Are you an athlete? How do I become an athlete?

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mathiverse
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Are you an athlete? How do I become an athlete?

Post by mathiverse »

I wouldn't consider myself an athlete. I run three times a week without a particular plan. I'm not much of a sports or fitness person and I never have been, but I'd like to get to a point where I consider myself an athlete. I don't know how to get there so I'm curious about the experience of other forumites.

Do you consider yourself an athlete? Why? What tips do you have for someone wanting to be more serious about acting and thinking like an athlete?

ETA: Removed part of the post
Last edited by mathiverse on Sun Sep 27, 2020 10:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.

2Birds1Stone
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Re: Are you an athlete? How do I become an athlete?

Post by 2Birds1Stone »

I think if you're training regularly, with any kind of commitment to incremental progress, you can consider yourself an athlete. There is a wide span of athletes, ranging from hobbyists to competitive professionals.

I purposefully bolded the word above, because it comes down to your state of mind, with the rest coming more naturally. Do you have any goals with running? If not, that's ok, but if you're trying to get faster, build endurance, maintain general fitness/health, lose/maintain weight, etc, then you have a loose goal.

Personally, I've considered myself an athlete for the past 12 years. I was once very obese and incredibly out of shape, and through activity changed my life/health around. It became somewhat of an addiction, and over the years has waned and evolved to a fantastic set of hobbies with mild competitiveness.

2008-2009 - weightlifting w/ purpose of gaining muscle while losing fat, sprinkled in some mountain biking for cardio
2009-2014 - competitive drug free bodybuilding (more of a beauty pageant than a sport) and amateur powerlifting (Squat, Bench, Deadlift)
2015-2017 - Learned how to swim and started doing triathlons, went from Sprint distance to Half IRONMAN, weightlifting for fun
2017-Current - Got serious about mountain biking, completed my first 6 hour endurance race last fall. Cycled (road) 50-75 miles every weekend for fun, continued to get more serious in the gym, running sporadically.

2021 and beyond - will weightlift for fun, run 1-2x a week (short distances) and do some fun runs (5K's, Brewery runs, etc), and want to get more into MTB, race MTB, and try some different styles of MTB that were not possible where I used to live the past 10 years (mostly cross country, singletrack).



As far as branching out and becoming a more rounded athlete yourself, think about what it is you hope to get out of sport/activity.

For strength/weight training, I highly recommend reading/trying Starting Strength - Mark Rippetoe
For running, if you're looking to get faster/build endurance, maybe sign up for a race that slightly outside of your comfort zone, and start tracking your workouts a bit more.....if you're running for fun/freedom, this may shift the dynamic and have a negative impact on your enjoyment.
Are there any other sports that you are interested in trying/learning? Personally I would love to try BJJ once this COVID thing blows over.

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Re: Are you an athlete? How do I become an athlete?

Post by Solvent »

a) Do you train intentionally in your sport, with a definite goal in mind?
b) Do you compete, in more than a "just for fun" sense?

If both, then you're probably an athlete.
I think it's possible to have a xor b and probably still not fulfil my sense of being an athlete. If you're training to shed 5 kg by Christmas, yeah you're training intentionally but you might not be an athlete. If you take the darts competition down at the pub seriously, but you do don't train intentionally for it outside of competition nights, then you might not be an athlete.

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Re: Are you an athlete? How do I become an athlete?

Post by Seppia »

I am definitely not an athlete today, but I have been for about 10 years, peaking at 18 years of age when I was playing waterpolo competing for a national title (junior athletes).
I have three teammates that went on to play for the national team, plus another two or three that played in some of the under-something national team.
I wasn’t that good but could definitely have played in some other country’s under-something team (I know because in France I played waterpolo in the university team and was as good as a guy playing in the French national team - I was just a little weaker because we trained only three times / week).

At 18 years of age we would train three hours per day, plus two games over the weekend.
We swam 6km per day on average (that’s a lot, believe me), plus all the training with the ball.

I would set the bar of “being an athlete” at around 10 hours of (hard) training per week, because that’s when you become superhuman from a normal human being’s perspective.
Last edited by Seppia on Sun Sep 27, 2020 2:14 am, edited 1 time in total.

2Birds1Stone
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Re: Are you an athlete? How do I become an athlete?

Post by 2Birds1Stone »

Solvent wrote:
Sun Sep 27, 2020 1:59 am
If you take the darts competition down at the pub seriously, but you do don't train intentionally for it outside of competition nights, then you might not be an athlete.
"There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games"

- Ernest Hemingway

Alphaville
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Re: Are you an athlete? How do I become an athlete?

Post by Alphaville »

2Birds1Stone wrote:
Sun Sep 27, 2020 2:14 am
"There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games"

- Ernest Hemingway
lol @ hemingway. i like him a lot but he was just going by the rule of 3s there




i was an “athlete” during my teenage years due to family rule that we all had to practice a sport because “it keeps you away from drugs” :lol: (my parents never read the basketball diaries i guess). i swam and rowed crew competitively in my teens. i preferred the library and philosophical discussions, but i was time-limited from them. in my university years i didn’t have the time or inclination to train 5 hours a days (mornings on the boates, evenings at the gym), so i picked up some sports-related skills instead (martial arts, that sort of thing). just to learn, not to compete.

anyway, athletic practice turns a pleasurable activity (running, swimming, riding a bicycle, rowing a boat, lifting weights, punching a heavy bag, whatever) into a socially structured “competition” with its assortment of personalities and situations, from the ancient greek olympics to the nfl. also it turns fun games like soccer or baseball into ruthless competition where chesting and dirty moves are normalized. this may or may not be enjoyable for you. also, injuries inevitably happen to the competitive set, and there is a whole branch of the medical industry devoted to athletic maintenance & repair: make sure you have the right insurance and a good orthopedist.

i’ve always loved riding my bicycle and i think the secret to the endurance of that pursuit is that i’ve never involved any other people or programs or enganged any sort of bean-counting in it. also i try to avoid lycra. i just love to pedal and roam aimlessly and discover places. everything else is “work.”

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Re: Are you an athlete? How do I become an athlete?

Post by jacob »

I'll just add a bit based on my own meandering experience in these matters. I agree that it's a sliding scale (Wheaton levels, yay!) with increasingly more "athletic" aspects.

Being an athlete means being focused on physical performance. Usually the goal is competition, but I think arranging one's life around improving and maximizing physical(*) performance is a bigger tell of how serious one is as an athlete. Aside from the obvious training a lot, there's a plan which involves increasingly more aspects of one's life like diet, sleep, recovery, periodization, and cross-training in order to maximize performance in one's chosen field. Health might even give to the wayside here; also see performance enhancing drugs.

In that regard, one could say the same about "being a professional" in that there's no "no true Scotsman" qualifier that decides who is an athlete and who is not. Rather, it's a matter of athleticism increasingly taking over one's life.

(*) I'm not sure I'd call e-sports, chess, or fly fishing athletic pursuits. I mean I can see where they're coming from ... so I'm not going to push it.

I've trained 5-10 hours per week most years since I was a kid, so going on my 4th decade now, yet I've never considered myself an athlete. I put in the hours and showed up at competitions (up to the regional level) but I've never taken it seriously enough to change any of the other aspects (food, etc.). I've had one coach introducing such changes way back, but I didn't understand why. Some took it to heart and I didn't and eventually they got better and I dropped out. The result is that I'm basically good (performant) enough to hang with athletes my own age w/o embarrassing myself, but not/never good enough to beat them. Conversely, I'm in much better shape than most normal people half my age.

Thus from the perspective of my Wheaton level, the next level up would be to change my diet and sleep patterns (no more coffee or junk food) and follow a training plan rather than just "work out" according to what I feel like. If I did that and started signing up to compete, I'd consider myself an athlete. Right now, my lackadaisical attitude towards food and sleep means I'm limited to where I am lest I overtrain, and w/o the ability to train more, I'm never going to be competitive with those who do.

Hristo Botev
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Re: Are you an athlete? How do I become an athlete?

Post by Hristo Botev »

If by athlete you mean being a generally fit and well-rounded strong person, with what I'm hearing thrown around lately as being "functionally strong," then an exercise routine like what Jacob laid out I'd think would be a great start. And there's all sorts of various routines/approaches out there--e.g., the kettlebell focused stuff like Simple & Sinister, the barbell focused stuff like the 5x5, and any number of great bodyweight-only stuff--the important part I think: like with everything else, you can weigh the pros and cons of various routines FOREVER, all the while getting less and less fit; the only thing that really matters is that you do SOMETHING--you can tweak all you want once you have a base from which to work.

If by athlete you mean some sort of competitive pursuit--whether group-based or individual--find something you're interested in and just start doing it. E.g., I don't particularly like basketball, but I enjoy team sports and so I play in a fairly regular pick-up game in my parish gym. And as I get older I find that I have an increasingly large advantage over my "competition" because I have some baseline of functional strength (via kettlebells) and endurance (from jogging). Honestly, it also helped that I never played basketball competitively when I was in high school, etc., so that my body doesn't have the muscle memory to think it can still do stuff that it clearly can't any more (i.e., the people who seem to get injured in our pick-up games are generally guys who played at pretty high levels in high school and in college, who've yet to figure out how to play given their old man physical restraints).

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Re: Are you an athlete? How do I become an athlete?

Post by Seppia »

jacob wrote:
Sun Sep 27, 2020 8:48 am
Aside from the obvious training a lot, there's a plan which involves increasingly more aspects of one's life like diet, sleep, recovery, periodization, and cross-training in order to maximize performance in one's chosen field. Health might even give to the wayside here; also see performance enhancing drugs.
In order to train (hard) 10 hours a week or more, it's impossible to completely dismiss sleep, recovery and diet.
Drink too much even once and you won't be able to train hard the next day
Same if you sleep 3 hours.
If you eat badly your body won't recover well enough/you won't have the necessary energy to do it.

Also, from my point of view, most people who exercise don't train hard, they just exercise, which is very different: when you are training hard, you often feel like you may puke and/or when done you are literally gasping for air. I think you had a similar description somewhere.

mooretrees
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Re: Are you an athlete? How do I become an athlete?

Post by mooretrees »

I don't have a hard and fast rule of who an athlete is based on hours of exercise, it's more of an intuitive assessment of how someone moves when they're playing a sport or some other activity. If they move as if they have used their body, they are an athlete. Not a useful concept perhaps for the OP, but it is a vague term when it comes to adult life, at least I think so.

I played soccer in college (DI for my last year, DII the other three years) and so I feel like I might have a bias towards thinking folks who played sports are more athletic. I was never really hard core during my soccer days, but my three nephews who have all wrestled at DI schools were/are very hard core. They all lived and breathed wrestling, even during off season. A deep focus on food, training (physical and mental), and surrounding themselves with other wrestlers who were better were their normal practices. One is now a Navy Seal....they have an intense family I guess.

I think others have offered suggestions for how they've gotten to their athletic situation, but I'm curious what the difference in being fit and being an athlete means to the OP? Why is being an athlete desirable?

mathiverse
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Re: Are you an athlete? How do I become an athlete?

Post by mathiverse »

“To use a sports analogy, this book will teach you how to think and work out like an athlete so that you can become an athlete, rather than present a few easy workouts to lose a few pounds and "get into shape" before the beach season begins.”

Excerpt From: Fisker, Jacob Lund. “Early Retirement Extreme: A philosophical and practical guide to financial independence.”
This is what prompted this question. While I was reading the ERE book I came across this quote and was wondering what the athlete side of things would look like. (I'll note this is not what the containing section of the book was about.) I asked more for opinions from those who would consider themselves athletes to see if I could get an idea of what I was missing if anything.

I don't know if being an athlete is desirable in general, but I'd like to be one at some point so I can see if it's desirable for me.

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Dream of Freedom
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Re: Are you an athlete? How do I become an athlete?

Post by Dream of Freedom »

I don't consider myself an athlete but I my guess is the best place to start is by joining a completion and start training for it. It just seems like you talk about this as though it is something to have as part of your identity rather than something you do. Though it can be part of one's identity, it is the act of doing it that makes it so..

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C40
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Re: Are you an athlete? How do I become an athlete?

Post by C40 »

Why do you want to be an athlete?

Alphaville
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Re: Are you an athlete? How do I become an athlete?

Post by Alphaville »

mathiverse wrote:
Sun Sep 27, 2020 6:08 pm
I don't know if being an athlete is desirable in general, but I'd like to be one at some point so I can see if it's desirable for me.
it’s not desirable in general, but it’s desirable specifically if it provides purpose and meaning to your life.

in other words, there’s a cost: an opportunity cost in time spent away from other activities, and a physical cost of wear & tear & injuries. of course there are also physical benefits it’s not all injuries lol. worth it? up to you and what you value.

e.g, if you’re a runner: https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/ ... reatment#1

what’s generally desirable is to have a decent level of fitness. not just cardio, but also strength and balance/coordination/flexibility/etc, which actually protects you from damage.

i do exercises to prevent/compensate for wear and tear and injuries and imbalances (some developed, some innate). a bit like this:

https://www.mensjournal.com/health-fitn ... nt-injury/

but i work with a coach/physical therapist as needed, tailored for me, rather than learn from a website. these sorts of of exercises help with whatever sport you might be doing.

eg: https://howtorunguide.com/prevent-runners-knee/

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Re: Are you an athlete? How do I become an athlete?

Post by jacob »

mathiverse wrote:
Sun Sep 27, 2020 6:08 pm
I don't know if being an athlete is desirable in general, but I'd like to be one at some point so I can see if it's desirable for me.
Most people go to the gym "to lose a few pounds" by "exercising" or "working out" in order to look good and because a basic level of health demands it (30 mins of brisk walking level effort per day). If they could eat a pill to to take care of that they would never step foot in a gym. Physically speaking, all they want from their body is the ability to stand up, sit down, walk a short distance, and maybe do a couple of flights of stairs. The world is built for this. Think uncomfortable (but nice looking) shoes, escalators, elevators, cars, e-bikes, ...

The financial analogy is that most people really care what anything costs as long as they have enough money to buy it. They're willing to use a few hacks to keep their budget looking good and their retirement savings on track, but there's no deeper motivation to consider one's finances in detail other than not running out of money to spend.

An athlete goes to the gym to "train" in order to get physically stronger, faster, and better. Some would take a pill too but there are skills that can't be acquired this way, such as agility and efficiency of movement(*), so they still go. Physically speaking, their body is machine they build and tune to varying degrees and purposes. Maybe it's for a specific sport or maybe they just like to have a physically capable body like some people like to drive a race car even if they're not racing it.

(*) "Moves like an athlete".

The difference is that most people use a satisficing criterion for physical performance---as long as it's good enough they don't care---whereas athletes use an optimizing criterion for performance---"it never gets easier, you just go faster". There are two principal differences here. The first one is that for most people physical performanince is just a minor component of who they are whereas for athletes it is the reason for their entire lifestyle. The second one, which Seppia mentioned, is that at around 10 hrs/week of intense exercise, the difference in performance is Wheaton levels apart. This means that the athlete has access to a world that most people don't e.g. hiking longer distances, lifting heavier stuff, higher work capacity, jumping out of the way, ... and of course participating in sports that most people are stuck with just watching from the sidelines... but also the feeling of always having to drive a Tesla Roadster at 20mph when stuck with other people in traffic. It's not like an athlete is 10% or 30% better than someone who gets a light sweat in a few times a week. They're often 100-300% better than the average human. Also see, viewtopic.php?t=6588

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Re: Are you an athlete? How do I become an athlete?

Post by Scott 2 »

An athlete competes at a high level, making significant sacrifices to do so. It annoys me when the label is handed out like candy. Doing a burpee or walking a 5k doesn't count.

My suggestion would be to understand the sacrifices an athlete makes. Yes, they get to run a high performance machine. But, the toll on the body is high and it re-arranges the entire lifestyle. Most athletes tolerate daily discomfort higher than 90% of the population ever experiences. Athletics are about winning, not health.

IMO, unless you are wired to be that type of person, it is not worth it. I have never been and will never be an athlete. I casually participated in some sports growing and am a lifetime exerciser. Those aren't even close to making an athlete.

I think there is a lower bar, of being generally fit, that may be worth aspiring to. IMO even that needs to come through activity you enjoy. Exercise might increase your lifespan (and healthspan), but that increase is spent doing the exercise. Grinding an elliptical for 30 minutes every day is not worth it, at least to me.

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Re: Are you an athlete? How do I become an athlete?

Post by Alphaville »

Scott 2 wrote:
Mon Sep 28, 2020 11:18 am
An athlete competes at a high level, making significant sacrifices to do so. It annoys me when the label is handed out like candy. Doing a burpee or walking a 5k doesn't count.[...] Most athletes tolerate daily discomfort higher than 90% of the population ever experiences. Athletics are about winning, not health.
this hits the nail right on the head. emphasis mine.
Scott 2 wrote:
Mon Sep 28, 2020 11:18 am
Grinding an elliptical for 30 minutes every day is not worth it, at least to me.
it’s boring, but besides enjoyable activity there are 2 ways to get around it if there’s no other option, e.g. trapped indoors.

1) ditch slow cardio and do hiit, which shaves significant time off any and all workouts.

2) if you can’t do hiit due to health issues (eg cardiac), use the slow elliptical torment to catch up with news, podcasts, tv, etc. multitasking can be ok when walking and chewing gum. sometimes you can even hang out with the tourist hordes ha ha https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Iu4oeKSSVWc

beyond that, consider benefits beyond life extension to recalculate tradeoff, such as improved cognitive performance. eg see: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2 ... 090055.htm

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Re: Are you an athlete? How do I become an athlete?

Post by jacob »

This thread is ripe for a Wheaton table. It should be possible to construct it since there are at least a couple (as far as I know) of former pro/international-level athletes present making it possible to draw on their experience and go fairly high up the scale if they want to. Regardless of what it takes to be a true Scotsman^H^H^H^Hathlete, it's interesting to think about. I think a Wheaton table of athletics will show the same as the ERE Wheaton table in the progression from "doesn't really think about it" over "puts in significant effort on a hobby basis" to ultimately becoming "a defining lifestyle/livelihood commitment". Such a table might entail hours/week, workout strategy, diet, recovery, perspective on health and injuries, performance relative to the average human, ...

Hristo Botev
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Re: Are you an athlete? How do I become an athlete?

Post by Hristo Botev »

Just don't do a WL for being the parent of an athlete; the WL6/7 of your kids' athletic pursuits "becoming 'a lifestyle/livelihood commitment'" would probably not be something anyone would want to aspire to (and yet, we do it).

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Re: Are you an athlete? How do I become an athlete?

Post by 2Birds1Stone »

I disagree that in order to be considered an athlete you need to "suck it up for x hours a week to the detriment of your health" or perform at an extremely high level. That would be the difference between a competitive athlete (IE placing top 3 in regional amateur competitions), and a hobbyist athlete. Jacobs idea for a Wheaton scale is a good one, but just because someone doesn't strive to chose performance over health/enjoyment of whatever sport they participate, doesn't mean they aren't an athlete.

From Merriam-Webster;

"athlete noun
ath·​lete | \ ˈath-ˌlēt , nonstandard ˈa-thə-ˌlēt \
Definition of athlete
1: a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina"

Where do you draw the line? Who knows, and I agree that walking a 5k doesn't make you an athlete, but what about running a <4:00 marathon? I would wager that 99% of the US population wouldn't be able to complete a marathon, and of those who could, maybe the top 10-20% could accomplish this feat. Is a sub 4:00 marathoner an athlete?

Going to the gym and putzing around on resistance machines aimlessly may not make you an athlete, but what about someone who achieves a 3x bodyweight deadlift?

I think anyone who knows how to swim can likely finish a Sprint or Olympic distance triathlon, but what about someone who completes a full Iron distance (140.6 mile) in sub 12:00? This could be done with less than 10 hours of training (on average) per week......yet something unattainable by 99.999% of the human population.

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