If you do athletics, you're an athlete

Plus: a scientifically designed minimum lifting routine, the 'Nintendo Generation' has 'weak skeletons,' and I'm gatekeeping donuts. This is Links 26.

If you do athletics, you're an athlete

For a long time we've gatekept the word "athlete" to mean "professional for whom sports is a day job." But this article from the Washington Post this week argues that more of us should think of ourselves as athletes, and that we could all qualify for, and benefit from, the athlete way of life. I have to agree. Much like writers are always advising other writers to call themselves writers if they write, regardless of whether they've published anything or not: If you do athletics, you're an athlete, whether you've received a Nike sponsorship or not.

The WaPo piece focuses mostly on the way athletes pursue achievement-oriented training, which is an important component. The idea of training vs. workouts/exercise has long been a Swole Woman hobbyhorse, and is a central argument in LIFTOFF: exercise makes you sweat; training makes you change. That puts some of us in the Olympics, and others of us, ahem, adding 25lbs to our deadlift after two years of lifting.

But that's okay because, while it might sound corny, even the best athletes often don't set the bar for success at being universally known and beloved or beating absolutely everyone else (armchair observation, but those athletes seem to struggle the most mentally). They are head down, chipping away incrementally at their personal bests and enjoying the process, knowing that progress is not always linear. Iconic example: Gymnast Katelyn Ohashi, who tapped out of her collegiate gymnastics career after feeling crushed under all the external pressure, and then returned in her senior year on her own terms with an all-time legendarily joyous floor routine you surely saw go viral back in 2019.

All this said, I think the article misses on one big thing: One of the best parts about thinking of yourself like as an athlete is that tacks your whole lifestyle toward supporting your sport, rather than concentrating it to the half hour you're in the gym three times a week. Athletes don't just work out and leave it at the door; they eat and and rest to support their workouts too (within reason and according to the actual priority that sports takes in their lives).

Therefore: if you've never thought of yourself as an athlete, try it. And try not just working out like an athlete, but taking care of yourself like an athlete, too.

What subscribers got this past weekend: A comprehensive guide to eating more, drawing on my personal experience with struggling to eat enough of the right things and to keep my relationship with food fresh, fun, and flirty. Folks doing LIFTOFF who are boggling at your TDEE number: Take note!


An extremely common question I get is, "what is the absolute minimum of strength training I can do and make progress?" Look:  I sincerely believe there are real benefits to be had from allowing yourself room for a whole hobby, rather than trying to grout yourself between the tiles of what everyone wants from you. That said, some folks truly don't have the time!

Here is an extremely interesting study from June where the authors want to create a "time efficient" minimum viable product of strength training, and say that overall volume (more than 4 sets per muscle group, ideally a 6-15 rep range) is more important than frequency. They propose that if people can go appropriately HAM (RPE 8-ish) with four sets of a "leg pressing" movement (e.g. squat), four sets of a push (e.g. bench or overhead press) and four sets of a pull (e.g. rows), they could get results.

However, how ev er, the authors note: "these methods are probably better at inducing hypertrophy than muscular strength." That means you might get bigger with a program like this, but not stronger (or else maintain where you're at, with slightly less effort). This is a good example of the kind of programming people can much more easily benefit from once they've laid the foundation of a strength base.

Also, pursuant to the strength base: Props to Athlete Allie Kieffer for not only not giving into the rampant “lose weight to be better at your sport” hegemony, but posting about how “strength training is the secret sauce for [her] success!”


A post shared by Allie Kieffer (@kiefferallie)

~Discord Pick of the Week: Loading the barbell on the floor for deadlifts is, I will admit, one of the most pain-in-the-ass parts of lifting. This $25 mini deadlift jack has been making the rounds in our chat, and has met with some early positive reviews! While it's not teeny-tiny, it's definitely small enough to keep in a gym locker or bag.~

I'm often deeply unhappy with the way "how x celebrity got in shape for y role" articles play up cardio and significantly downplay weights, but this one on Lily James preparing to play Pamela Anderson finally gives weights their due (even if she was only trying to maintain muscle and strength, not build it).

A Survey of National Parks fees. Of note: "the annual America the Beautiful parks pass ($80) [is] a steal if you’re planning to visit at least three parks."

Exercise and weed: the discerning athlete's version of me time.

High protein pizza dough.

Are we mentally ill, or just very unhappy? One of my favorite rhetorical questions!

While problematic in its conception, that piece reminded me of the free "Good and Cheap" cookbook, which I like for its low-stakes recipes. Make sure you double the protein.


There have been a lot of callouts of abusive and misogynistic trainers in the lifting world over the last week. Team ForNever Lean has a good video on part of the situation, as well as green vs. red flags you should look for in a personal trainer.

Perfect headline, no notes: Pentagon Says 'Nintendo Generation' Has Weak Skeletons.

Runners can back off of donuts; lifters have had been here.

Speaking of runners, they've been banned from an Arizona track for too much pooping.

"Chaos training": absolutely not.

If you, like me, have ever wondered aloud whether there were always urgent cares or if this is a recent development: It's the latter, and it's weird!

One of the "happiness professors" is burnt out, ironically. Choice quote:

So what’s the answer? What’s the purpose of life? It’s smelling your coffee in the morning. [Laughs.] Loving your kids. Having sex and daisies and springtime. It’s all the good things in life. That’s what it is.

I'm all for mindfulness, and color me a bitter woman who once earned herself $380 of overdraft fees, but this is something rich people say.


A wonderful post on what the 2000s were from blog friend of the blog Read Max; special honors to the essay questions at the end.

In that vein, I’ve recently been loving the Be There In Five podcast for smart excavations of my recent millennial past.

It's millennial nostalgia day apparently!: the little-known history of how the creator of Oregon Trail never made any money from his masterpiece.

That's all for this week! May the swole gods bless and keep your gains for reading, I love you, let's go--