The Road to Fitville 9.12: me, an athlete?

When someone called me an athlete the other day, I had to laugh. If I haven’t made it abundantly clear through this series of posts, I did not grow up athletic. Far from it. This person also had me pegged as a holier-than-thou vegan. They were so totally wrong, unless you consider an athlete someone who can jog for up to 10 minutes at a time, and a vegan someone who devours cream-filled desserts every day and who still mourns the closing of the hot dog stands at Home Depot.

I’m incredibly proud of the fit and healthy lifestyle I’m building for myself, and the profusion of walks, bike rides, jogs, races, and hikes I’ve taken this summer. And every week my husband and I make a game of trying to eat everything that comes in our organic produce delivery box. But I still eat my share of ice cream, and when it comes down to exercise I have – until today – considered myself only slightly more active than average.

Then researching for this post I learned the startling truth that according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention more than half of Americans do not engage in enough daily physical activity of any kind to gain any health benefits. Whoa. I think I have a new cause. To promote the idea that it’s normal for every person to at least take a walk every day. I thought about my struggle to get more active, and how relative fitness is. At my lowest point of inactivity I was still taking walks, and yet half my country does less than that.

I started to reconsider. Am I an athlete?

The other night I heard Stephanie Pearl-McPhee speak at a local bookstore. She’s known as the “yarn harlot” and she writes knitting books both funny and profound. At one point in her knitting stand-up routine she talked about how knitting is neither an art or a craft, but a sport. She read a definition of “sport” that was something like “a physical activity that one engages in for enjoyment and to develop skill…” Okay, I thought, I’m really good at knitting. If there’s one strong part of my body it’s my hands. I even recently won a 3rd place ribbon for my shawl at the Oregon State Fair.

So in the world of knitting I’ll claim my status as an athlete. And maybe I’ll rethink what it means in terms of my daily bike rides and jogs and the races I enter but never ever will win. As I develop this new self-image as an athlete, I hope I can convince some of my fellow Americans that an athlete is a normal thing to be. That every one of us can do it in his or her own way.

Author by Larissa Brown