You Don’t Have To Run A Marathon, Triathlon, Or Anything Else You Don’t Want To Do

by Mary on December 9, 2010

Today I went to Lollipop’s Playland as a chaperone for elementary school kids. I spent a lot of time walking around and telling kids what not to do, but I did get to go down the slide once. :)

I also caught a cold from hanging around little kids all week. I suppose that’s what happens when you push yourself and you hang out with germ infested kids. My immune system just couldn’t take it no matter how much Vitamin C I took. So now I’m a sad girl resting on the couch with tissues.

Sometimes you can push your body. Sometimes your body pushes back.

Although this is only a temporary set back that requires simply more fluids and a bit of rest, it’s made me think about how far some people push themselves. I started thinking about this after reading a great post Emily wrote called “You Don’t Have To Run A Marathon” and hearing about how some of the Biggest Loser contestants ran a marathon when previously they had only run a few miles.

A few comments on my last post about my doubts with triathlon training subtly mentioned that maybe I didn’t need to train for a triathlon. I appreciated these comments because I think a lot of times people (especially bloggers) do things because they think it’s trendy. “Oh, that blogger and that blogger and that other blogger ran a half marathon! I should too!”  And so on and so on with any kind of sport or activity possible, whether or not they actually find that activity enjoyable.

For me I am obsessed with the idea of completing a triathlon. I think this started back in 2007 when I met a girl who did triathlons and then when I watched Kona. This was before I blogged or knew anything about healthy living blogs. I simply was in awe of these people that did the seemingly impossible. I wanted that – on a much smaller scale – for myself. Completing a sprint triathlon has been my number one goal on my  fitness goals list since I started this journey. I only have the 5k goal on there because it’s part of a triathlon. There is something about this sport that seems to captivate me and compels me to try it.

But my obsession with triathlons is different from what I see happening with a lot of other people. They aren’t obsessed. They aren’t even enjoying the activity. They are doing things that they think they “should” be doing because everyone else is doing them. But really? Not everyone is meant to run a marathon.

(photo credit: NBC)

I hate that shows like The Biggest Loser give so many people false expectations. For the last few seasons they have not only given false expectations about weight loss (lose 10 pounds a week or you should feel horrible!) but they also grossly misrepresent the time and effort needed to do something like train for a marathon. The final contestants on the show have roughly a few weeks to train for a marathon. Sure they are in great shape by then, but it gives viewers a false sense of marathon running reality. It makes it seem like everyone can and should be able to run a marathon in a month or so. That just isn’t true.

And that is okay! It’s okay to do your own thing and enjoy the form of activity you love the most.

Like walking? Walk! Enjoy it! Don’t be ashamed that you don’t run.

Like dancing at home to videos? Like weight lifting? Like rowing? Like kickboxing? Like anything that’s not trendy but still gets your heartrate up? Go for it!

Don’t look to TV shows or blogs or anyone but yourself for inspiration and ideas about exercising. Don’t compare yourself to them or set goals based on what others are doing. Do what feels best to you, not what you think you “should” do or “should be able” to do. Those thoughts are small defeats from the beginning. Just do what you love and enjoy it.

{ 25 comments }

1 shauna December 9, 2010 at 4:41 am

It’s a fine line isn’t it? I mean for me when I have *never* exercised, I had to look outside myself for ideas and inspiration as I had nothing to draw from! But sometimes I’ve gone too far trying to make myself like an activity coz I thought I should. Sure takes awhile to realise that it’s okay to move on and dance to your own tune :)

2 Carina December 9, 2010 at 7:31 am

Hubby and I go to a boot camp three days per week, four days if we’re feeling crazy and our running schedules permit. We pay money to attend this camp, as does everyone else there. We go to a camp that is from 5:30 to 6:30 a.m., but other times are offered (though ours is supposedly the toughest). There is nothing that bugs me more than a few people who attend and complain. It’s fine to say “wow, that was a lot of sit-ups,” or “I think I’m going to be sore tomorrow,” or even “my legs are still jello from X day’s workout, I maybe shouldn’t even be here.” I get it.

But there are some people (fortunately they usually drop out after a few weeks) who just seem to complain constantly about how early it is, how they don’t want to do X exercise, how hot or cold they are, etc.

I just want to turn and say to them, then go home. No one is making you be here. We’re all tired, but we’re all doing this to make ourselves stronger. Save your money and time and energy and use them on something else if you don’t want to do this, you’re just bringing everyone else down.

It seriously drives me crazy and is one of my biggest pet peeves! Life is too short to do things you hate if you don’t have to do them (maybe like working or changing your kid’s diaper). Especially for exercise, which takes money, time and energy, there are tons of choices and there’s no reason to do something you hate.

3 Mary December 9, 2010 at 1:58 pm

I totally understand that. It’s a choice but many people seem to think that they have to do it. Although personally I don’t like bootcamp type stuff so I would never do it. There are so many different ways to get fit and stay active that it’s silly to choose to do something that you hate and complain the whole time you are doing it.

4 Dani @ My Little Apricot December 9, 2010 at 9:14 am

Feel better soon! And you’re totally right, a lot of bloggers will do something just because it’s trendy. Honestly, I think that just makes it all very lame. THINK FOR YOURSELF!

5 Brandon December 9, 2010 at 9:59 am

I agree completely – and this is coming from someone who just finished his first marathon! There are SO many different ways to be healthy and fit, nobody should feel like they have to run a marathon, triathlon, or whatever, to be considered healthy. Find something you enjoy doing and do that!

6 Morgan December 9, 2010 at 10:09 am

I have to admit that I tend to read about what some other bloggers are doing and then immediately begin to question if I should do that to, if it would make me “better” than if I am just walking, or using the all motion trainer, or whatever. It is a hard mindset to move away from, especially when you read their posts filled with “it makes me feel so great” or “it has helped me drop the weight more quickly.”

7 Mary December 9, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Ah good point! The “it helped me drop the weight faster” comments do tend to be something that makes a lot of people do whatever it was (usually running) the blogger mentioned. But for a lot of people running is torture and they could do other things that were more enjoyable. But the advertisement that it helped someone else lose weight is a strong call to do the same thing.

8 erin December 9, 2010 at 12:32 pm

I hope you feel better soon! I completely get what you’re saying here. I struggled SO much earlier this year when I decided not to run the half marathon I had trained for for weeks and weeks, feeling like I was letting down all kinds of people who had been supporting me. But I had stopped enjoying running, and I hated that, and in the end I had to make a decision that was right for ME, at that time and forget about what other people thought. I’m glad you are going to keep training for the triathlon; as long as you enjoy it and it’s making you happy, go for it!

9 Micah December 9, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Thanks for this post. I couldn’t agree more. My wife is/was (not sure) training for a 1/2 marathon but she HATES to run. She has to force herself every time she goes. A couple weeks ago she ran 5 miles which I thought was awesome but she hasn’t gone running since then and is in a down cycle because she set an expectation that she didn’t really want. She wants to be able to say she has run a 1/2 marathon but she doesn’t really want it for herself. I don’t know what to tell her. I think she should do what she wants but I don’t want to discourage her from going after an ambitious goal.

10 Pubsgal December 9, 2010 at 2:33 pm

You wrote: “I only have the 5k goal on there because it’s part of a triathlon.”

Oh, that made me chuckle! I think you know you’re a triathlete at heart (instead of a runner) when you think stuff like that. I had similar thoughts during my half marathon last weekend: “Well, I thought I wanted to do a half-ironman someday, but then I’d have to do THIS again. Aw, crap!” Oh, and “Shouldn’t I be biking this?” Maybe I’ll stick to sprint distance. ;-)

11 Mary December 9, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Hahaha, that’s funny. Running without the biking and swimming just seems lame. ;)

Yeah I doubt I’ll ever go bigger than sprint distance. Running that much sounds… not fun. ;)

12 Pubsgal December 9, 2010 at 7:07 pm

;-D As my mom-in-law said, “you gotta wanna.”

I think sometimes I get a little overeager in encouraging people about triathlon, mainly because I get such a kick out of it. I’m excited for you, since this is obviously something you really want to do. Please feel free to email me if you want to talk tri. I’m usually at the back of the pack, I don’t have all the fancy gear, but I have a lot of enthusiasm for the sport.

13 RunToTheFinish December 9, 2010 at 8:13 pm

AMEN!!! i wrote about this not too long ago. I think a lot of people run a marathon because they feel like they aren’t a runner if they don’t, well poop that’s just a silly ego trap! BUT when you find something that you WANT to do well that’s an amazing experience regardless of how fast or slow

14 Caity December 9, 2010 at 8:20 pm

Sorry you’re not feeling well. I hope you feel better soon.

I always try to push myself too hard and be the best but recently I realized as long as I’m doing something, it’s still good! I’ve been walking a lot and really enjoying it. I started trying to jog a little and it makes me feel great but I do enjoy walking more at the moment.

15 Jody - Fit at 53 December 9, 2010 at 8:58 pm

Great post Mary! I never do any sports activity or “contest” because the blog world is doing it. There are plenty of those out there & I don’t join the bandwagon unless sit is something I want to do & is right for me. I read others say they feel they get dragged into it by their blogger friends.. this is where that word NO comes in. :-)

If you want to do it & it is a goal you are excited about, then do it.. if not, don’t.. or if you want to try but without all the scrutiny, do it on your own.

Feel better Mary!

16 maria @ Chasing the Now December 9, 2010 at 9:58 pm

Feel better.

I actually quit watching The Biggest Loser for some of these reasons. Emily’s post was wonderful. It’s great if you are passionate about long-distance events and are able to put in the necessary training to not totally wreck your body. But it’s not necessary to do that to be fit or healthy.

17 Mary December 10, 2010 at 1:47 am

That’s exactly why I stopped watching too. I think I watched the second season with a marathon and then just gave up in frustration at what the show was doing. They are trying to show it’s possible, but in the worst possible way.

18 Janetxb December 9, 2010 at 10:11 pm

Agreed! I just watched Biggest Loser for the first time this week. While I was amazed to see that people who still have a lot of weight to lose were able to run a marathon, I have no desire to go in that direction, and an injured knee wouldn’t allow me to! Instead I enjoy walking, hula hooping, and dancing on Saturday nights.

Hope your cold is better soon. You’re right…. being around little people can be dangerous.

19 Mary December 10, 2010 at 1:48 am

Those are super fun things to enjoy! Seriously! :)

20 Diana @ frontyardfoodie December 9, 2010 at 11:20 pm

Thank you for this….so many people I’m sure are horrible affected by that show when a contestant is ‘disappointed’ by losing ONLY 8 pounds that week. Good golly! I mean HOLY moly.

21 Jenn December 10, 2010 at 12:27 am

Feel better soon.

I could never watch that show for that reason (and I don’t even have tv but that’s another thought all together). I think it’s unrealistic at best and dangerous at worst.

I’ll admit, I’ve thought I need to do races to be a “health blogger”. But I realize that wouldn’t be being true to myself nor is my body suited for endurance running. My strengths are flexibility and speed which is why taekwondo competitions are good for me. I love my kettlebells and taekwondo and because I love them, I do them and stay fit while having fun. It’s a total win-win.

I will say I absolutely agree on not comparing but I’m not sure I agree about not looking to blogs for inspiration. While I don’t think people should do things they don’t love I have found an occasional blog that really inspires me to try new things or to “dig deep” finding strength in myself I didn’t know was there. Love that!

22 Mary December 10, 2010 at 1:50 am

I definitely have been inspired by blogs too. I think there is a difference between being “inspired” to try something new and loving it and being “inspired” to set a goal (like running a marathon) doing something you don’t really even like. But I totally believe blogs can inspire… I’m daily inspired!

23 MamaBearJune December 10, 2010 at 12:59 am

AMEN! I’m happy with just walking. Never have had the urge to run and damage myself. ;-)

24 Miz. December 10, 2010 at 4:38 am

YESYESYESYESYES!!!
no more shoulds or oughts
no more MUSTurbation :)

25 merri December 13, 2010 at 6:21 pm

When I used to work in a daycare I got sick A LOT. I started taking vitamin c pills and it helped a bit but being around children will always make you sicker. I am sort of that way with yoga. I know yoga is healthy, and its good for my muscles, and its popular, but its boring. My other exercises, I look forward to them. This one, it’s something I should do, and I look at the clock the whole way through. Still, I do feel good afterward, so im gonna keep forcing myself for a while longer. Thank goodness ive never had the urge to run in a race. Def NOT for me

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