The Athlete’s Secret

“I’m glad I cast an athlete,” my producer said to me half way through our commercial shoot. “I sure wouldn’t have the stamina to box all day.”

Athlete?? I was flattered. I don’t consider myself an athlete. Yes, I bounce around my living room or play on my Pilates equipment on a regular basis, but I don’t I don’t excel at any sport. I don’t run or train for marathons or triathlons. I only move my body in ways that feel fun and feel good. I do this so that I feel strong and flexible and can engage in my daily life activities with zest and ease.

That’s not what “athletes” do, is it? Well, I guess that depends on your definition of athlete. Since we were shooting the commercial in a real gym and had limited space, the wardrobe and makeup departments took over the staff meeting rooms for the day. And I was privy to some old meeting notes still scribbled on a white board.

According to the staff at Club Zum, the hallmarks of a “Life Athlete” are:

Number 4: Confidence and Capacity

Number 3: Improvement in Movement

Number 2: Sustainability

And…. Ta-da!!!

Number 1: Happiness in your body!!

I was thrilled to see the leadership team of a gym embody these perspectives and attitudes. And it shows that, at an individual level, there really are great trainers who can support us in developing strong relationships with our bodies through sustainable, enjoyable activities.

However, this is in stark contrast to what I hear most people experiencing.

In response to a friend’s witty Facebook comment about the relativity of time while exercising (Time on a bicycle goes by in “dog years.” Time on an exercise bike goes by in human years), someone posted “It’s why I call my bike trainer a bike “drainer”…the treadmill is named the “dreadmill.”

Now, being a Facebook post, this could simply be a tongue-in-cheek, light-hearted response with the sole purpose of continuing the humor and social bonding. But they say there is a bit of truth in every lie, so I often wonder if there isn’t a little bit of truth in these seemingly innocent remarks.

And if the bike really is a “drainer” and the treadmill really a “dreadmill,” why on earth would this person work out with them?  Is the practice really sustainable? And even if this person could muster up the willpower to force herself through the unpleasant workout, my question is still why? Why would anyone force him or herself to engage in unpleasant workouts? And the only answer I ever get to this question is some variation that ultimately ends with “it burns a lot of calories.”

And therein lies the distinction between those “athletes” exercising for confidence, capacity, improvement, sustainability and happiness – who do seem to get the results they seek – and those battling their weight, exercising to burn calories – who never seem to get or to be able to keep the results they seek.

Engaging in unpleasant exercise activities simply to burn calories is a sure sign that our thinking is askew and that we are out of alignment. To help us shift our perspectives and relationships to exercise, let us embrace the hallmarks of the Life Athlete. We forget the calories, and instead focus on sustainability and happiness in our bodies.