Wednesday, February 1, 2017

I'm Not an Athlete

A lot of what I write here is catharsis. If I'm having a tough time for some reason, I kick my own butt to remind myself that a lot of it is just in my own head. I know a lot of folks have similar struggles though, so I hope it helps you as well.

One of the things I tell myself - when I'm feeling depressed and mad at myself - is that I'm "not an athlete". I tell myself that I'm just embarrassing myself by pretending that I am. I was sick for most of January, and my body still isn't 100%. I've gotten back to nearly my previous level of training, but my body is definitely still struggling.

It doesn't matter though. I'm never going to be an elite athlete, and that's not a goal for me. I tried to qualify for Boston last year and failed. I failed exactly because I trained too hard and and messed up my body. Then I got angry at myself for my perceived weakness and trained even more, which only made me worse. The problem wasn't that I suck at exercise, it's that I expect too much from myself and don't rest when I need to.

I've mentioned before that one of my priorities is vanity. I like looking good. And that's something I can do without breaking myself, simply by maintaining my calorie intake. I also like to do crazy adventurous runs. I ran a marathon at midnight of New Years. I didn't care if I did it fast. Most of the time I don't have a pace goal. I'm signed up for an Ironman, but I just want to finish it and say I've done it. So if I have a slow workout.... It really doesn't matter.

On Sunday I had a good swim. I swam a mile and a half entirely with freestyle stroke, which was a first for me. I was telling Geoffrey about it, because I wanted to share my joy. I said something like, "it's nothing for you, but for me it's good." And he told me, rightfully, that his swimming has nothing to do with mine and that I shouldn't compare myself to him. I should compare myself to myself. I had a better swim than my previous swims. And that's what counted.

Thumbs up for not drowning!

Because I'm friends with so many other runners and athletes, it's really easy to get caught up comparing myself to them. And I have no doubt they compare themselves to me. And I have to admit, guiltily, that one of the reasons I did that midnight marathon on New Years was to make people say, "holy cow!" Because I still have quite a bit of ego banging around in my skull.

To an extent, it's OK. Competition makes you train harder. But it's a double-edged sword. Too much of it and you start looking for reasons to feel down about yourself. And pushing yourself to work harder can easily turn into pushing yourself too hard. Which can lead to the negative spirals I'm all too familiar with.

Anger also can be healthy to an extent. If I don't want to get up and run because it's cold or dark out, I'll get angry at myself and go and do it. That's OK. Afterwards I'll feel good about myself. However, if I run, and then get angry at myself for my run afterwards, that's not good. I have no way to vent that anger. I just sit and stew and hate on myself.

"Stop hating yourself and feed me already!"

Everybody would tell me that I am an athlete. One, it's because the people I love are amazing, and make me feel good when I'm struggling. But two, they see the things I do: How much I lift, run, swim, bike, and that I teach karate. If I exercise for over ten hours a week and tell myself I'm not an athlete.... That's just me indulging myself in pointless whining. And it's not fair to my friends either. If I run ten miles and say it was junk, how are they going to feel about their 5 mile run?

It all comes down to getting stuck in my own head so much. It's why it's so important for me that I have love in my life. Because being with people, talking with them, always makes me feel better. I'm really my own worst enemy. And in being able to help them with their personal demons, it reminds me that I'm not the only one who struggles. I'm not the only person in the world who sucks sometimes. There are people who I would consider better athletes than me who beat themselves up too.

Although sometimes there's a good reason to beat yourself up...

That's the thing. Your pain is your pain. Your struggles are your struggles. Your successes are your successes. You may look at others, and perceive them as being "better" or "worse" than you, and would expect them to feel comparatively better or worse about themselves. But that's not how it works. The fat guy eating a box of friend chicken wings might be feeling pretty amazing about himself. Whereas I may be hating on myself because I did one fewer rep on my deadlifts that morning. Our universes are entirely different.

So whatever your feel, whatever you think, it's entirely 100% your choice. Sure sometimes something really awful happens, and it's hard to not feel down. That's OK. I'm not saying you should force yourself to be giddy with joy all the time. That's a recipe for insanity. But if you stub your toe and start hating on yourself for being a clumsy idiot (which may sound like a dumb example but I totally do this), then maybe don't do that.

Like I said, I wrote this for myself. I often judge myself. I often feel lousy if I don't perform to some arbitrary standard. I get angry at myself for getting sick and not being able to exercise. And then I force myself to exercise anyway, and get angry at myself for getting even more sick. It's a really stupid pattern, and it makes no sense. I'm getting upset that I'm not superhuman.

Being superhuman would be boring though. There's no challenge. I'm defined by my challenges. All of the pride I have in myself is due to overcoming challenge. The fact that I feel challenged is good. Because that is a recipe for growth. For learning. For becoming a better human being.

Although I don't know if I'll
ever overcome my vanity...

No comments:

Post a Comment