Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Thoughts from a Disillusioned Athlete


Challenging The Stereotypes of Athletes and Physical Activity.

When I started getting fit and active in the past year, I've started noticing stereotypes being thrown around based on the certain physical activity I decided to participate in. Whether it was yoga, lifting weights, swimming, boxing, running, or climbing, there is this apparent stigma and persona associated with each sport and I thought it would be interesting to examine what I see as stereotypes, and how I don't fit into any of these, but maybe all three simultaneously.

I would first like to separate them into 3 different athletic categories.

  1. Yuppy/Outdoor Athlete
  2. Olympic Style Performer and Competitor
  3. Body Power-House Athlete

Number 1 is pretty easy to stereotype. Most of these people involve themselves in outdoor activities, whether it be rock climbing, hiking, running, cycling, skiing, or snow shoeing and yoga . Wear very similar clothes, typically North face, Lululemon, Mountain Hardware and REI.

Number 2 is also very easy to stereotype. They focus on what they are good at, they strive to compete against a number of people but have one goal in mind, to win. They not only challenge themselves, but are very competitive with anyone who may presume better at their sport than they are. They usually stick to one sport. Either they are swimmers, runners, or cyclists typically speaking. They usually wear Nike, Adidas, or Puma, or any other major sports brand.

Number 3 is a little harder to identify. Most die hard bodybuilders or MMA sport athletes, (yes I know its also an olympic sport too) do compete with others. But they also focus on their own physique and how to gain more muscle, or work on their fighting techniques. Many of these people tend to fall under the title of being meat-heads, in other words, they don't think about anything else but building muscle or their next fight. Tattooed, tanned/dark skinned people with a tough attitude is what they wear most.

I think many people can identify themselves into one group or the other. However, I am having a really hard time doing that for myself. When I got into shape and started getting really active in many things, I was drawn to several different sports. I gravitated to yoga and kickboxing, where according to these two typical stereotypes, they are worlds apart.

I also love to lift weights, but before that I was a real die-hard yogi. In between sports, I was challenging myself to run a 5K. I got really fast. I also equally enjoy rock climbing and challenge myself every time I climb. But you see, all of these are in different categories. I didn't just pick a sport to see to if I fit into that category.

The general rule of thumb is if you practice yoga, you must become a yogi and adopt everything that has to do with yoga as your dogma of belief. Same goes for weight lifting, if I am caught lifting weights, people automatically assume I am a meat-head. Maybe, that title is thrown towards the male sect of humanity, but its still a large assumption that just because you enjoy a particular sport, you are categorized automatically to fit into that certain group and wear that persona.

I could see the argument come up about why you are practicing a certain sport. My reason's vary, but its usually because I get bored quickly, and I love being active and trying different/new things. Plus my main reasoning isn't to compete with the next best athlete, but to challenge myself and to stay in shape.
I love practicing yoga because it gives me a sense of groundedness and focus, and when I weight lift, it gives me a sense of strength and perseverance. When I run, it gives me bursts of energy like nothing else. When I kick box, it relieves stress and gives me strength. When I climb, it has helped me overcome my fear of heights and challenges me to climb harder.

As far as my clothing and persona goes, I have a plethora of brands in my closet. From Nike and Adidas, to REI and Northface. I have one tattoo on my foot, and I am white as they come. I tend to be a jack of all trades in what I enjoy and pursue in physical activity. And I beg to differ that I must or have to pick one sport to get really good at. Its just not my style. Nor is putting labels on people and throwing them in boxes....

I am writing this for people who may have also struggled with the stereotypes that come with staying active, and perhaps have given people caution to pursue certain activities because the pressure to perform and compete is very demanding, or what it may look to others. I challenge those who put people in typical boxes to reconsider your limitations to exploring new and exciting ways to stay in shape.

Sincerely, One Disillusioned Athlete.