I used to think the athlete gene skipped me.
I grew up in a family that always prioritized sports and athletic activities. My mom always found time for exercise, and my dad is an endurance athlete and continues to do everything from skiing, to 50+ mile bike rides, to kiteboarding and more. Both my siblings excelled at sports in high school, and my brother even played college basketball.
I played sports in high school, and although I was never bad at basketball or soccer, it was also clear that neither was my calling. So when I went off to college I gave up all sports and anything even remotely athletically-related, resigned to thinking that I would be a weak, uncoordinated, non-athletic person for the rest of my life. And even when I got over that foolish belief and became a personal trainer while living in Amsterdam, I remained unconvinced of my athleticism and was constantly worried people would see through my facade and realize the fraud I really was.
Luckily, although it’s taken years longer than it should have, these days I finally believe deep down that I truly am an athlete.
In fact, I strongly believe that everyone is an athlete.
If you’re thinking, “no way Krista, I am definitely not an athlete,” trust me, I know how you feel—and I refuse to believe you. If you feel this way, you just haven’t discovered your potential as an athlete—yet.
But if you’re finding more and more that you’re actually enjoying your workouts and get excited to work on new skills like handstands, pull ups, or whatever your current fitness goal is, congratulations—you have officially embraced your inner athlete.
Here are four telltale signs you know you’ve finally embraced your inner athlete:
You Care About Performance More Than Appearance
When I used to only work out just to try and lose weight or work off last night’s pizza, my only focus was how my jeans fit and how small the number on the scale was. Sure, I always had somewhat of a competitive side and would always try to work harder than everyone at spin class or run faster than the other joggers around me, but ultimately what I really cared about was my appearance and health.
Yet as I got more into HIIT and became interested in sports like boxing, Krav Maga, and bodyweight training/calisthenics, something slowly started to shift. I began to work out not just to feel confident in my own body, but to get better at my sport. I became less concerned with the scale and more about how my workout would make me a stronger, better athlete.
So when you notice yourself caring more about how your workouts will affect your sport or fitness goals rather than how many calories you’ll burn, you’ll know you’ve officially embraced your inner athlete.
You Focus on Building Skills (Rather Than Just Getting Your Workout Over With)
Like most people, I used to absolutely dread my workouts (especially when running was my only form of exercise). At that time, my entire focus would be on getting my workout over with—the sooner I could be done with it, the better.
But as I started to have more and more athletic and fitness goals and began wanting to conquer cool exercises like handstands, pistols, and gymnastics skills, something changed. My workouts started to feel more like play time, a time to experiment and see all that my body could accomplish. They became less torture and more fun.
If this sounds crazy to you, just try and think about something you enjoy and how it seems to transport you to a space where it feels less like work and more like fun. It could be anything—dancing, ultimate frisbee, rock climbing, skiing, you name it. We’re all good at different things, so don’t limit yourself to the belief that you’re only an athlete if you’re good at traditional sports like football or basketball.
Because when you start wanting to build skills or get excited about working towards a cool fitness goal, no matter what your current level—you’re officially an athlete.
You Start Treating Food as Fuel
I’ll be the first to admit that I used to treat calories as the ultimate enemy. Back when I would work out just to lose weight, I had an extremely unhealthy mindset that the less I ate, the better. In my mind, food was evil, and the less calories I consumed, the better of a person I was.
Obviously, this is an extremely unhealthy take on food and I hope that all of you are smarter than me and have never had such a negative relationship with food. Yet the ironic thing is that once I started treating food as fuel for my workouts and life, not only did I actually get to eat more than ever, I was able to maintain a level of leanness I never could before.
So that moment that you start thinking of food and how it will affect your workouts, your mood, and your mental sharpness, that moment when you embrace food as the way to getting stronger, fitter, and more athletic—that’s the moment you know you’re an athlete.
You No longer Look Forward to Rest Days
Like most people, rest days used to be my favorite days of the week. I would look forward to not working out, being lazy, and pretty much not moving all day long.
But two things started to happen:
First, I started to actually get disappointed that I wouldn’t get to work on whatever skills I was currently focusing on. This was a completely new concept to me, that a person could actually look forward to their workouts and regret the days that they couldn’t work out.
Yet as I came to accept more and more that I really was an athlete, this began to make much more sense. When you have a goal and something to work towards, it’s much harder to take any time off (though it’s absolutely necessary, so don’t skip it).
Second, I started to miss the mental and physical benefits I got from my workouts. I realized that on days when I worked out I felt clearer headed, less anxious, and more confident. I felt like I could deal better with any tough thing that came my way, and nearly always felt less stressed and more energized after my workout than I did before it. I realized more and more that my workouts had become a sort of meditation for me, a chance for me to feel “in the zone” and forget about anything else I had been worrying about.
So when you start looking more forward to your workout days than your rest days, you’ve officially embraced your inner athlete.
You Are An Athlete
No matter what your current fitness level, you are an athlete.
If you move, you’re an athlete.
If you try, you’re an athlete.
If you think you’re an athlete, you are one.
“If you have a body, you are an athlete.” – Bill Bowerman, co-founder of Nike