Being an athlete carries many connotations. Depending on what sport you’re talking about, these preconceptions or myths can run the gamut from positive to derogatory, the most common being because I am an athlete, what I do must involve shutting off my brain, or not having much of one to begin with in order to perform. I can do amazing things with my body, therefore I must be a little dull.
The dichotomy of the scholar and the athlete, in its most basic form is one that spans a chasm. Those who choose to use their bodies must not be using their brains, and vice versa. However, I would argue that when presented with the reality of what an athlete is, this could not be farther from the truth.
The body is a medium for the mind. I know this because I have lived it, have trained and puzzled through it. Through the efforts of training and the physical exertion that this entails I can express all thoughts and feelings. It is the two parallels that exist together. Nothing is calmer in my mind than when I am on the bike, but nothing is more tumultuous as well. Through one medium I can paint my rage across the road, let it seep from the center of my being down through my legs and into my pedals, scatter it across the tarmac through the rubber in my tires. Through this same stent the calm will filter back in. It will spread from the scenery around me and slower filter into me through the constant rhythm of each pedal stroke; it will fill the hole where the anger and frustration had made their bed.
My thoughts and ideas are linked and woven together; delicate spider webs that I craft while setting pace up a hill. I weave them farther and farther into the distance, crafting plans and making promises to myself. I store them in the attic of my mind, where they sit when the exhaustion of exertion forces me back to ground level, makes me back into my most basic components: eat, sleep, recover.
I train my body so that my brain will quiet, just for a moment, a few moments, just long enough so that when the pain comes in that decisive moment of competition I can stay there, stay in that moment. Even though my mind screams in protest at the idea, at the discomfort, I will be ready. I have laid myself bare on my training roads, pulled all my emotion, all my ideas and plans and schemes and left them there so that when I come to this moment, this decisive moment I can whisper keep going and for once my mind and my legs will agree.