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Once an Athlete Always an Athlete

by Del Jenkins

ONCE AN ATHLETE ALWAYS AN ATHLETE

Once upon a time we were athletes, competitive athletes.  And no matter our age, we have vivid memories of our athletic career… sprinting across the finish line; eluding tacklers and sprinting down the sideline; hitting that clutch home run in the 9th inning; swishing that incredible shot, just before the buzzer. There is a sense of accomplishment and pleasure we receive in mentally playing that internal highlight reel, and of course in the telling and retelling our story to our kids.  The problem is when you tell them, there comes a point where they roll their eyes, and maybe glance down and your body and give you that little condescending smile. Reality sets in and we begin to realize that for many of us, those memories didn’t happen last season — or even a few years ago.  The most remarkable stuff occurred in high school or college, some 10, 20, or even 30 years ago.

ONCE AN ATHLETE ALWAYS AN ATHLETE

What have we done since then?  Well for many of us we sired and raising children and many of them are athletes.  The fact that they are good athletes is highly attributed to us.  Not as coaches and self-perceived motivators, but because of the examples we set, the stories of greatness we told and them feeling our passion for achievement and competition.  Also, many of us picked up another activity along the way; running, biking, swimming, hiking, or weight training.  For me it was martial arts and mountain biking, and road biking with my wife, we even rode the Santa Fe Century (100mi) together.  But eventually, the kids came and with them so did the time and the desire to push as hard as we were.  Most of us fall off the wagon, due to career choices, children, boredom, injuries or our perceived lack of competition.  Why?  Well, we still have an athlete’s heart.  We were once the person who once loved activity and challenge — the person who once lived for an athletic goal. Back in the day our energy was fueled by a highly focused determination and the drive to be the best.  We practiced extra hard, got to the gym early, and stayed late.  We trained so hard that we began to crave soreness in our muscles, because we knew we were getting better and we were champions of No Pain, No Gain.  Why?  We had that burn for competition, the thrill of victory and for the love of our game.  You slept, ate and dreamed of our sport and it took us far.  It was easy to keep a clear vision of your dreams and goals, because we knew we had to get better than the other guy or gal, to achieve our dream. Now, things have changed, our goal is now our family and our own kids.  There is nothing wrong with that, but, we cannot let ourselves deteriorate into to nothingness.  We have to find that thing, to help us find our way back.  We need to find a reason to get fired up again.  For me it is not to look good, although I admit there are times that I wonder who the slightly overweight guy is looking at me in the mirror.  I can’t get motivated by the scale or by a set of washboard abs.  I am happy with a flat stomach and feeling better, having more energy and knowing that I’m not too weak to spot a 350 lbs bench presser in my own gym.  What is it for you?  Yes, things have changed, we all have…we are older.  But as Marianne Williamson, best-selling author of 15 books, including The Age of Miracles: Embracing the New Midlife (Hay House, 2009), says, “It’s important to start defining ourselves by who we are right now instead of who we aren’t anymore.”  

REDEFINEING WHO WE ARE AND WHAT WE ARE GOING TO DO

As an Adult Athletes, we have to admit age, injury and adult responsibility becomes an issue for all of us, but it hits some of us harder than others, depending on the sport and level we played.  For example a person who played Fast Pitch division 1 softball, like my wife Ann, will not have an easy time downgrading to play slow pitch softball in a recreational league on the weekends. It is also difficult to find another sport or goal, when you played a sport that is totally inaccessible to you like college football to …? Flag Football with your beer buddies? However, as with most things in life, you can either focus on the negative or on the positive.  Getting older, does have some advantages.  Williamson argues that getting older brings unanticipated gifts, too. “When you’re young, you might not appreciate what a miracle your body is,” she says. “When you’re older, you realize, ‘Wow, look at where this body has taken me and what it still does for me.’ That understanding will carry you through the next stage of life in a healthy way.” The secret to staying motivated when you’re juggling your athletic, professional, and family identities is first getting your true priorities in order.  This is something that I personally struggle with, P.K. (pre-kids) I had no problem committing to my activities, because I am an all or nothing kind of guy.  But I soon realized in the A.K. (after kids) world that all or nothing, meant nothing.  Now twenty years later, I have two in college, one in high school and one in middle school, and I still have nothing, I coach kids, train kids and support kids, and while I never sit on the preverbal couch, I’m not much better that ones that do.  I needed to find something or maybe even a few things that gave me that athletic feeling again, that Goal, and someone to compete against … this time however, I am competing against myself.  It also involves finding something that not only makes us feel great, but that we each love.  Reconnecting to our love of sport and reinventing our athletic self takes some mental flexibility, we have to think outside the box.
  1. The first step is to honestly assess our body.  Are we seriously out of shape or just feeling a little deconditioned?  Have injuries forced us into a long break from exercise?  Even healed injuries can become obstacles if we are afraid of reinjures, or have been reinjured.  We also have to consider those things that we have simply worn out.  I for one have the knees of a 75 year old, both are eligible for knee replacements, but I am way too young for the surgery to last me the realistic length of my life.  So, I was told to never run again as an athletic activity.  If you’ve been sidelined like me, try retooling your training to strengthen weakened muscles or to work around an injured area.  Also consider activities that do not aggravate or worsen your problem areas.  We here at Ardor Elite can offer exercises or alternates that address your individual physical situation.
  2. Next, consider the time we can realistically commit to our new training regimen.  If you’re balancing a full-time career and family, you probably have less time for sports and activity than you did at age 18.  That doesn’t mean exercise shouldn’t be a priority; it just might not be the main priority.  Again we have to get outside the box and adopt a different approach, instead of 3 days lifting weight, 3 days running or on the field, we can do something like 2 days resistance training, 1 day in Yoga or Pilates, and one or two days biking, running or swimming.  Also knowing that we can combine days, for example we have several athletes that do their resistance training and then walk into the next room and get their sport yoga, I have another who rides his bike to the gym works out and then rides home.  Within the span of 2-3 hours they have done two days’ worth of work.
  3. Once you can see your parameters more clearly, then it’s time to set a specific athletic goal, whether it’s participating in an event or embracing some new sort of active adventure.  Choose a goal that’s important to you, that represents a real challenge and one that’s several months away, so you have time to prepare gradually by developing a plan with your trainer to accomplish this task.
  4. That is the next issue many athletes struggle when they leave the structure of high school or college athletics, because for years they were told when to be at practice and what to do to perform their best.  Now, without the schedule and routine, most folks lose momentum.  That is what we do here at Ardor Elite Training Academy, we schedule, structure and motivate you, (whether it’s encouragement, accountability, or know-how) we also give you flexibility when life and family cause you to tweak the plan here and there.
With a little determination, you can quit looking back on who you were when you were an athlete and blaze a new path towards a different type of athleticism.  Even if you’ve been away from athletics for years — even if you’re juggling work, family, and a million responsibilities — you can still tap into your motivation, discipline, focus, and determination that you built all those years ago.  Leave behind past judgments of being an Athlete; learn to do what ultimately makes your body feel better.  Then create a vision of yourself for your now future, to become the athlete you love being, now, because once an athlete always an athlete.

Del Jenkins

Master Trainer

ARDOR Elite Training Academy, Inc.

EXCELLENCE IS AN ONGOING PROCESS

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