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Don't Limit Yourself By Denying Your Inner Athlete

Many people divide the world into the "athletic" and the "non-athletic" — but that's just not true.

I exercise almost every day. It kind of comes with the territory of being an Olympian who's married into the world of fitness, but I'm pretty sure that's not why I do it. I exercise every day because it makes me happy. Like, I actually mostly enjoy exercise in the moment.

People will tell me, "Ah, exercise is so hard, it takes so much willpower." But once you make it a solid habit of it in your life, once you create some positive structure around exercise, you don't even have to think about it.

At times it takes a bit of willpower to tear myself away from my computer or my book — or the fact that I am cuddling the world's most amazing pooch — but I do it. I know that exercise will feel OK at the time, it will feel pretty good afterwards, and will absolutely positively affect my frame of mind from day to day. It's good now, it's great when you finish and it's profound over time.

I have a friend who claims she "hates exercise," which I find kind of funny. It's kind of like saying you hate food. Does anyone really hate all food? Maybe the Stairmaster isn't her thing, but what about dancing, or walking along the beach, or playing golf with a friend? You hate all of it?

Many of us decided a long time ago whether or not we are athletes. I see that lots of people divide the world into the "athletic" and the "non-athletic." I guess that's a pretty good excuse to write off all physical activity. But, again, I find this curious because these are merely mental constructs that we have created to find a way of defining our relationship to ourselves and the world.

For example, I suck at a lot of sports — like, really suck. I take a long time to learn a new sport, I don't have stellar hand-eye coordination, and a lot of sports like rugby, wrestling and lacrosse just plain scare me. I am better at more repetitive sports like running, rowing or cross-country skiing where you get to do the same thing over and over again. I engage and explore countless other sports, though, because limiting myself to a handful just doesn't make sense.

That's because putting ourselves into boxes can be incredibly limiting. The idea that we are not athletic can keep us from the gym — stopping us from lifting the weights we need to lift in order to prevent osteoporosis. Those high-school flashbacks of being hopeless in basketball can prevent us from joining a women's tennis league today. (Here's a newsflash: most of us felt terrible about ourselves in high school!) Despite having the potential to excel at some sport or activity, many of us cling to this outdated image of ourselves as clumsy, weak or uncoordinated.

In my rowing days, I dreaded weight lifting. I didn't think I was particularly good it but viewed it as a necessary evil. Now, I love it. I have so much fun lifting weights and experiencing my body becoming a little more coordinated and stronger as the season progresses. I love having strong arms and a powerful back. I love knowing that I am more able to lift groceries and the 22-kilogram bag of dog food out of the car, because I hit the gym a couple times a week.

Opening ourselves up to the benefits of moving our bodies, we may be surprised at the layers of benefit we experience. We may even discover we are indeed, athletes.

Read more from Silken Laumann on her website.

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