If no forms of social or mainstream media existed, I think we wouldn't look for imagery of an athlete; we would just be one.
I haven't left my home since the NYRR 60K. Yesterday, I managed to get dressed for the gym, walked to my front door and turned back around. I curled up with a bowl of cereal, watched a video and felt like a failure. After two anxiety attacks between 6PM and 6AM, I practiced a failed attempt of corpse pose without yoga until 10AM -- thank you freelancing. Every time I go through an episode, I remind myself to question what triggered the anxiety. This time I allowed a bunch of insecure fuckers to make me question if I have what it takes to be an athlete. Typically I don't dwell on those things but I do acknowledge when the noise grows. I can usually link it to a source; this incident stemmed from my last two posts since returning back to this space. A few minutes ago, I made myself a glass of shut the fuck up to go with my coffee and thought out loud: What exactly is an athlete. If you can tolerate some non politically correct commentary, grab a bottle of Tequila and take a shot with me.
Modern Day Journalism Like Titles Like "I Performed Like an Athlete for XX Years and This is How I Did It" So This is My Subheading.
I'll pretend today is the first time you're being introduced to any forms of media. Let's start by overwhelming you on the myths that I grew up believing for years until I became an athlete.
An athlete has to look like their counterparts.
Short answer: NOPE. Unless we are limiting our conversation down to wearing a uniform for a group event, nobody's size, shape, religious background, sexual orientation or body type has to look the same. Over the years, people tried to deny qualified candidates from professional sports because they didn't "look" the part. I love sports but there's a lot of jacked up history out there. Most crazed runners know the story of Kathrine Switzer: the first woman to officially enter the Boston Marathon. Before her, the first woman to receive recognition from the IAAF for running a marathon was in 1926. If we touch on racial inequalities, people of color were shunned from most sports. Historical stereotypes like "black people don't swim" stemmed from a blend of segregation preventing us from going into swimming pools open to whites only. Where location may not be a burden, financial means or lack of education to proficiently perform the task became a problem. Other narratives spread like a raging fire like being told that our bones were too dense and our lower halves were too big. As these dynamics changed, it created future generations of people of color without the ability or desire to learn how to swim thanks to fear. And to those who challenged that line of thinking and extended an opportunity to learn how to swim oftentimes feel like the "only one." I experience some of those feelings at ultrarunning events and in obstacle course racing. It doesn't stop me from moving with pride on a course; I do wish these spaces were much diverse from a racial to body type standpoint. Compared to years ago, change is happening -- slowly. I could speak on body politics for a long time but that's practically this entire rant.
Fat athletes don't exist and I need to lose weight before attempting to become one.
Some of y'all don't like that I refer to myself as the word fat but I love it because it's a damn descriptor, not a weapon. My 5'3 1/2 250 pound ass is not going to wait for Santa to drop off bland Nutrisystem meals to my door to give me permission to move. If weight loss is your thing, I have nothing against you for doing what moves you. But consider this: If part of your regimen consists of deliberate fitness for a certain amount of times a week on a consistent basis, guess who is an athlete?
The loose definition of the term athlete is someone who is proficient in sports and physical exercise over time. And with this logic, why would you shortchange yourself on acknowledging that you're included in this description? Because a bunch of other folks don't think you look the part? Something that you said to yourself? Have a seat -- and give me 3 sets of 16 bicep curls.
If you're fixated on that prehistoric dinosaur BMI, do yourself a favor and research the origins of this "measurement tool." Following that method means that we should abandon body fat percentages, muscle mass and we should reassess athletes in sports like sumo wrestling, football or heavyweight boxing.
You have to eat clean all of the time to be an athlete.
What the hell ever. I'll wait for someone to shame me before the ink dries on this blog that I'm promoting obesity. Here's what I'm actually saying: Nobody's perfect every single day. I'm fortunate to say that I was a professional sous chef for a number of years and can create a meal with very little. Years prior to my culinary education, I wasn't well versed in being creative with salads, soups or being versatile with vegetarian dishes.
Honestly, I cook with my heart and my fitness goals in mind. Over the years, people tried to talk me into a keto diet while doing endurance running. I'm not here to debate folks on what's best but for me, I like balanced meals and as much as I'm not much of a carb eater - protein junkie here - elimination of carbs don't work in my favor. In fact, I've heard some of the most insane techniques from athletes that I adore to keep their glucose levels up: An undying love for doughnuts and cookies days before and on race day to beloved athletes like Dean Karnazes' ordering pizza in advance to station themselves on a race. I don't think these people eat like this every single day by any means and this is not me suggesting to people to throw away their food charts. Instead, I urge you to learn your body and what it needs to perform whatever activity you desire.
Every person's method is different and you don't have to eat air free potatoes with your unseasoned chicken every night to perform like an athlete -- that's my personal opinion. Whatever your goals may be is your business and if you ever find yourself lost on what you should eat to maintain your fitness goals, consult a sports nutritionist that will hear you out, not a blogger like me. Don't hit me up until I get my nutritionist certification and I actually listen to your specific goals.
Additional side note: A personal trainer shouldn't give you a detailed nutritional regimen unless that person received credentials to do so. If that person works for a boutique gym, sometimes it is enough for a facility to terminate employment. Again, I cannot tell you how to live your life. If that person wants to give you 'suggestions' and you like them, go for it. Whatever happens, please don't allow someone to talk you into an eating disorder -- a topic of its own.
Athletes are "healthy" and able bodied.
Define healthy. Not through Merriam Webster.
Like really: What does health look like to you? Is that person smaller framed with killer muscles and their teeth look like a reflector? Can that person not have a six pack, have missing limbs and stutters? People have some pretty vain and questionable views about health.
Some of the most "fit" looking people walk around with autoimmune conditions or invisible conditions. Our diagnoses might make us not feel the best but we look 'fit.' Conversely, there's people who are larger in frame, don't look like they're eating concrete and metal for breakfast but are "healthy."
There's a layer of assumptions that people place on individuals before they ever speak. When I walk into most rooms with strangers, I get a range of assessments. When I wear bra tops with no shirts and high waist shorts/leggings, I am oftentimes told that I'm "fit," "intimidating" and "buff" because my shoulders, arms and legs are exceptionally defined. When I place on extra layers, particularly in winter months, I get offers from people who don't know me on ways to "lose weight."
In the running community, whenever I am spotted by someone who hasn't seen my social media or a fancy news report, my pace sometimes gives people the inclination that this is my first rodeo. When I'm moving faster and able to talk at a 12 - 13 minute speed on stronger days, the narrative changes.
Depending on the setting is how people may or may not interact with me and I remind myself to not anticipate for the worst. My reality is that I am fit but my disabilities might place me in situations where "healthy" is a questionable word -- and it has nothing to do with my weight. My knees are fine, core is great, legs are strong and upper body feels amazing. My problematic areas are my Fallopian tubes, back injuries and a gastrointestinal tract that is sometimes from hell. Even with dietary changes, none of my issues have a cure and I'm still an athlete. If I allowed others to dictate my ability, I don't know if I'd even look "fit" to those who view me that way. Regardless of how people view me, I feel amazing and that's what I take with me on every activity that I perform.
An athlete would never say that their respective sport sucks at any point.
Ha. Ha ha ha ha ha. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.
I think running sucks at least twice a week and I'm still an athlete. Most days I despise the way the gym smell and the thought of jumping on my bike to get vaginal chafing is the damn worst. Yeah, this shit gets boring sometimes and it can suck. If you don't believe me, take a look at people's running photos around mile 18. Humor yourself watching the regression of happiness leaking out of their body because someone told them they're almost done at mile 3 of 26.2.
Athletes cannot take additional days off, encounter days of reducing their intensity or have lackluster performances.
Back in April, a woman name Bitter (that's what I'm calling her) wrote me in several running groups after I wrote a Huffington Post article about being heckled despite being signed up for 10+ marathons this year. To paraphrase her, she said something along the lines of "...sis, just admit it -- you're just a walker if it takes you 7 hours to finish a course." And aside from telling her that I do run events and have walking intervals, I doubt that I was having a Michelle Obama moment after being harassed in several running groups with her banter.
So let's run with that example: Who gives a fuck? I am an ultra running athlete who still loves run/walk intervals and when I feel like death some days - or most days this year - I resort to speed walking at some point. In the ultrarunning community, it is common to see us hike up inclines because we need preserve the life on our legs. Sometimes it's actually a choice because I'm engulfed in a conversation with a person that I met on the course or helping someone out. There's other times where I'm just like "bitch, you're tripping." And then there's moments where I fold into my pain and acknowledging its presence.
Here's a logic that I wish people would trash sometimes: "Pain is weakness leaving the body." We need a healthy understanding of when we're crossing that line of motivation versus injury. I have enough ailments to make a nun drink and I've been told from countless concerned people that I should stop doing any form of fitness. Some of these folks told me to get my ass off the sofa over seven years ago.
Give yourself permission to be honest with yourself. If fitness sucks today, say it out loud without feeling guilty and whatever happens, don't allow some outsider to try to make you feel bad for YOUR fitness level. Challenge yourself but listen to your body and mind. My mind is my strongest muscle and when it's out of commission, it's hard for my body to do what its been conditioned to do for the last six years at any pace.
Real athletes compete and wouldn't care about receiving praise or special amenities.
Sports purists drive me nuts. Some of y'all have them as friends or maybe it's you:
My golden rule in fitness is to surround my goals with something positive. All positive goals don't look the same for each person. Here's some of the reasons why I workout in different sections of fitness:
Years ago, I preferred to sign up strictly for medals. After 50 or so, I started running out of creative areas on where to stack them. It took me six years to buy a respectable medal holder that fits 49 but most of the others are scattered on my office desk, collecting dust with the exception of my ultra running collection. As I bonded with the community and took it on as a career, my feelings evolved on why I signed up for races.
Admittedly, my running pace is slow as fuck but I'm super proud of my endurance. I have around 7 or 8 DNFs out of 180+ attempted races; I completed 176 to date since I wasn't able to cross at the NYRR 60K this year. I like using my fitness as a means to travel the world, meet different people and indulge in my love for culture, food and history. To many, these are not qualities of a professional ultrarunner; I love the opportunity to change the narrative of the one dimensional ways we look at athletes in the media.
Step By Step Plan to Becoming an Athlete
Now that you read all of the primitive stuff, it's time to get serious and become that athlete you desire to be. Here's what you need to do:
If someone tells you that you have to do it one way, bitch smack them with your success. Their way doesn't have to be your own. Learn the basics, master the foundation and change the rules as many times as you desire with integrity.
Latoya Shauntay Snell
For my pretentious ass bio, check out the about me page but for anyone interested in who I really am, make me a good meal at your house and I'll tell you a dope ass story.
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