How to Be an Amateur Athlete

The Latin root of the word amateur is “am,” meaning love. Therefore, despite the almost derogatory connotation modern society has assigned “amateur,” it is an ideal worth striving for: “Someone who does anything for the love of it.”

Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, got to spend time with the Tarahumara people in Mexico’s Copper Canyons. Renowned for their running skills, the Tarahumara, says McDougall, were having a blast. “They remember what it’s like to love running, and it lets them blaze through the canyons like dolphins rocketing through waves,” says McDougall. “For them, running isn’t work. It isn’t a punishment for eating. It’s fine art, like it was for our ancestors. Way before we were scratching pictures on caves or beating rhythms on hollow trees, we were perfecting the art of combining our breath and mind and muscles into fluid self-propulsion over wild terrain.”

The Tarahumara have a saying: “Children run before they can walk.” This taps into the true concept of play: The imaginative, creative, bond-forming approach chosen naturally by children. A child’s concept of play is usually unregulated and not goal-oriented; it’s ever-evolving.

3 Steps Toward Recapturing your Amateur Status:

1. Enjoy the process as much as the results: Exercise trends come and go while bookstore shelves strain under the weight of so many diet tomes. So, if your health and fitness routine is not just about fitting into a particular pair of jeans, slicing a minute off a personal-best time, or impressing the aerobics teacher, you’re probably having more fun.

2. Do what you like: If you prefer swimming over running, find a way to make that happen. If yoga lights you up and weightlifting feels like drudgery, sign up for a yoga class. Think like a four-year-old when choosing your exercise regimen.

3. Find like-minded souls: Training partners that share your passion are training partners that inspire.

As Zen writer, Suzuki sez: “In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.”