athlete. n. : a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina
Turns out? There's nothing in the definition that limits it to competitive athletes.
Just my head.
It's taken years for me to really accept that I am an athlete.
I was not athletic as a kid. Active, but not athletic. We took a lot of walks, some modest bike rides, and played outdoors. My parents were bookish folk, neither particularly athletic themselves (although I remember my mother walking to work for most of my childhood, and swimming at lunch until her mastectomy and associated lymphedema made that difficult). My sister and I were latch-key kids, and the schools we attended had minimal athletic programs at best. And there weren't all the programs there are now. I doubt there were soccer leagues.
I've often regretted that I wasn't involved in organized sports or, at least, organized exercise activity -- maybe not team sports, but something that had more structure.
When I was rehabbing from my shoulder surgery, I got a number of comments "oh, but you're an athlete", often referring to my gritting my teeth and enduring something excruciating in the physical therapy process. I remember being surprised by the description, even though I'd been doing trapeze for a couple of years by then. And one of my trapeze friends asked me then how I had become "such a jock" when I didn't have any childhood background in sports or competition.
I run, not well or fast or far, but for my sanity. I ran, similarly, in college. And I was reminded today by someone I knew in college that I very much hung out with our college's athletic culture. I had become "athletic" without realizing it. And El Bandito, who met me in college, said "I have always thought of you as athletic"
Graduate school squashed my activity. I was too tired and depressed and frustrated, although in the last year or two of dissertation hell, I started doing a lot more walking, hiking, and gym workouts. I needed the balance. And some shortish bike rides with El Bandito.
But it wasn't until I found trapeze that I really fell in love with an activity.
And then, activity it general.
Which is why I've been a cranky wench for the last 5 weeks with this ankle injury. A worse sprain than I had thought: Grade II tears of multiple ligaments, a pulled muscle and a bone bruise. 8-12 weeks with a major brace on it. No ankle catches.
No running. No running. No running. Did I mention? No running.
I've been on the trapeze. Frustratingly limited, but at least I'm getting some exercise and working on some things which needed work anyway. I've been allowed to bike to/from work for about 3 weeks, and I've been slowly adding a little extra in at least one direction. And I can walk up to about 2 miles/day. Just not downhill. PT 2x/week.
I grumbled about this to my primary care physician, and she just laughed and said "If I could get most of my patients to do your "limited" activity, I'd be thrilled." It's still not enough.
It turns out? I'm an athlete. A slow, non-competitive one, but an athlete. Who knew?