Nike says that "if you have a body, you're an athlete." That's BS, and it can lead to poor decisions and wasted energy that don't benefit you.
Of course, you may be an athlete. We've worked with clients competing at all levels in just about any sport or activity you can name. But the vast majority of people we work with are definitely not athletes.
What does that mean? Are we saying they're not good enough? Serious enough?
No. Simply that their lives don't revolve around their training.
This episode talks about the choice to become and athlete - and the choice not to. The latter gives you freedom to make different choices and to enjoy your practice in the best way for you.
Intro — Why We're Not Athletes
[00:00:00] Ryan: Hey everybody. This is Ryan and this is the Autonomy podcast. So this show we're going to help you learn how to use your body. I'm laughing because we're really going to piss some people off today. And I'm kind of excited for that.
You're going to hear all about how, Andy absolutely loves, hates CrossFit as well as why you should be eating those cupcakes, but the main topic of today, what we're going to be talking about is why not being an athlete is actually a good thing. Let's do it.
[00:00:30] Andy: All right. So we've got this cliche that everybody is an athlete. And I think especially now partially just due to the massive proliferation of video on the internet, it's much easier to show what people are doing. Well we see videos of things. One of the things that used to separate athletes from mortals is that athletes were on televised sports performance.
And now everybody who goes and knocks out five bench presses also has a video of that being seen by, maybe even millions of people. So it's really easy to think that this makes us athletes, but I think there's really important differences.
And I think that the notion that we all have to be athletes actually puts a lot of undue pressure on us. It makes us have to make choices differently. I think it's probably mostly destructive for most of us.
[00:01:24] Ryan: Yeah, I totally agree with you on that, a lot of people thinking that they have to be a certain way and we do have this pressure again, like you said, so you see the Instagram and Facebook or wherever you might see Tik TOK or something and see these people doing things. And that's just a small snapshot of what they're doing right there.
And maybe they think they're an athlete. But the thing is is just simply by seeing that and thinking that you need to be that way can be destructive. And today talking a little bit about the fact that we don't consider ourselves athletes. I used to compete in judo, gymnastics and things like that.
And in that case, yes, maybe I was an athlete of sorts, but still it was a hobby. And so this is the big thing, for me at least, is I'm not getting paid to do martial arts. I'm not getting paid to do gymnastics or things like that. Therefore, I'm not an athlete. And that's actually very freeing in terms of me thinking of myself, not as an athlete.
[00:02:15] Andy: But hold on, Ryan, you are getting paid to make fitness videos on the internet.
[00:02:22] Ryan: That is a good point, a very good point. But I think bringing it back to the point that I have the freedom to choose what I'm going to do, because I make it about me and not thinking that I need to be a particular way. I'm not on a team, I'm not putting myself into a certain position where it's just that, and this is kind of where we're going with this is that once you put yourself into a place and say that it is this way. You then have to look at it, doing it only that way. And that might not be the best choice for you in terms of a healthy lifestyle, in terms of looking at the rest of your lifestyle. This is where it can get a little bit into the gray area where a person could say, "Oh, I'm an athlete." And "Oh, you have to train like an athlete," or something like that.
So we're going to go more into that, but just basically letting you know. Helping you to understand that actually not being an athlete or not considering yourself an athlete is not only okay, but it's more than likely going to be better for you in the longrun.
[00:03:22] Andy: If you're listening to this and you're thinking, "Oh God, this is going to be 30 minutes of Ryan and Andy splitting semantic hairs, talking about like the definition of an athlete." And to a degree you're right but bear with us because just like the reason that we talk about autonomy rather than fitness, this happens to be a difference that makes a difference in the way you approach, the way you practice, the way you set up your schedule, your attention, the way you look at your priorities.
And this is something that if you're still listening at all, if you've ever listened to more than three episodes of the show, that priorities making decisions, knowing what's right for you are some of the key issues that at least we think—and people still listen to this so maybe a few people agree—that we think are really pivotal in being able to have that autonomy, to be fit physically, mentally and whatever, so that you can do the things that actually matter to you. So yes, it's semantics, but it has a purpose and that's what we're going to be getting into. All right.
How to Differentiate
[00:04:27] Andy: So let's talk about this. How do you know for sure, because we started off bold here. You are not an athlete. Some people listening to this are legitimately athletes because this is a thing.
[00:04:38] Ryan: Yep.
[00:04:39] Andy: We make things for the every man, but I know for a fact we have, amongst our clients, we do have professional athletes. We have professional coaches, we have actual Olympic athletes. We have people from all levels of, upper echelon, top one percenters here. And so maybe you're a 2%-er and you're wondering, am I also not an athlete? You might be.
So what are the differences? Let's first dig into, yes, some of these will be arbitrary, but what are the things that really separates someone who's really is an athlete from someone who might marginally be able to be termed an athlete, but probably isn't actually really, really an athlete.
[00:05:22] Ryan: Yeah. So you might be a part of a team. And on the weekends, or even a couple of times during the week, you might go and participate whether it be, I don't know if you play soccer, football depending on where you are in the world. Maybe like basketball. It could be ultimate frisbee. Those are fun. Those are great. But again, is that your livelihood? And I think that's a good way to look at that, one way of looking at it. And again, are you getting paid to do that?
You might a little bit, but is that the majority of the way that you do things? Are you sacrificing other things in your life to solely do that? Could be the difference where, okay yeah, I spend a lot of time at my judo dojo. Like majority of my time is there, but again, I don't necessarily think that could be an athlete or a full-time athlete.
Being a full time athlete means your whole life has revolved around that thing that you're doing. There's going to be sacrifices that you're going to have to make where you might want to do something with your family or your friends or something but you know that if you do that, it's really going to hamper that sport, that activity that you're doing and keep you from being able to continue doing it.
That to me is where a big difference between the athlete and having something as a hobby. Hobby means that you have the opportunity to say, "Okay, today I'm maybe not going to go as hard as I want. I'm just going to have fun with it because I don't have to worry about the consequences of doing this."
Your entire life is just going to revolve around that training and preparing for the activity. And there's a lot involved here. We're not just talking about the activity itself. It could be that time in the gym. You're looking at your technique practice. You're looking at proper gear that you have, actually doing the activity is a thing too, as well as nutrition and the diet.
And you have to think about recovery. There's sleep involved. There's bodywork massage. Looking at that, study of the competition and it just goes on and on and on and on. And so an athlete isn't simply just doing that activity. There's so much more involved with that. Again, the sacrifices and everything that are involved with them.
[00:07:25] Andy: Yeah, and we all have different roles that we play in life. We all have different sides to our identities. A modern way of looking at this is if you imagine somebody's Twitter bio. You read people's Twitter bios and they list all the things they are. All the ways they personally identify. Golfer, CPA, father, husband, devoted follower of Christ. 19 things. It's like a Twitter bio is or where everyone dumps all the pieces of their identity in there.
And the thing is is that you might at different times think of yourself while you are playing Frisbee golf, you may think of yourself as an Ultimater. Whatever frigging word you guys have. I know you have a word for it. If you're listening to this--
[00:08:11] Ryan: Yeah. I'm not sure either.
[00:08:12] Andy: Send me a damn email, I want to know what Ultimaters call themselves. All right. You might be thinking I'm an Ultimater, but when you get off, when you're done with that, you're not thinking of yourself as that constantly.
And I'm just going to keep going with Ultimate, because I think it's something that I know some people that have been really into it and they loved it. They played it many times a week. Yes, they did actually train their cardio to be better at yes, they did actually eat, drink their protein so that they could be stronger or whatever for Ultimate.
Yes. They did change their lifestyle for it in different ways. But they also were in college and went and got drunk on weekends at frat parties. I know people that took it very seriously, but none of them took it so seriously that that side of their identity overtook them as students or as people doing other things.
I think that this is important thing is that partially it comes down to how big a part of your identity is it. And to us, athlete is not just one of 15 different things you can be. You can be an athlete for an hour a week, I guess, but if you're really going to go around saying, I am an athlete, you need to be an athlete for at least let's say again, arbitrarily a quarter of your waking hours.
If you're not an athlete for at least 25% of your waking hours, you're not an athlete. You don't get to say, I am an athlete. You can say I'm a father because I'm a father all the damn time. I can say I'm a business owner because whether I'm awake or asleep or doing anything, the company is either making or losing money at any given moment.
I still have to pay the staff. I can say those a hundred percent identity wise. That's true. I mean, I go to the gym twice a week. I go to the dojo twice a week and I go do cardio twice a week. This is the most I've ever done of cardio in my whole life lately, but I don't consider myself an athlete.
It's really weird. Because if even if you add all those things up, I don't think that really gets to 25% of my waking hours either. I'm more of a reader than an athlete. I spend more time reading than I do doing all those things combined because I love it.
And one more point, not to completely just talk constantly here, but I think one really important point that is easy to leave out when we talk about what distinguishes an athlete from someone who is an enthusiast or a hobbyist or something like that is also the nature of the activity. You can only be an athlete if your hobby is a sport, and this is where I'm going to piss off CrossFitters, because working out is not a damn sport.
You can give people medals, you can count reps, but in my world, here I am again making another thin semantic argument, but in my world, fitness is not a sport. Fitness is not a sport. Sports mean that you are competing, not just by counting up how much you did.
You are competing with on-field strategy. You're man to man, to woman, to whatever. Like bull fighting is not a sport because a bull is possibly sentient, but it is not trying to outfox you. I think sport has a much richer definition than just run really hard and try to run harder than the other guy. And this is why I love a lot of people that do CrossFit and I think has been great for the perception of fitness and everything in general, I'm actually a CrossFit fan, but I don't believe that you can turn fitness into a sport.
And that's where I probably lost 90% of people listening to this. I don't think fitness can be a sport. I don't think chess can be. I think there's a lot of things that you can call sports and things that you can call like activities. I think that climbing kind of can be a sport. I know there's sport climbing, but I know that there's also purist climbers that hate sport climbing the same way that there are purists martial artists that hate sport fighting.
And this is kind of why I'm going to be a bit of a curmudgeon on this because I've done a martial art for almost 40 damn years. And I feel really strongly that combat sport is way different from martial art and should be way different and should not be compared.
And so that's why, when I say that something is a sport or not a sport, or someone's an athlete or not an athlete, I maybe don't have very convincing semantics that will make everyone agree with me, but I have a lot of personal experience in what I see the differences in and why I think they're important.
[00:12:45] Ryan: That's really good. I actually was on a recent podcast where we were talking about the martial arts aspect of it. One thing I brought up was for example, Brazilian jujitsu. I do Brazilian jujitsu. I think it's great. But when they say that they have a fight, no, it's not a fight. It's a match. Okay. That's another thing. It's a whole other topic, but it's a game.
Freedom & Fun
[00:12:59] Ryan: And anyway, let's get back to the topic of being an athlete, which both you and I have been for our entire lives. Ha ha. Let's talk about the freedom though. Choosing to not be an athlete. And I think this is really, really, this is what we want to be talking about in this.
And I mentioned this earlier, but the freedom that you have of being able to say that you're not an athlete. I think it's great. And this is why, if you're comfortable with saying that "what I do is a hobby," there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, I think that's how we should look at things, because again, it's this freedom and when you can look at it that way.
When you think you are an athlete, it can actually lead to some poor decisions in thinking that you should be a particular way. We see all the time, there's athletes and they post their training routine and you think, "Oh my God, this athlete is doing this. Therefore I should, because this person plays basketball. I play basketball. And so I should be the same."
No, you should not. And the thing is that there's so many things to think about when you're looking at this: similar age, what's your background, what's your experience? What's your attitude for this? What's your desire?
I'll tell you what, looking at a very high level basketball player who's bringing in I'm sure millions of dollars. Their desire is going to be a little bit different because they're there okay. They've got people that are helping them to continue to be at that level of their particular sport. Do you have that trainer, the body worker, the nutritionist and the coach helping you out?
And so again, yes, you might play basketball. Yes. You might do Ultimate Frisbee and that's awesome. Please enjoy it. But the thing is, an athlete trains in a particular way to be able to win, period, that's it. And unless that's what you're doing, then hey, take a step and just say, "Listen, this is a hobby. And it allows me to train in the way that's going to be good for me."
And I think this is the biggest thing is figuring out exactly what you need. What's going to be good for you so that you can continue to enjoy that activity. And in my life, that's exactly where I'm at. And yeah. I gotta say, in hindsight, had I thought more about it in that way when I was younger, I think I would have been better because I used to put so much pressure on me to think that it had to be some way, I was actually training in a way that was not beneficial to me.
By looking at what's going to be good for you, you can avoid these mistakes and basically doing stupid shit that really doesn't fit not just in your style of training, but in your lifestyle. And I think really that's the major thing here.
[00:15:36] Andy: Yeah. And I think that another really big thing that you get out of just deciding that you're not an athlete, is that you can avoid this whole all or nothing mentality thing. A lot of the thing with the athlete thing is that, "Well, you're an athlete, and if you're an athlete, that means that you need to wear Lycra. And it means that you need to start taking things very serious now because you're an athlete."
That's the real trap. Once you say you're an athlete, it allows companies and coaches and people and peers to manipulate you and say, "Well, you're an athlete though, aren't you? Oh, you don't want to. I thought you were an athlete."
Here's the thing I like to do is, let's put this in a completely different context. Let's say we're not talking about athletes anymore. Let's say we're not talking about working out or playing a sport or doing some laundry. Let's say, we're talking about making cupcakes. Maybe you just like making cupcakes, right?
So you make cupcakes and you take them to a party and somebody picks up one of the cupcakes and they're like, "Hmm, well, you don't have a logo stamped on the cupcake. Are you even a real baker?" Shut up and eat the damn cupcake. But this is what a lot people try to do to you when you say you're an athlete.
But nobody's going to do that at a party. Nobody's going to pick up a cupcake and be like, "Oh, well, I don't know if this is a professionally made cupcake." No, they're going to be like, "Oh, rainbow cupcakes. Hell yeah." Or they're going to say "I'm gluten intolerant, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah." If you're gluten intolerant, I, well, I am making fun of you, but it's not because I don't respect you.
It's just because I've known a lot of people who are gluten intolerant and it's, I mean, you gotta admit, it's kind of annoying if you can't do anything, but I hope that you find things to eat that are good for you. Wow. I'm just going to piss off everyone today.
[00:17:27] Ryan: A gluten free cupcake. Yeah. Andy, you're on a roll today. I'm kinda liking it. Yeah.
[00:17:31] Andy: I am. But so this is the thing though is, just imagine if you replace fitness with any other activity, it could be ultimate. It could be baking cupcakes, playing guitar. It could be anything. How does my feeling of identity in this shape the decisions that I make?
By not being an athlete, by not being a pro baker, you get to have fun with things. You get to do it at the time that you like, you get to enjoy things, play around. You don't have to always be getting better. You can step back. You can get poor results. It's okay, because you've got the rest of your life to keep getting different results. You can always change something and you don't need to judge yourself or be judged according to some standard that is contra to what you personally are enjoying.
Not being an athlete lets you say that what you are doing is good enough, which if you do listen to the show, you know that we're big fans of good enough because it lets you choose to be better at other things that aren't that.
[00:18:41] Ryan: It lets you keep thinking of that activity the way that you originally thought of when you started. And I think that's a big one for me, because the deeper you go and the more serious it becomes, I think sometimes the further away you can get away from the pure joy that you had in wanting to do the thing in the beginning.
I know for some people it's different, but that actually happened to me and so I stepped away from gymnastics. Yeah. That was a huge thing. I was so burnt out from the competition and just having to push and push and push. And when I came back to it many years later, just for the sake of just trying to be like, "Hey, you know, I used to really enjoy doing this. I'm just going to just try and have fun with it." Well, shit, I'm kind of still doing it and it's kind of fun.
Thing is, if we are looking at your activity really, and looking at it as not being an athlete again, when I said, think about what you need to do in order to just to get better for you.
Okay. That's really it. Good enough. Maybe you're already good enough. This is something that Andy said. Just realize that, and just be like, "Hey, I am good enough. I'm just going to keep having fun with it."
Just keep participating in your activity. If that's the case, just figure out the minimum amount of things that you need to do in order to help you to keep doing it instead of thinking, "Oh my goodness, I need to do this thing so therefore, this I dunno, workout that this world champion posted. I think I'll probably try and do that." Nah, no, no, no.
Just figure out the minimum amount of things that you need to be doing in order to help you to be able to continue doing it because the goal is your activity. The goal is not working out.
That's huge. That's very important. Here is your activity. So if you need, if you do have a hole in your game, in your activity or something like that yeah. Then you can focus on that and work on getting just a little bit better, but it's just that little bit, minimum amount to allow you to get right back into your activity to further enjoy it.
Comes down to you and not the athletes out there who are being paid and pushing themself, day in and day out, in order to be an athlete.
[00:20:43] Andy: And this is the thing is that, these labels are really, really handy. And again, I come back to this a lot because, I don't know, maybe the part of me that really resonated with watching Fight Club. But companies push a lot of these labels because they make us a lot easier to manipulate and sell to.
And again, like the irony is not lost on me that we sell fitness products. But I think it's really important is labeling yourself as an athlete forces your identity to make certain decisions and to make certain sacrifices. And by avoiding that, it's not just okay, it's probably a better for you because it lets you be who you really want to be rather than what people are trying to sell you on trying to become.
Not being an athlete gives you a lot of freedom. We've been involved in athletics for a very long time off and on, more seriously than others at times. But we don't consider ourselves athletes despite doing more fitnessing than your average citizen. And we work with athletes and we work with a lot of people who are very athletic, but don't actually think of themselves as athletes first. So I think that's something to think about.
If you still believe that you're an athlete or want to be an athlete, there's nothing wrong with that either, but examine it, consider it. And again, that's what autonomy is, is deciding for yourself and then go with that.
[00:22:09] Ryan: Perfect. All right, everybody. Thanks for listening today. Really appreciate you sticking with us to the end. Remember, CrossFit's horrible. And also if you're gluten-free, you shouldn't be listening.
[00:22:19] Andy: We're going to get shot.