I have had two conversations this past month with women who were obese and working their BEHINDS off to get healthy. Both are 12 months or more into their transformations. They’re determined. Loving the changes they are experiencing. It is great FUN to talk to them! (One of them is successfully and aggressively reversing Type 2 diabetes!)
Conversations with people chasing down new and healthy lifestyles almost always find their way to the topic of learning how to love running/exercise/activity. How do you make activity a permanent part of your new life? Making the time in your daily routine, have accountability partners, signing up for classes, having a goal… We rehashed all the tricks that work.
Individually they finally expressed the same underlying concern…
They want to start running and know that they will be more successful in learning how/sticking to the habit if they were to join in on walks/runs with other people.
But they’re worried and embarrassed and fearful…
‘People will make fun of me.’
‘They’ll get frustrated at having to wait for me because I’m so slow.’
‘Maybe I should wait until I’m in shape and thin before trying to run with anyone.’
‘I won’t be able to keep up.’
I KNOW the feeling.
I remember the fears with stark clarity. I was in the same boat when I started. I will admit that I even dip my toes back in those waters of self-doubt periodically if I’m tired, or feel intimidated or I am trying something new….
Fearful and apologetic…
The layer of fear and trepidation and hesitation was more suffocating than the layers of fat I was wearing…
Here’s the advice I passed along. (I work to keep this front and center of my brain even now…)
1. Find a group/person that specifically says ‘everyone welcome’. Take them at their word.
2. Be honest about your abilities and goals. If you can run a 14 minute mile – and you are working to run two miles in a row. GREAT! Tell them. No shame, no bragging, no apologies. If you won’t be able to keep up or there’s another group that’s more your speed; they WILL tell you!
3. Plan to have fun! Enjoy being outside, with other people who love to be active. The enthusiasm of being around people who love what they’re doing is contagious. Try to leave your insecurities and discomfort and fears in the car. Be positive about what you think you’ll experience and you will be surprised how often your expectations become reality.
4. And last, but perhaps the most important? DO NOT APOLOGIZE… Groups that run with a variety of abilities often have pre-set spots where they’ll re-group mid-run. When you arrive to the group of runners who are waiting for the rest of the group to gather up before heading off on their next section; do not apologize for being the last one to arrive or for making them wait. Just don’t apologize for anything… You’re giving it 100% of your best effort. You’re moving and trying and growing and being brave — and they know it. They’re happy you are out there with them. I promise you that this is the truth.
Apologizing highlights your insecurities. Chronic apologizers can be tiresome for even the hardiest, most supportive of souls…
I did it for YEARS….
I spent decades apologizing. For being fat. For being in someone’s space. For not fitting in my airplane seat. For having to have special accommodations for my size/diabetes. For being the last runner up the hill.
I spent the first year running apologizing left and right. ‘Uh… HELLO. Look at me. 280 pounds and literally shuffling along in a 10K and trying not to die.’ I didn’t belong in this world of runners and I just KNEW someone wanted to tell me that; and didn’t have the guts. Make no mistake — I was giving it 100% effort every single time I put on my running shoes! But I knew I didn’t look like any of the others who were out there at the event…
My reaction? (The reaction I’ve used my entire life?!) Self-defense mechanisms firing like a freaking machine gun…
Apologize profusely before anyone can point out the obvious.
I went on my very first trail run with my friend Josh Gum.
He’s the first person who asked me to go on a run with him. He wants everyone to learn to love trail running like he does. He said he would run/walk/hike — whatever it was I was capable of doing/wanting to do that day. For some odd reason, I just trusted that he was telling me the truth.
I was nervous as hell – and apologizing all over the place for the first few months I was able to find time to run with him. He would run ahead at times and I would catch up and apologize for making him wait… He would stay with me for bits and we would chat about running and life and tell jokes and I was hammering him with questions about running/trails/food/lifestyle shifts. Chafing. Good lord. We talked a lot about preventing chafe. 🙂 I would routinely apologize for holding him back from running faster. Or if I was sucking wind and just trying to hang on and run a little bit further… He would tell me stories, not let me quit or we would run in companionable silence. I would apologize for being so slow when I could finally breathe again.
At one point he tired of telling me to stop apologizing. He told me, gently yet firmly, he was done listening to me apologize for learning to run and giving things 100% and I needed to knock it off.
I needed to stop doing it for my own good.
I had nothing to apologize for.
I walked away and really thought about what Josh said. STILL think about that short, yet important, conversation. I need to ask him about it one of these days, but I figure he thought I would work ‘apologizing’ out of my system with some confidence and experience running. When he realized it was just a bad, self-deprecating habit that didn’t belong in my life or my new lifestyle I was building; he cared enough to call me on it.
And I trusted him enough to listen.
Honestly? You might run into competitive, mean, snobby, impatient, whiny, defensive, judgmental folks in your journey to learn to make activity a solid part of your life. But be fair about that for just a moment… We run into jerks in all walks of life. It’s just that we’re hyper-tuned to it around our bodies/running/sweating because we’re feeling so horribly vulnerable. In so many aspects of life we – as strong and smart people – tumble/fight/persevere through those interpersonal obstacles multiple times a day and don’t even look back. But jerks exist. Just don’t go running with them a second time. 🙂
You WILL also be blessed beyond measure to find some amazing, strong, fun, funny, wise, kind people on this journey to health! Keep your eyes wide open. There are LOTS of good people out there that will support, encourage, nudge you along when you need it the most.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out on their journey to become active?