Growing up I was much more into my Commodore 64 computer than any activity that involved chucking spherical objects at my friends. I rode my bike, ran around, and did martial arts but there was always a clear line between the athletes and me. In my mind “athletes” were hulking creatures who’s bodies were throw backs to lesser evolved humans that still needed to forage for sustenance. It was my opinion that one could be smart or one could be an athlete. There was no potential for cross over. No one on the football team was in my Physics class in high school so I felt secure in my prejudice. I referred to overly developed traps as the “I don’t know muscles”. I stated they were larger on “athlete” males from the constant shrugging of the shoulders when asked rudimentary questions about Life, the Universe and Everything.
While attending college I occasionally met intelligent “athletes” in my classes. I assumed they were statistical anomalies. I was lifting weights at this point but that was to “get in shape” and to be stronger but never to be an athlete. After college I started training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai regularly. In doing so I started interacting with professional fighters. Initially I subscribed to the stereotype that fighters were not a particularly bright group. I was a martial artist not a base creature that would allow people to punch him in the face for a few dollars. I kept up my training and as a result I got to know the professional fighters better. Slowly I came around to the idea that not all of these guys were 99% chimp in fact some were 98% chimp just like me. Worse they were athletes. One was even an orthopedic surgeon, a fighter, and an athlete. I could no longer reconcile my youthful prejudice with the empirical evidence all around me so I decided that maybe being an athlete did not doom one intellectual oblivion.
In 2006 I threw off my IT shackles and started working at Unit 2. I was still of the opinion that I was not an athlete. I was merely “in shape”. At some point in this journey people started telling me that I was an athlete. I was training every day and was competing.
According to Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, an athlete is “a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring strength, agility, or stamina”. I discovered this basic truth: If you are strong, flexible, agile, and have good endurance then you are by definition an athlete. So basically if you are fit then you are an athlete. There is no one without the other. At 30 years old I came to the realization that I was what at 10 years old I loathed most: an athlete.
It has been a couple of years since I came to the realization that I am an athlete. I still read Science Fiction. I haven’t forgotten that the 2nd law of thermodynamics can be described as entropy. If pressed I can still walk someone through how to configure a Cisco Router over the phone. In short, none of my cognitive functions have changed in any significant way.
The difference is now I reap the benefits of being an athlete. Athletes have greater bone density, stronger immune systems, less coronary heart disease, reduced cancer risk, fewer strokes, and less depression than non-athletes. I can do just about anything better now than I could at 20 years old. In general I feel great and am physically able to do what I want to do. Well, just long as it doesn’t involve throwing a ball.
Like it or not; if you train hard at Unit 2 Fitness then you will end up becoming an athlete.