I recently touched upon this subject in conversation with a couple of friends. It's really been on my mind lately.
With the CrossFit Regionals coming around, the Kool-Aid blogs and the satirical blogs are all up in typings about the Athletes of Exercise. I read the satirical ones with supreme relish. Beast Modal Domains, The Naked CrossFitter, and I really wish Drywall would come back. They called the CrossFit Games the "World Series of Exercise" and there is a lot of fun being made around the non-specialized athletes.
This begs the questions: What makes an athlete?
It's easy to say an athlete is someone that puts their skill and training on the line in some head to head, or team to team, competition. But every day, I see people pushing themselves harder and caring more about achieving their goals than half the people on my old judo and dance teams. They don't expect strength, speed, and skills to just land in their lap. They WORK for them.
So I ask again, why is that half assed training done by person A considered athlete training because he or she competes. And why is that balls to the wall, smart, progressive work done by person B who doesn't compete mean they are just an exerciser?
I have a few people that train with me three times a week. I push them hard. They push themselves hard. They get stronger, faster, and are learning to do things they've never tried before, from gymnastic skills to Olympic lifts. They may never compete in anything, but I prefer for them to consider themselves athletes rather than exercisers or "clients".
Clients are people who come to the gym for an hour, are put through a routine of muscle contractions and elevated heart rate and then sent off to go back to their previously scheduled life. Athletes come in with goals, and the hour they spend with me at the gym is just part of their work. When someone thinks of themselves as an athlete, they are more likely to make decisions and take actions that will fuel their progress. From the food they eat, to the amount of sleep they get, to deciding "I'm going to bike to the grocery store instead of driving." When someone considers themself an athlete, they begin to really embrace physical culture.
So in conclusion, I'm all about calling people who bust their asses and make good decisions ATHLETES, regardless of their competitive standpoint.