and 10k races. Half marathons were my race distance of choice, and I eeked out a few sub-2 hour finishes and many low 2 hour runs. I started racking up medals - both top 3 in age group and lots of half marathon finisher medals.
The positive changes were not just physical; in fact, the most remarkable changes were mental. I now saw myself as a runner and started reading on the subject. I joined local running clubs, became a member of the
. I ate healthier and strove to fuel my body properly before, during and after my runs. My self-esteem increased. My weight stabilized and it was no longer a struggle to maintain my "racing weight."
I remember lining up for a race - I think it was the
, when I heard over the loudspeaker words to the effect of "we have over 9,000 athletes lined up at the start..." I literally started bawling. It was at that moment it clicked. I WAS AN ATHLETE. That race was not my first half marathon but it was only at that point I realized I was athletic. Little uncoordinated Jacqui who ran from the softball and threw far too many gutter balls, was an athlete. And that knowledge was POWERFUL. It changed the way I saw myself and the way I carried myself. It caused me to respect my body and treat it well and fuel it properly. It gave me confidence.
Yes, I guess I am an athlete after all!
After my knee surgery in 2012 I was unable to run and I lost that positive view of myself. Instead of identifying with my inner athlete I saw myself as injured and broken. I identified as a cripple, no more as an athlete. This view was a little exaggerated perhaps, because there was and there are still many active things I CAN do, but I felt depressed and wallowed in self-pity.
Because the messages we send ourselves and the words we speak in our own minds are so powerful, my new world view changed. I mourned the loss of my ability to run. I stopped reading about running because it was too painful for me. I dropped out of my running clubs. I hated seeing runners on the street because I was jealous. I was angry and resentful I started eating like crap instead of fueling my body like an athlete. I lost focus and it showed. I gained 15 pounds and was depressed as hell.
Mind you, I wasn't inactive during this time. I still worked out 5-6 days per week. I did my
workouts and lifted weights. I was still training, but my mind wasn't in the game.
What turned things around and gave me back my enthusiasm?? I joined a fitness challenge group and was surrounded by a group of positive people. I started taking pride in the workouts I was able to do rather than focusing on what I couldn't do. I counted my blessings, looked on the bright side - all those positive platitudes that sound so corny but send powerful messages to your brain It worked. I started feeling like an athlete again. And you know what? My depression started lifting. I carried myself a little taller. I started paying closer attention to my diet. I started getting back to my "racing shape."
And all those positive changes came about because of how I viewed myself.
I want YOU to discover your inner athlete. And you have one, whether you know it or not. It doesn't matter if you walk for fitness, work out to exercise DVD's, use an elliptical machine or run around after your kids all day. You are an athlete. Think like one. Feel like one. Tap into the energy that knowledge will bring you.
Discover what makes YOU feel like an athlete. Maybe it's joining a club or group. Maybe it's having a fitness buddy or joining a challenge group. Maybe it's racing your kids when you take a family bike ride. Maybe it's trying a different sport, or tracking your workouts, or trying to push a little harder or with a little more intensity.
You don't have to compete with your spouse, siblings, friends or neighbors to be an athlete. Just be proud of what you can do and be grateful for how far you've come. If you experience a set back ask someone for help, just as an athlete would seek the assistance of a coach. Don't let yourself backslide, as I did, but learn from my experience. Even more importantly, learn from your OWN experiences. Every single workout, meal, encounter and experience is an opportunity for learning and growing. Take advantage of these life lessons and unleash your inner athlete! I know you can do it!