Perspectives of Athletics
People look at athletes and think they have it all. They see the professional contracts, the chiseled bodies, the emotional happy moments of winning. What they don’t see is the sacrifices to get there. I’d never trade being an athlete, its been a thrilling experience but I do have realizations that I’ve noticed in my time off, (spent being a “muggle” or a “non-athletic regular person”) and this perspective shift is something that I now feel ready to share.
I was a competitive gymnast growing up who transitioned into doing bikini bodybuilding (for a hot second) and then became a competitive Olympic Weightlifter. So, to say that athletics have been in my genes and part of my life is an understatement. I picked up on movement easily and I was kinesthetically aware more than other kids my age. I struggled with focus in school, but I excelled in athletics so that is where my joy for life came out. Gymnastics took me far, taught me work ethic and focus. It transferred into my school work and made me a person who perseveres through struggles. Bodybuilding required an even higher intensity and an insane amount of discipline from nutrition to being hyperaware of your own physical flaws and working toward improvement. Bodybuilding taught me to focus on a long term goal and accomplish it & to spend every piece of the day pushing to be a better athlete, to the point where the last two weeks of prep my motto was “ be a robot”....it worked! 🤖🤣
Olympic Weightlifting is a totally different beast in comparison to gymnastics or bodybuilding. However, I’d say that it is most similar to gymnastics. Olympic weightlifting also taught me to demand perfection but in a different way- it taught me to relax about the bad days, to make each repetition a tiny bit better than the last and to push myself even when I didn’t think it was possible to do more. (This is why you see lifters laying on the floor looking half dead after they squat or do clean and jerk triples #cardi-NO) Olympic Weightlifting taught me how to lose 5 pounds the night before a competition and then go in and win the event even after boiling off your water weight and almost passing out just a few hours beforehand! (Not a fun time- but the wins are always worth it!) I learned to love my body for how it performs for me and to be proud of what it accomplishes instead of critiquing my physical flaws. From hitting personal bests or just being able to make it through a difficult session, the feelings of satisfaction are something that money cannot buy. The numerous competitions, medals and accomplishments that all of these sports (mainly gymnastics & weighlifting) have brought me to appreciate my work ethic and understand that it takes major sacrifices to get anywhere in a sport. The highlights of my athletic career have included some memories that I’d never want to trade. Some of these memories are so deep that it is as almost as if I blacked out during specific competitions, that is how much of a flow zone I will get into. (It is so odd but I do not remember my best competitions. I remember arriving and weighing in but I never remember the full lift! The brain is amazing!)
But what happens when you can’t do your sport? You may go through a period where you resent it or you think deeply about what athletics means to you…I sure have. Burning questions like these ran through my mind for a while and now I’m ready to share them.
Why do I do my sport? What makes me enjoy it so deeply? Am I hiding myself behind my sport. Do I enjoy the pain my sport produces? Am I shutting out other things in life to focus on sport? Is my sport a form of coping/ stress relief? Is my sport the only way I release my emotions or my energy? Do I use my sport for some control over other aspects life?
The last 4 months have taught me quite a lot. I stopped doing my sport cold turkey on June 23rd. Initially I was upset but I knew my body needed a break, so the first two weeks it felt nice to have off. I had time in my schedule that I wasn’t used to- I mean I had an extra 15(ish) hours a week! My aches and pains decreased fast. It was soon afterwards where those burning questions came to hit me. Sports have been the way I let out my “energy.” I’ve said that most of my life, however lately I’m seeing that there are other ways to let it out. This energy and stress that I let out in the gym, I have now realized was a mixture of pent up negative emotions, anger and traumas that may not have been resolved inside. Sports work well for that, especially ones where you are smashing around heavy weighted objects! I noticed that I enjoy the pain my sport produces, I enjoy the suffering because it helped me feel my negative emotions. In the past few months I’ve learned to be in the present moment. Meditating and acupuncture have been life-changing for me because it has allowed me to sit with the different things that I’ve been through and accept different pieces of myself. I’ve learned that I don’t need to control every aspect of my life using my sport and that changing my perspective and accepting this can be the path toward healing.
So, as an athlete at heart, I think my perspective has changed. When I come back to my sport I’ll be able to partake in it differently. I don’t think I will use it to control my life like I have in the past or to be the only way to get rid of my negative emotions. I think I will look at my sport as an addition to me as a person instead of it being the only part of me that I loved. I will still love the competition and I will still love the adrenaline, however these last four months have taught me to also love myself, to value myself as a human and not just as an athlete.
I’ve decided that I am whole without my sport....to me, that is true healing. ⚡️