Monday, August 04, 2014

Your Fitness Identity

All elite athletes and, the teams they play on, seek, refine and try to maintain an identity. The most successful are able to achieve greatness as a result of being successful in establishing and maintaining that identity.  Often, the difference between winning and losing is often a matter of the battle of identities.  A battle of strength and wills comes down to a battle of identities.  

This identity acts as a guide map that assists them to perform at the highest and most efficient level. It helps them stay on course and maximize focus.  It improves their ability to stick with their strategic vision as well as consistently make good decisions, even under the most stressful and extremely competitive conditions.

Even weekend warriors and other recreational athletes can benefit from developing an identity to help optimize performance.

For example, as an aging recreation athlete, I have had a more and more difficult time with physical conditioning, maintaining a healthy weight, and performing at a satisfying level.  I recently realized that despite my continued involvement with sports as a participant, fan, coach, and psychologist, that I had lost my identity as a fit individual.   

That lack of identity as a fit individual has greatly affected my performance as an athlete.  This crisis of identity contributed to a very subtle, but clear lack of vision that translated into an inconsistent workout schedule, sleep habits, and nutritional choices.  It also contributed to a unclear set of priorities and a lack of mindfulness in daily activities and behavior. 

It became easier and easier to believe that I lacked motivation and needed to find "it" fast.   What I really needed was to regain my fitness identity.   At this point in my life it is more important to have that fitness identity than to be an athlete, but without it I had no chance to continue to perform satisfactorily at any level (nor to regain any significant level of fitness).

My fitness identity serves as a basic component of a solid foundation on which "motivation" stands.  If I have a strong identity as a fit individual, motivation takes care of itself, because actions are not made up of micro-decisions that may or not connect with my mood or "motivation."  With a strong fitness identity, my actions flow and are consistent with my identity.  Conversely, without a fitness identity, I am leaving my actions to chance and a flow inconsistent with fitness.

Reconnecting with my fitness identity has quickly and dramatically affected my physical posture, my body language, energy level, and my exercise calendar.  It has also had an effect on the perceptions of friends and colleagues, who have noticed a difference.  Most importantly, I do not have to agonize about whether or not I am going to the gym..  I just go.  It is a part of my daily activities and I no longer put myself in a position to decide on a day-by-day basis.  It has affected my stress and relaxation level.  It has been a huge boost to my exercise routine in that it has affected the energy level that I bring to my workouts.

Fortunately, a majority of us had a strong fitness identity at one time (even if we have lost it). Youth is a natural source for a strong fitness identity.  However, some of us are not so lucky. A greater number of people in our digital, sedentary society, are no longer influenced, instructed, nor encouraged to develop a fitness identity early in life.  Many of us are not mentally or physically conditioned for a fitness identity.  It is much easier to develop a fitness identity as a child than it is to try as an adult to regain one.      

Do you have a fitness identity?  Have you lost touch with your fitness identity?  How helpful do you think it is to have a fitness identity?  What will you do to retain a fitness identity?            

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