Owning Athleticism, If You Want To

I feel inspired today.

Maybe because I watched this video, which I’ve seen several times before, and have never failed to cry through.

Have you heard of Team Hoyt? Take the time to watch the video if you haven’t. Have a hankie handy, though, I’m warning you.

Dick Hoyt is 70 years old. He’s pushing his son, Rick, who has cerebral palsy, in the Boston Marathon next month.

This is incredible on so many fronts. I mean, Dick Hoyt is 70. You got that part, right?  Their website says that in their first 5 mile run, which was a fundraiser for friend of Rick’s who was paralyzed, they came in second to last. Dick wasn’t 70 then, of course. He was 36. Since then, he and his son have run in more than 1000 races of all kinds, including several Ironman triathlons.

The Team Hoyt motto is simple. Yes, you can.

That’s it. Just: Yes, you can.

Folks: Team Hoyt is a shining star example of defiant athleticism.

I don’t know a lot, but I know this: I do not owe it to the world to save it from seeing me in a swimsuit. I do not owe it to the world to spare it the sight of my fat ass on a bicycle. And neither do you.

You also do not owe the world athleticism. You are under no obligation to be a defiant athlete.

I know that for many people (fat people especially, but I would bet that there are more slender people than we know who have the same experience), every ounce of joy has been sucked out of movement. Maybe even the word athlete is painful on a cerebral level. Maybe choosing not to exercise at all feels like where you’ve taken your stand against brutal middle school dodge ball games, being picked last for kickball and warming the bench at soccer games. Maybe never setting foot in a pair of running shoes is your double flying eagle to all the sociopathic gym teachers in your past.

Here’s what I believe though: if you want to, you can be an athlete. Not 100 pounds from now. Not when you can run a mile. Not when you join a team. You can be an athlete right this minute.

Even if you are not strong enough to walk around your block. Even if you have mobility issues. Even if you weigh 200 pounds or 340 pounds or 400 pounds. Even if you are the half-ton woman. Even, I swear to you, even if you are bed bound.

All you have to do is move with purpose. Whatever you can do, do it. And do it with the knowledge that you are an athlete in training.

You do not have to join a gym, take any classes, ride a bike, roller skate, run or even sweat. Not today.

I can almost promise you that you’ll want to, someday. But you don’t have to, not today.

Today, just feel how your legs work when you sit down and stand up out of your chair. Realize that every time you do that simple, functional act, you’re doing a chair squat.

If you’re able, walk a little. Go to the mail box, to the corner, around the corner, to the grocery store–whatever your capable of, do it today.

Even if you can’t walk, do something that is just a tiny bit past what you thought you could. And while you’re doing it, whatever it is, know you aren’t working out. You aren’t exercising. You’re in training.

Training for what? Maybe a triathlon or a roller derby team. But maybe you’re in training for remaining physically functional into your old age. Possibly, you’re in training for being able to bend enough to tie your own shoes. Or you could be training for the grocery-shop-without-a-scooter Olympics. How about being in training for being able to bake cookies without your back hurting?

I don’t know. But, I do know this: you don’t owe anyone athleticism. But if you choose to take that word back from the sweaty bully who stole it when you were 14, or to own it for the first time when you never thought you were entitled to it, you will feel like a super hero almost immediately.


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4 responses to “Owning Athleticism, If You Want To

  1. Amen. I didn’t discover exertion for the sheer fun of it until after I got free of high school and sociopathic gym teachers (and fellow students). With the exception of summer swimming with my family in Lake Michigan (brr) or in the pool, every mental association I had with “athletics” was negative. In my 20s I learned to run and enjoyed it, but then got a little too caught up in training for races and had to back off. Finally, in my 30s, I discovered that I had the combination of musical ability, rhythm and coordination that made dance the perfect sport for me (I never got put in ballet as a kid so my experience of dance is completely unspoiled). Everyone’s ideal physical activity is different, and getting regimented into ball sports and glorified sadism as the be-all and end-all of athleticism at an early age probably spoils it for a good many of us.

  2. meerkat

    This is a great post, but I have one question: does “training” require either consistency or actual improvement? I feel like it is implied but we are defying a lot of conventional wisdom already so maybe not. I would like to be more flexible but there is just no way I am going to remember and have time to stretch every day, and I don’t know if sporadic stretching will even maintain any additional flexibility I might manage to build up.

    • Hmmm . . . I need to think about this. My instinct is to say that training does require some commitment and maybe some consistency, although not daily work. For instance, I think three times a week flexibility training would be useful to you and do what you want it to, but that doing it say once a month probably wouldn’t. That being said, I do think that if your definition of ‘sporadic’ is doing it a few times a week, but just not at the same time and day each week, then yes, it would have the effect you want. I think even trying a yoga tape once a week would have a positive effect. I’m reviewing a really, really good one next week.

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