I see the term athlete used all over the place these days. You can make an argument that will sound logical on every side of the spectrum. Some think if you exercise or play a sport at any level then you are an athlete. On the other side, many think that you must be paid for your given sport or compete at a very high level to be called an athlete. To me what makes an athlete different than just someone who exercises or plays a sport recreationally is that an athlete trains for their given task. That probobly sounds pretty ambiguous so lets break it down.
To me training is all encompasing but is predicated by a couple of very important factors: they train under a plan, they mitigate the stressors of exercise and life with good recovery habits, they eat for a goal, and finally they are dedicated to the goal.
First, an athlete trains under a plan. They do not things just becasue they sound hard, easy, rad, cool, or becasue it is some crap they read on a blog. The plan is there to provide focused, smart stressors that lead to increase in performance. Wheather you know it or not, if you go to CrossFit Albuquerque you are training under a plan. All of the coaches put alot of effort into building long term improvement mixed with specific workouts that have an intent and a purpose. We do things to improve your capacity in the areas of streangth, power, speed, endurance, and power endurance. We do not throw crap on a white board and call it exercise. This applies from Function on up to Wolf Pack. So the moral of the story is follow the plan and you will see gains.
Next, an athlete mitigates the stressors of exercise and life with focused recovery. A hard workout can be a negative without proper recovery. Add a bad day, or week, or month in your personal life and if you dont control those negative stressors then you will see little or no gains. You can read more about that here.
Food. An athlete eats for a goal. Food is fuel. It is not our woobie. It is not there to make you feel warm an fuzzy. It is there to give you the energy and recovery needed to accomplish your given task for the day. Im not saying, that you shouldnt enjoy food. But remember that you will only get so far if you fuel with crappy food. An athlete pays attention to what they put into their body.
Finally, an athlete is dedicated to the task. The task could be to loose weight, or snatch 245, or win the Boston Marathon, or win the CrossFit Games. To me it doesnt matter what the task is, but the task must be important enough to cause behavioral changes that lead to that person changing from someone who only thinks about the task or sport when faced with it to a person who thinks and acts because they are an athlete in that task or sport. Dedication can take many forms but the biggest thing I look for is that the athlete moves from thinking or talking to doing. You must do the task to be better. You must eat well to be better. You must sleep better to be better. You get the idea. It is not enough to talk, you must walk the walk.
So why do I bring all this up? Because this last weekend I saw some serious athletes walk onto the field from CrossFit Albuquerque. I saw athletes from our gym from scaled to fire breather show that they were dedicated, followed a plan and recovered and ate to be better…than them selves and the competition. I was proud beyond measure to see everyones performance out at Boxtoberfest and to hear of Tana winning the Duke City Marathon. So is athlete an overused term? Probably, but not here.