Article by our guest expert: Ariana Fotinakis

What makes an individual an athlete?

Is it determined by the variety of sports they can play?

The number of game-winning points they’ve scored?

The number of Olympic medals around their neck?

The topic of athleticism has been hotly debated over the years.

Is it something you’re born with?

Or is it something that can be learned?

According to the dictionary, an athlete is “someone who is trained or gifted in exercises or contest involving physical agility, stamina, or strength”. Which implies that while athleticism can be a gift from the genetic Gods, it can also be learned.

During my career in fitness I’ve witnessed individuals who are “totally not athletes” (their words, not mine) perform athletic feats.

I’ve watched women with “no balance whatsoever” stand on one leg and move heavy kettlebells through space. And those women who “definitely cannot do that”? I’ve watched them do “that”.

Anecdotal evidence aside, what does the science say?

Studies have shown that there IS a genetic component that determines the types of skills we can excel in. Olympic-level sprinters and Olympic-level marathons have different muscle fiber compositions in their legs. Similarly, a world record-holding Powerlifter would have been born with a different body type than a classical ballerina.

But for those of us looking to incorporate more physical activity into our lives so we can improve our health, boost our energy, and tighten and tone a few areas, do we really need to perform at the same level as Olympians and other professional athletes in order to be “athletic”?

While science has confirmed that genetics are a factor when it comes to determining the types of activities we can excel in, they are not the only factor. Nutrition is a large player in the athleticism game, as is an individual’s dedication to their chosen activity.

Are you willing to wake up before the crack of dawn for that run?

Say no to that glass of wine at lunch because you’re seeing your trainer in the evening?

Throw on that workout video at the end of a long day when you really just want to plop on the couch?

Mental toughness is just as important as physical strength and coordination, if not MORE important, when it comes to being athletic. Somebody could be born with the ability to shine in any athletic endeavour they choose, but if they fail to nourish their bodies properly and aren’t willing to put in the time to practice, they aren’t going to get very far.

Similarly, an individual could be born with the athletic odds against them, but with the right nutritional strategy that suits their unique lifestyle and an unwavering dedication to their activity, they could astonish themselves by performing things they never thought possible.

For those of us who may not consider ourselves athletic in the traditional sense but still want to accomplish awesome things (and look good while doing it!) here’s how you can get started.

Find something you ENJOY.

Consider yourself lucky, because unlike many professional athletes you don’t have a scholarship or a large investment behind you dictating what sports you can and cannot play! Doing something you love will help you through those tough days where you’d rather just stay in bed.

Set a goal and CRUSH IT.

Want to run your first 5k without stopping?

Perform a squat with a barbell that weighs as much as you do?

Participate in a pole dancing competition?

Consider all the steps you’ll need to take in order to get there – make sure you’ve covered not just training, but also nutrition, recovery, and time management. Then it’s a matter of stepping one foot in front of the other.

Motivated by some friendly competition?

Look no further than YOURSELF.

You’ve likely heard the comparison game doesn’t get you very far in life. The same lies true in athleticism.

Wondering why she can do “this” or he can do “that” won’t help you become a better athlete. But keeping track of your training and working to continuously improve upon it will!

Record the stats of each training session.

Make note of how long it took you to recover from a tough workout.

Log the food you eat and how it affects you. N

ot only will you give yourself measurable points to improve upon, you’ll also be able to look back and revel at how far you’ve come.

Developing athleticism isn’t necessarily easy, but as you can see it’s achievable for those of us who have never considered ourselves “athletic”.

With some planning, some sweat, and some mental grit, you’ll soon be performing athletic feats you never thought possible!


Ariana Fotinakis helps women achieve their personal evolution through local and global fitness coaching programs. She specializes in helping women learn how to incorporate strength training into their lives so they can get stronger, boost their confidence, and chase their wildest dreams. 

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