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How do you consider someone being an athlete?

ninerbuffninerbuff Member, Greeter, Premium Posts: 43,635 Member Member, Greeter, Premium Posts: 43,635 Member
Being part of the bodybuilding industry like almost all my life, I've NEVER thought of competitive bodybuilders as "athletes" the way the industry sees them. I see them as competitors, but not athletes because they don't physically compete with each other, there's no display of athletism in contests and these guys are usually at their WORST physical ability on stage because of all the dehydration and lack of food.

Others that I don't consider athletes- race car drivers, golfers, and competitive food eaters.

Okay here we go.

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  • Mellouk89Mellouk89 Member Posts: 160 Member Member Posts: 160 Member
    If golf is a sport then so is bowling and curling right? They are skill-based activities.

    In my opinion competitive dance and cheerleading is much closer to what we consider sports than golf. If they would call themselves "athletes", I don't think anyone would object.

    As far as bodybuilders, some bodybuilders are athletic, they could switch to cross-fit or weightlifting without much difficulty. But not all of them, certainly not in the super heavyweight category.
    edited December 2020
  • SuzySunshine99SuzySunshine99 Member Posts: 1,991 Member Member Posts: 1,991 Member
    Golf is an Olympic sport...hmmm...everyone who competes in the Olympics gets referred to as an "Olympic athlete". Also in the Olympics:

    Synchronized swimming
    Equestrian events (maybe the horse is an athlete...)
    Sailing
    Shooting
    Curling
    Archery

    Not sure if I'd consider all of those competitors as "athletes".
    Very skilled individuals, though, obviously.
  • ninerbuffninerbuff Member, Greeter, Premium Posts: 43,635 Member Member, Greeter, Premium Posts: 43,635 Member
    Well, here's the official Oxford definition...."A person who has undertaken training or exercises to become proficient in physical activities such as competitive sports."

    I don't know enough about competitive bodybuilding to know if that fits the definition, but golfers definitely fit, so I'll disagree with you on that one.

    I think the shady area is if there is a difference between a sport and a skill. How MUCH physicality warrants calling someone an athlete? Competitive dance or cheerleading? Very physical, but is it a sport? Like I said, there's a LOT of grey area.

    Now...eSports...they play video games and call themselves athletes. NO. You have a skill, like chess players, but you're NOT an athlete.
    Bodybuilders look "physically" like an athlete. But that doesn't mean they are. They do a lot of work in the gym, but none of it translates to the stage. Basically competitive bodybuilding is a type of beauty contest. Also, most competitive bodybuilders don't engage in cardio vascular activities for health or endurance. Most do it just to cut up for a contest.

    As for golfers, I think skill is what sets them apart. Just like bowlers and dart throwers. For example, you could have a very fit golfer who sucks at driving. Then you have someone like John Daly who drives mad. But John would barely be able to climb a flight of stairs without being physically exhausted.

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  • ninerbuffninerbuff Member, Greeter, Premium Posts: 43,635 Member Member, Greeter, Premium Posts: 43,635 Member
    Mellouk89 wrote: »
    If golf is a sport then so is bowling and curling right? They are skill-based activities.

    In my opinion competitive dance and cheerleading is much closer to what we consider sports than golf. If they would call themselves "athletes", I don't think anyone would object.

    As far as bodybuilders, some bodybuilders are athletic, they could switch to cross-fit or weightlifting without much difficulty. But not all of them, certainly not in the super heavyweight category.
    I'll let you in on a secret. The majority of higher competitive bodybuilders daily regimen consists of lifting 2-4 hours a day and then the rest of the day, they do little activity for fear of losing muscle. So sitting at home and playing video games or watching TV is the usual past time.


    A.C.E. Certified Personal and Group Fitness Trainer
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    edited December 2020
  • janejellyrolljanejellyroll Member, Premium Posts: 24,571 Member Member, Premium Posts: 24,571 Member
    Came in to type some of my thoughts, but @AnnPT77 really summed it up.

    It seems like the policing of some of these terms comes down to some people thinking that if you're saying you're [x], then you're saying you're GOOD at it. I don't think that's the case. Running is very important to me, but I'm never going to win any races. When I say I'm an athlete, I'm not making any representations about my speed or skill. The field of possible athletic endeavors is so huge that when someone says they're an athlete we can't even know for sure what they're saying they do. They could be talking about climbing mountains or they could be telling us they love doing Beachbody on Demand workouts.

    There probably are some kinds of athletic skills that would give someone an edge if they were suddenly expected to complete a different type of workout, but many of us -- even the athletic ones -- would probably flounder if we were suddenly subjected to a new type of athletic challenge. Put me in a row boat and I'd be lucky to get very far. So the argument that golf doesn't necessarily translate into other skills doesn't mean that much to me. An athletic pursuit may not be a particularly good WORKOUT, but I don't think it follows that it isn't athletic.

    I think there's a kind of carryover from the non-athletic world that if we're going to do something with our bodies that it's a waste of time if it isn't the BEST WORKOUT POSSIBLE. It's like the infomercial effect -- exercising sucks, it takes all your time and energy, so if you do it, you'd better make sure you're squeezing the most out of every last minute. By those metrics, things like golf or bowling aren't great athletic pursuits. But I'm not sure it's valuable to judge physical pursuits by this metric.
  • JennliftsandspinsJennliftsandspins Member Posts: 27 Member Member Posts: 27 Member
    I consider professionals athletes. Or those who put in time and training for competition like university swim teams or Olympians. Competition and training are what I think of when I think “athlete”.

    Others who engage in sports for fun and health I don’t call athletes. For example I wouldn’t consider a marathoner who is just going for a pb an athlete, but the runner who is trying to win the race I would.

    I think being athletic and being an athlete are different.
  • robertw486robertw486 Member, Greeter, Premium Posts: 2,154 Member Member, Greeter, Premium Posts: 2,154 Member
    For the most part I agree on many of the sports mentioned, but there are always exceptions as well.

    Bodybuilding would be a fine line for me. They do have to be dedicated and work out, but the goals aren't performance oriented, so somewhat a grey area.

    @sijomial beat me to the punch regarding F1 (and other high level road racing) drivers and motorcycle riders. At the upper levels you will find nothing but well trained athletes, and they often train things most athletes don't. With the huge G loads in F1, drivers take massive strain on their necks. The sport has been compared to an extended dogfight in a fighter jet due to the G loads.

    Motorcycle racing as well has many highly trained athletes. Motocross in particular became dominated by those with higher fitness levels and endurance is a huge part in their training.

    Cheer and dance have athletic aspects highly depending on the dance or routine. But I'd consider many of them athletes, or at least very athletic. Golf is similar, with some physical ability involved beyond basic fitness, though not needed if you can overcome it with skill.


    The skill sports.... sailing, shooting, archery, curling.... with a few exceptions most of them IMHO rely on skill sets and training, but not much athletic ability beyond the basics. Of course there are exceptions such as the biathlon, where both the athletic ability and skills come into the picture.


  • Chef_BarbellChef_Barbell Member Posts: 6,219 Member Member Posts: 6,219 Member
    AnnPT77 wrote: »
    I'm not too strict in the definition (in my head), because I feel like too many people UNDERdefine it, and not that many OVERdefine it.

    I think anyone *working* seriously at improving a physical skill, especially one that involves large sets of physical capabilities**, can call themselves an athlete, if it feels OK. A key aspect of that: I don't think one has to be a skilled athlete currently, or of an elite or extremely accomplished level, in order to be "an athlete". It's the striving, the working at it: That's enough.

    ** In saying "large sets of capabilities", I'm struggling for a term that excludes some well-developed, complex physical skills that we wouldn't usually consider athletics, like playing a guitar, or doing embroidery - things that pretty much no one thinks would qualify a person as an athlete.

    There are waaaaayyy too many people who are working to improve themselves, physically and also by using intentional training techniques, even competing regularly in some cases, who say "I'm not an athlete . . . ." Most of those people are athletes, if you ask me.

    That said, I do make a mental distinction for myself (not just with respect to athletics) between things I do, and things I am, but I think that distinction is mostly mine to make. If making art is central to my sense of self, I'm an artist, even if I'm a crappy one. If I make my meals, and maybe even if I do it really well, I may still not consider myself a cook because it feels unimportant to who I am. IRL, I *am* a rower, IMO, but not a cyclist, even though I like to ride my bike sometimes.

    Personally, I'd be willing to consider bodybuilders athletes. I don't think a person has to be super well rounded in all physical skills in order to be "an athlete". I'm thinking some of the elite distance runners aren't going to wow us with their upper body strength, for example. That doesn't make them not athletes. Ditto for golfers, possibly even race-car drivers. Definitely people who do things like competitive tree-climbing. Not so sure about competitive eating, though - but I don't know how they think of themselves.

    It's a word, and I admit it's a word that implies a certain amount of respect . . . but it's not some snooty exclusive club. Niner, you're being unusual here: Usually when people say folks who do X sport "aren't athletes" they're not talking about their own sport. They're usually being Snooty McSnootersons about other people's sports, IME.

    If you try to get better at dancing, you're a dancer. If you try to draw or paint or sculpt better, you're an artist. If you strive to improve at a sport-like skill, you're an athlete. JMO.

    The bolded sums up how I feel.
  • ninerbuffninerbuff Member, Greeter, Premium Posts: 43,635 Member Member, Greeter, Premium Posts: 43,635 Member
    AnnPT77 wrote: »
    It's a word, and I admit it's a word that implies a certain amount of respect . . . but it's not some snooty exclusive club. Niner, you're being unusual here: Usually when people say folks who do X sport "aren't athletes" they're not talking about their own sport. They're usually being Snooty McSnootersons about other people's sports, IME.
    Yes that's true. I hear a lot of European/South American Futbol players say that NFL players aren't real athletes because they only play for a few seconds a play and that Futbol is continuous.

    But when I speak of bodybuilding it's because I know how a lot of bodybuilders train and especially with the amateur and pro competitors, many of them may look great on the outside, but their actual "athletic" ability is subpar. So many in the offseason get gassed just climbing up a flight of stairs because they are so heavy for their frames. It's NOT unusual for a guy my height (5'7") to be 240lbs+ in the offseason. Ronnie Coleman, who was one of the best Mr. Olympia, at 5'10" got up to 340lbs in the offseason.
    And I'm sure you've heard how people who are very overweight sometimes struggle to breathe. A lot of amateur and pro bodybuilders breathe that way in the offseason. Weight is weight whether fat or muscle and not being conditioned to carry it puts a toll on the body.
    This is why I don't consider them athletes. I just call them competitors. Doesn't mean I disrespect what they do, because what they do takes so much commitment and a hard lifestyle.

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  • AnnPT77AnnPT77 Member, Premium Posts: 18,106 Member Member, Premium Posts: 18,106 Member
    robertw486 wrote: »
    For the most part I agree on many of the sports mentioned, but there are always exceptions as well.

    Bodybuilding would be a fine line for me. They do have to be dedicated and work out, but the goals aren't performance oriented, so somewhat a grey area.

    @sijomial beat me to the punch regarding F1 (and other high level road racing) drivers and motorcycle riders. At the upper levels you will find nothing but well trained athletes, and they often train things most athletes don't. With the huge G loads in F1, drivers take massive strain on their necks. The sport has been compared to an extended dogfight in a fighter jet due to the G loads.

    Motorcycle racing as well has many highly trained athletes. Motocross in particular became dominated by those with higher fitness levels and endurance is a huge part in their training.

    Cheer and dance have athletic aspects highly depending on the dance or routine. But I'd consider many of them athletes, or at least very athletic. Golf is similar, with some physical ability involved beyond basic fitness, though not needed if you can overcome it with skill.


    The skill sports.... sailing, shooting, archery, curling.... with a few exceptions most of them IMHO rely on skill sets and training, but not much athletic ability beyond the basics. Of course there are exceptions such as the biathlon, where both the athletic ability and skills come into the picture.


    Having had a friend who did competitive 3-position shooting . . . well, it favors the fit, at least, IMO. (He called it "3-position yoga" hereabouts, sometimes, because the shooting sports are not necessarily well regarded in all circles here). I admit, though, I haven't done it; perhaps you have, so know more about it.

    This next part is not in response to your post (and not in any way a criticism of your comments, but an expansion of my earlier one about "not athletes" often being applied to other people's sports).

    It's really, really easy to underestimate what's involved in sports we don't do. Usually, the practioners we see (on TV/video and so forth) are accomplished at it. They make it look easy. That can be deceptive.

    A funny thing, to me: I worked for a major (NCAA Div I) university, and was close to the women's rowing team. The rowing coach and the men's ice hockey coach were buddies. Once a season or thereabouts, the hockey coach would bring out his team (especially those new guys) to row the rowing barge (a giant rectangle, super stable, easy to row), with some basic instruction from the women. Routinely, they showed up cocky, and left much more respectful . . . not just because it takes skill, but because they learned it required strength. Looks easy, though. 😆
  • heybalesheybales Member, Premium Posts: 18,379 Member Member, Premium Posts: 18,379 Member
    ninerbuff wrote: »
    Being part of the bodybuilding industry like almost all my life, I've NEVER thought of competitive bodybuilders as "athletes" the way the industry sees them. I see them as competitors, but not athletes because they don't physically compete with each other, there's no display of athletism in contests and these guys are usually at their WORST physical ability on stage because of all the dehydration and lack of food.

    Others that I don't consider athletes- race car drivers, golfers, and competitive food eaters.

    Okay here we go.

    A.C.E. Certified Personal and Group Fitness Trainer
    IDEA Fitness member
    Kickboxing Certified Instructor
    Been in fitness for 30 years and have studied kinesiology and nutrition

    9285851.png

    I like taking into account what was given regarding the official Oxford definition...."A person who has undertaken training or exercises to become proficient in physical activities such as competitive sports."

    So even bodybuilders have undertaken training or exercise - even if the physical activity is the exercise - the end result is actually just showing it off.

    But there seems to be much made of the terrible cardiovascular system, which could be very true for bowlers, curlers, dart players, golfers too.

    Then you have some massive cardio athletes in the form of pro-cyclist whose bones are worse than your grandma, and even though they could run up that flight of stairs don't make them carry a bag of groceries in each arm or their upper body strength (except for sprinters) may be expended.

    I don't think that definition says the resulting physical activity must be competitive - it's a good sign I'd wager that it could be competitive even if not done to that level by the majority of practitioners.

    If you are training or exercising to become proficient - that takes some knowledge in itself, and the reason for doing such activities.

    I think it's a mindset.

    Just because someone goes out and runs around the block daily and gets fitter and better cardio, or lifts their pink dumbbells after the treadmill and gets a tad stronger - doesn't make them athletes. Many will do those things because they think that's what they need to do - no desire to find out if there should be more, no desire to improve.

    But change the mindset to they want to see improvement, and now they become knowledgeable to "train" and become "proficient" by making needed improvements - now you have someone imitating what we see so-called athletes doing. They likely have a coach, they likely will be stricter with their diets and routines, they likely put more time and effort into the training.
    But if I'm out on my run for the time I have available, and paying attention to HR and pace and intervals and trying to make improvements merely to be better at what I do - I'm going to suggest I'm an athlete.

    I think the bodybuilder is too.
    Any smoking bodybuilders?
    I'm always shocked walking up to a race start and smokers getting out of their cars to go up too. Always wondered if they want to or family egged them into doing it.
  • robertw486robertw486 Member, Greeter, Premium Posts: 2,154 Member Member, Greeter, Premium Posts: 2,154 Member
    AnnPT77 wrote: »
    robertw486 wrote: »
    For the most part I agree on many of the sports mentioned, but there are always exceptions as well.

    Bodybuilding would be a fine line for me. They do have to be dedicated and work out, but the goals aren't performance oriented, so somewhat a grey area.

    @sijomial beat me to the punch regarding F1 (and other high level road racing) drivers and motorcycle riders. At the upper levels you will find nothing but well trained athletes, and they often train things most athletes don't. With the huge G loads in F1, drivers take massive strain on their necks. The sport has been compared to an extended dogfight in a fighter jet due to the G loads.

    Motorcycle racing as well has many highly trained athletes. Motocross in particular became dominated by those with higher fitness levels and endurance is a huge part in their training.

    Cheer and dance have athletic aspects highly depending on the dance or routine. But I'd consider many of them athletes, or at least very athletic. Golf is similar, with some physical ability involved beyond basic fitness, though not needed if you can overcome it with skill.


    The skill sports.... sailing, shooting, archery, curling.... with a few exceptions most of them IMHO rely on skill sets and training, but not much athletic ability beyond the basics. Of course there are exceptions such as the biathlon, where both the athletic ability and skills come into the picture.


    Having had a friend who did competitive 3-position shooting . . . well, it favors the fit, at least, IMO. (He called it "3-position yoga" hereabouts, sometimes, because the shooting sports are not necessarily well regarded in all circles here). I admit, though, I haven't done it; perhaps you have, so know more about it.

    This next part is not in response to your post (and not in any way a criticism of your comments, but an expansion of my earlier one about "not athletes" often being applied to other people's sports).

    It's really, really easy to underestimate what's involved in sports we don't do. Usually, the practioners we see (on TV/video and so forth) are accomplished at it. They make it look easy. That can be deceptive.

    A funny thing, to me: I worked for a major (NCAA Div I) university, and was close to the women's rowing team. The rowing coach and the men's ice hockey coach were buddies. Once a season or thereabouts, the hockey coach would bring out his team (especially those new guys) to row the rowing barge (a giant rectangle, super stable, easy to row), with some basic instruction from the women. Routinely, they showed up cocky, and left much more respectful . . . not just because it takes skill, but because they learned it required strength. Looks easy, though. 😆

    Interesting that you bring up shooting, as I'm an avid shooter who shoots probably at least once a week when I can. I've done 3 and 4 position shooting, though mostly in my younger years and not on a competitive level for the multi-position stuff. I have qualified for some national level stuff in single discipline though, but not in recent years.

    And as much as I feel that most good to great shooters are mostly in shape, I feel that overall it's only a portion of the overall skillset and that the fitness portion can usually be overcome with experience and skill. But it's certainly still a component, especially the cardio base and how it relates to breathing control, and to some extent the flexibility and ability to adapt to some shooting positions. I can relate to the 3 position yoga comment.... getting older with a bad back some of that is done cautiously these days.


    As for the part not directed at me, I'm in agreement with it 100%. It's easy to discount things we know little about, and the less we know the easier it is to do. There are a lot of things that look easy that probably aren't, and even those that are probably take a great deal of time and effort to get really good at.

    And I really enjoyed the rowing barge story. Nothing like putting people in their place when they take something for granted.



    And I think @heybales touched on something very important, being mindset. Those who are pushing themselves and have their heads in the game are probably more prone to take seriously the athletic component of any sport. I had a neighbor to picked up a nice pulley rack system primarily to improve his golf drive. It was one of his weak points and he decided to change it. The same applies to mental toughness in some physical tasks. Though it's never good to push to injuries, some will quit as soon as they get out of their comfort zone. Others will just take the discomfort and push through. As we used to say in my military days, at some point you become comfortable with being uncomfortable.

  • missysippy930missysippy930 Member Posts: 2,391 Member Member Posts: 2,391 Member
    Reading through this really got me thinking.

    I guess every sport mentioned, people could be classified as athletes when you are at the top of your field and competitive in the field. Maybe, for many, the term athletic could be better applied. Some of us (me), are real klutzes 🤷🏻‍♀️, not an athletic bone in my body.
  • gradchica27gradchica27 Member Posts: 744 Member Member Posts: 744 Member
    I consider professionals athletes. Or those who put in time and training for competition like university swim teams or Olympians. Competition and training are what I think of when I think “athlete”.

    Others who engage in sports for fun and health I don’t call athletes. For example I wouldn’t consider a marathoner who is just going for a pb an athlete, but the runner who is trying to win the race I would.

    I think being athletic and being an athlete are different.

    I have been thinking about this lately, in regard to my children. I consider the older two athletes—they play competitive soccer, one on one of the top teams in the state, they both run (and score points for their team in) cross country, and one is on a school league climbing team.

    After my 2nd’s team played 5 games in two days during a tournament and I heard parents complaining about how “slow” the kids looked after the last game, I thought, “these kids are athletes. Don’t belittle what they just accomplished because they’re 8 & 9 years old (playing 10&11 yo opponents). Let’s see you play 3 soccer games before 1 pm and still be able to breathe, no less run!”

    So I don’t agree with the professional or semi professional/college requirement to be an athlete, but I do agree with the “put in time or training for competition”—I just don’t think it has to be at a national/professional level.

    My kids are technically doing this “just for fun”, but they train together/at home 6-7x a week, sometimes twice a day (okay some of their teammates are gunning for the youth Olympic development programs, but we’re not deluding ourselves). So that ticks the athlete box in my book. Granted, I don’t consider my younger two athletes (who play rec soccer for fun), so I think it’s the competition and the intentional training that makes the difference for me. Now that I am no longer training for anything, I don’t consider myself an athlete.
    AnnPT77 wrote: »
    robertw486 wrote: »

    It's really, really easy to underestimate what's involved in sports we don't do. Usually, the practioners we see (on TV/video and so forth) are accomplished at it. They make it look easy. That can be deceptive.

    Absolutely agree there. High level athletes of all sorts make things look effortless that would be impossible for most of us. Watching pro baseball I’m often bored because it looks so easy, so effortless and so few mistakes happen. I have to remind myself that it only *looks* easy bc they’re so good.

    I often think that watching Ninja Warrior or competitive climbing. My tiny foray into climbing has done just enough to show me how *hard* what they do is and to make me strain my eye muscles rolling them when arm chair comentators who haven’t lifted their own behinds off the couch in decades critique their performance in ways that belittle the athletic feat they’ve accomplished. Maybe that’s why I’m such a grouchy soccer mom with parents who constantly criticize their kid’s performance when they couldn’t run a mile no less run and perform the skills these kids do for an hour 🙄.
  • rheddmobilerheddmobile Member Posts: 5,925 Member Member Posts: 5,925 Member
    Shooting may be a skill rather than a sport (although it definitely favors a slow heart rate at the higher levels) but I’m not sure how archery got on that list. Competitive archery requires significant arm strength.

    As for equestrian sports, they may not use the same muscles as say, high jumping, but spend a whole day riding jumpers when you haven’t done it in a while and your muscles will let you know it the next day. I would also argue that training balance and finesse, which are necessary to be a good rider, are physical attributes belonging to an athlete and not simply skills.
  • robertw486robertw486 Member, Greeter, Premium Posts: 2,154 Member Member, Greeter, Premium Posts: 2,154 Member
    Shooting may be a skill rather than a sport (although it definitely favors a slow heart rate at the higher levels) but I’m not sure how archery got on that list. Competitive archery requires significant arm strength.

    As for equestrian sports, they may not use the same muscles as say, high jumping, but spend a whole day riding jumpers when you haven’t done it in a while and your muscles will let you know it the next day. I would also argue that training balance and finesse, which are necessary to be a good rider, are physical attributes belonging to an athlete and not simply skills.

    I considered the same comments regarding archery and riding, but it's been so long since I've done either I didn't have recent experience.

    As for the equestrian sports, I've only been on a horse a few times in my life. But it seems to me anyone doing some of the barrel racing type, rough terrain, or jumping would at a minimum benefit from really solid core muscles, and probably others I don't realize as well.
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