This week we have been challenged to write about ‘athleticism’.
‘Some people consider themselves athletes, others do not’.
I don’t consider myself to be an athlete, athletics involves running round in endless circles trying to impress the PE teacher’s stopwatch or throwing dangerous objects with precision. No, athletics was never for me. I don’t do speed or accuracy, especially not in a physical context.
What is this ‘athleticism’? Is it a description of an athlete’s prowess? The silhouetted sylph like ballerina, with every tensed muscle honed and toned, in a delicate pose of balance, the perfect fruition of focused and almost obsessive dedication? If that’s the case then athleticism doesn’t appeal to me, it’s something unattainable. I have the grace of a lead weight spinning top. This athleticism implies focus, discipline, talent and labour but with a hint of idealisation. Can anyone really attain to this ideal or do you have to be one of those shiny, perfect, cool girls who find PE lessons easy, like everything else in their life?
But maybe we’ve got the wrong idea. We live in a culture obsessed with perfection, half the time we don’t even know what it is we’re seeking or trying to live up to. It’s a vague, ephemeral challenge that you either meet just like that or spend a lifetime trying to chase. Then I found this definition on one of those internet dictionaries:
Athleticism is the quality of being coordinated and physically strong while also having stamina and coordination.
I like this athleticism! Athleticism is attainable; it’s no longer the exclusive preserve for other people. It’s about reaching the peak of your own abilities, reaching out and succeeding according to a personal standard of achievement. Perfection is being true to yourself rather than some media fantasy which as yet remains undefined.
Everyone can be athletes, it’s a lifestyle. Life demands stamina and coordination, life is a marathon juggling act. We can all be coordinated (within whatever limitations random flukes of genetics have imposed upon us) and physically strong (again within those limitations that we have no control over whatsoever).
I am heartened. We can all achieve, we can participate without having to compete. We can enjoy participation without focusing on perfection. Let’s accept each other for who we are. Life is definitely not a sprint and there’s plenty of hurdles along the way too. We’re going to have to be athletes to make it to the end.
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