How to Become an Athlete

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If your definition of an athlete is "someone who participates in competitive sports," then you've probably made the jump from casual exerciser to athlete. But what does it really mean to be an athlete? My coaching definition goes a bit deeper.

An athlete is an individual who understands the principles of athletic training and proceeds systematically.

This distinction is important in order to understand an individual's commitment level, which will help guide you (and your coach) in training. Sound too stuffy? Relax. According to the first definition, you're still an athlete. 

The goal is always to improve performance. And while genetics plays a big role in an individual's physiological ceiling, lifestyle choices, commitments, economic and social limits, desire and even luck prevent many athletes from achieving their full potential.

Here are a few things you can do to become more like an athlete...or at least act like one.

Keep a Training Log

Training logs reveal a lot. If you hope to make improvements and have meaningful communication with a coach, you should keep a detailed training log. Clear, accurate information, including short journal style entries are crucial.

"And how did you feel about that?" is one of my favorite questions to ask, and while it amuses me to embellish the question with a flourish; the answers are, in fact, very informative.

Read and Absorb

Seeking guidance and information is a key element to any improvements we make in our sport. As with everything, however, you need to consider the source you are referencing.

I've always been baffled by the actions of otherwise intelligent, educated people who get caught up in the local scene, succumb to peer pressure, and blindly follow the impassioned advice of the local hot-shot. If blowing the weekly group training session apart is your ultimate goal, you may find success with minimal discipline, but hopefully you aspire to something more.

Maintain Discipline

It's likely that you have books about your sport right on your shelf. A common theme in cycling literature is a systematic approach to training, yet how often do athletes herd up for the group session, complaining of exhaustion, and then proceed to annihilate each other even though a light recovery ride would have been more beneficial?

As fun and cool as it is to beat your mates across an imaginary finish line, think how cool you'll be when that line is real and the world is watching.

Find Balance

For continued, long term athletic progress, balance is fundamental. From the moment you stand up from the couch, cookie crumbs cascading to the floor, and declare your intention to become an athlete, you need to learn to balance your act. If you manage to juggle commitments, obligations, work, play and sport well, your road to athleticism will be all the more swift.

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