- - A Maturing Athlete Identity

A Maturing Athlete Identity

article by Carson McQuarrie

Do you remember what it is was like to train and exercise for a goal in your teens or twenties? Even if you’re not much older you can probably recall feeling more focused and being able to push your mind and body to much higher intensities and volumes with little repercussions the next day or even that season. Why don’t you feel like that anymore? As we can expect our bodies and minds mature and with that our identity as athletes should too. In this article, we’re going to discuss what athlete identity is, how athlete identities change over time, and why maturing with your athletic identity may be an important component in order to achieve your goals at any age. 

What is Athlete Identity?

How strongly do you identify as being healthy? How strongly do you identify as being a parent? How strongly do you identify as being an athlete? Each of these makes up different percentages of our time either practicing them or thinking about them, which is a large aspect of how strongly we identify ourselves as being a particular type of person. It’s no wonder people who are with a partner or have kids identify themselves firstly as being a partner or a parent because it makes up such a large part of their life. How strongly do you identify as being an athlete? Would you give yourself a 3/10, 6/10, or 9/10? Is there a disconnect between how you rate yourself and how much time the pursuit of being an athlete actually takes up in your mind and actions?

Athlete Identity and Life Phase Disconnect

Humans naturally change and mature throughout our lives and so does how we identify ourselves, particularly as athletes. As athletes, we change how strongly we identify as athletes, as well as the type of athlete we identify ourselves as. Perhaps an athlete was competing in Olympic triathlons in their 20s, however, they’re now participating in Ironman triathlons in their late 30s. Perhaps a different athlete was a national level marathon runner in their 20s and 30s, and now they’re powerlifting and coaching marathoners, as in the example of Ryan Hall. As athletes mature and change how strongly they associate themselves with being an athlete the sport types they participate in can change too. It can become detrimental to an athletes’ well-being and success when they feel they should pursue different sports types and/or reduce the percentage of time training makes up in their life. If this occurs it’s critical athletes address these internal cues in order to continue to pursue their athletic journey.

Maintaining Well-Being While Athlete Identity Changes

When a disconnect ensues the primary results we address are these thoughts, feelings, and choices, or we ignore them and we continue to feel stronger feelings not conducive to an improving sense of life satisfaction and less happiness when goals are attained. The point is, we must address these feelings resulting from the separation between what we feel we should do and what we want to do. This resulting solution is as unique as the athlete. The answer doesn’t automatically mean that you should accept what you feel you should be doing. The process starts with objectively weighing the pros and cons of the different choices you have, and accepting the direction each path will take you in, before ultimately choosing a path. This is the key as any athlete moving through different life phases while desiring to remain a happy and fulfilled athlete.  

In conclusion, I want to further stress how these feelings athletes go through are not age-related. These are feelings an athlete of any age can experience as priorities and changing bodies come into consideration. A simplified 3 step process to remember for getting through these experiences are: 

  1. An objective review of choices
  2. A conscious choice of direction
  3. Self-acceptance throughout the choice that’s made


*Carson McQuarrie is an Assistant Coach with Thomas Endurance Coaching (TEC) and sponsored plant-based athlete specializing in ultra-endurance road cycling. At an early age he took his competitive nature to soccer and cross-country running. Carson later pursued adventure sports such as rock climbing, downhill and AT skiing, snowshoeing, sea kayaking, mountain ultra-marathon running, and mountaineering.

Carson’s’ wide breadth of backcountry experiences eventually lead him to purchase his first road bike. He found a growing love in the new sport of cycling. Inspired by his peers and reminiscent of dreams to go ‘Pro’ he discovered a plant-based diet and took to riding ultra-distances becoming the fastest vegan to bike across both Canada  and America in 25 days and 17 days respectively.

Carson, having made numerous personal and professional sacrifices to pursue his goals, knows what it’s like to live with focus, commitment, and balance life with a vision in mind. His coaching style is supportive, visionary, and objective. Carson recognizes that an important aspect of being a coach is recognizing each athlete has a personal life, and understanding the support needed to facilitate success.

As a self-taught and Cycling British Columbia registered coach, Carson enjoys continuously learning about his athletes. He analyzes qualitative and quantitative data through TrainingPeaks, power meters, heart rate monitors, RPE, and individualized discussions to prescribe personalized WOs, training blocks, annual training plans, and measure progress.   




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