a more sincere desire - Contemporary Athlete Skip to content

Just a brief word, I asked Haley Sive, who does an amazing job with the website why she trained at the CA one day not to long ago. The more that she spoke the more I thought it would be great to have some words printed about the otherside of the coin for once. She wrote this for the site and I only edited a few gramatical things (yep, I edited stuff for once). -Bender

He sat there in the amber light of Starbucks, cradling his black coffee and patiently nodding, as I told him the story. The story of my broken heart. The best part was that I didn’t have to explain it to him. From the very beginning, he understood. And he is a patient listener, calm and open, so he didn’t rush me to an end or dismiss me.

The truth? It wasn’t a lost lover. Or a family member. Or even a place left behind. Just my team. I was just upset about not being on a team. DIII NCAA Championships… Graduation… Summer fun… And then in the first fall not at school, it hit me: I was all on my own now.

It really was just a team – just people to train with. I had no right to be so upset. However, it felt like a whole lot more. Losing my team felt like losing my sport or losing a part of myself. Ten years is a long time when you are 22. I had been rowing with a team for almost half my lifetime.

Now, I was a lone girl, treading water in the great sea of exercise and fitness. Treadmills, ellipticals, bozu balls, 12 lb dumbbells, and yoga mats floated around me. Skinny women wearing expensive yoga tops wiped their brow with crisp, clean white towels. Men in muscle shirts jocundly pounded each other on the arm. Televisions strewn about the gym advertised the body that I should be training for. It all seemed oppressively self-oriented. I couldn’t navigate these foreign waters.

Dave had been listening to my lament for about fifteen minutes. When I finally stopped long enough to take a breath, he took a small sip of coffee, and offered a few words.

He doesn’t speak in long sentences, though I do my very best to draw them out.

“Yep. That’s a team,” he said.

His brevity drove me nuts. I groaned inwardly and went on, “Yes, but what do I do without my team? What is the point if they aren’t there? Seriously. I did it all for them. And now they are gone. I can’t do this alone.”

“Do you like rowing?”

Hesitantly, “Yeah… I love rowing.”

“Then that’s what you should do.”

I stared at him dumbly. What do I even say to that? How can I possibly row? Just row? It took all my inner strength to not throw my hot tea at him. That was far too simple an answer. I felt my quarter hour soliloquy deserved a full on lecture with spreadsheets and flow charts explaining my feelings and how they might be analyzed and how I could carefully go about solving my team-deprivation problem.

He said, “Row.”

— — — — — — — — — — — —

The truth is, for Dave, it is that simple. We – we, humans, that is – are worthy of devoting time to the things we love. The things that make us happy. That give us joy.

And there is a deep satisfaction and reward for devoting time to training. Not the easy fitness thing. Not the I-just-want-to-look-good thing. The real thing. The tough thing.

The just desserts of training hard are the same as those of studying hard or working hard on being a better person. The greatest fruit grows after the season of the most storms and most oppressive heat.

Why bother working hard, if not for some end greater than my own looks or my own ego? Rowing for myself doesn’t mean I am pouring time into a selfish endeavor. It means I am pouring out myself to grow stronger so I can strengthen the other people around me. Not that they are dependent upon my health, nor do they even care. But it makes me happy and strong, so I can be strong and happy for others.

It still surprises me how gently I realized these truths while training at Contemporary Athlete. It didn’t happen suddenly. There were no flow charts. No spreadsheets. No dissertations. No journal articles. No formulas. No lectures.

It happened with a simple word. A patient suggestion. A broad smile and laughing eyes when I looked like a fool trying hang cleans. A forgiving spirit when I wanted to storm out of the room. An unassuming posture. A quick demonstration. A dismissive glare when I broke into self-deprecation and self-doubt. A gentle encouragement. A sincere suggestion.

Dave doesn’t think that his person shapes this place, and indeed, he would tell you he doesn’t want it to be about him. What Dave doesn’t know is that what makes the box one worth standing in is that he is there.

He is here telling us that we are worth it.

Most places only tell you that you are worth it if you look beautiful, if you are skinnier than the next person in line, if you have bigger muscles, if you log more hours.


The truth is all you have to do is want to be a little better than the last time you walked in the door.

The game,
the glory,
the big muscles,
the trimmer waistline
they are just the result of a more sincere desire,
one that is knit together with
being worth it in and of yourself – you and you alone,
and wanting to give it away to a team.