Why Arrogance and Fitness don’t build Community

Back in my not-so-fit days (which are unfortunately still recent enough to be in my short term memory stores), I had a few “fit friends”. They ran, played sports, stayed more or less active. I remember asking one of them at one point if they would consider letting me run with them and teach me how to run. Up to that point, I couldn’t go more than 30 seconds without collapsing from exhaustion and heart failure and yet marveled at how others could just…go. I don’t remember her exact response, but it was something along the lines of “no”. Reason being? I was basically told that because I would never be able to keep up with her (true), running is something you either know how to do naturally or don’t (uh…) and that she doesn’t workout with out of shape people because they annoy her (whaaaaaaaaaaaaaa??!!).

I still to this day get angry thinking about that. In spite of that, I learned how to run. It took a few years to get the courage to join a running club but I learned. As I’ve improved my running over the years, I relive that conversation every now and then. Even though I no longer hang around this person, I’m still somewhat haunted by that experience.

For one thing, as someone who has a low self-esteem, being made to feel that I was unworthy really stung. It made me feel like I had missed my chance to be healthy and that I was beneath that community of people and would never be allowed in. It really turned me off of the fitness community before I had even submitted my proposal to join in on it.

That’s just not cool.

As I’ve improved my health, built some stamina and embarked on a few wild and crazy fitness ventures, I’ve had that system of belief challenged greatly. I’ve come across many individuals who are the very definition of fit and healthy but check their ego’s at the door in favour of sharing their knowledge and helping those of us who are working hard to catch up. I’ve also encountered many people who I have admired from afar who have an incredible level or arrogance regarding their accomplishments and distain for those who either cannot “compete” with them, or who are disgusted at anyone who has yet to take those first important steps toward betterment.

Don’t get me wrong, I think pride in your accomplishments is fantastic and nothing makes me smile more than reading a brag from a fellow fit. What I don’t like is when an invisible hierarchy of “anything you can do, I can do better” results in a sort of bullying and belittling in the fitness community. It’s toxic and in my humble opinion, can destroy even the strongest communities.

I love my fit communities. I love them because they ooze with love, support and encouragement. I love seeing someone run a slower pace during a race to keep a less experienced (or in my case…slow) runner company. I love seeing people holding each other up and giving them that added motivation to keep pushing. And I especially love seeing someone helping another because they genuinely care, rather than because they want to be publicly recognized as superior.

Now…let’s all hold hands and skip down the street together.

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Stephanie is a Canadian Mom of 3, Runner, Certified Functional Strength Coach (CFSC), Christ-follower and all around reeker of awesomeness. When she's not chasing after her kids, you can find her dreaming big dreams and bringing them to life.

7 Responses to Why Arrogance and Fitness don’t build Community

  1. Dude, that girl was so wrong.

    One of my college roomies was an aerobics instructor and played on the women;s tennis team. I’m so thankful she willing to let out of shape nilly hang with her and even workout with her! we had so many laughs while sweating together!

  2. I really enjoyed reading this post. As someone just re-entering the fitness world it’s intimidating to even think of reaching out to the fit community. Like joining a gym as the only heavy chick. Looking forward to reading more of your stuff. Kim

    • Thanks Kim! Fitness is one of the scariest worlds to enter or re-enter into. I was very nearly sick to my stomach before my first running clinic b/c I thought for sure people would laugh at how out of shape I was and I’d be left in the dirt. The key it to tell yourself no matter what, you’re doing something good for yourself and you deserve to be there as much as anyone else. Take care!

      • Thanks Stephanie. This was exactly what I needed to hear today. Having a rough day. So thanks for putting things in perspective. I appreciate it. Kim

  3. I love this post a lot. I was VERY intimidated to get into running being that I’m a “heavier” runner (my skinny is 150). I’ve definitely found more positive and uplifting runners than the I’m Better Than You variety but they are absolutely out there. And you’re right, it really only takes one comment from one person to do a LOT of damage.

    One reason I started my blog is that I wanted to provide a place for newbie and/or average (get it?) runners to feel comfortable, get inspired/be inspiring, learn and teach, and generally connect with one another. It’s such a scary thing when you’re either just starting out or feel like you don’t belong. There always seem to be a billion people telling you (again, why can’t we get away from this?) how it should be or what you should be doing or how you’re doing it all wrong.

    The worst part to me is that often it’s done in such a passive-aggressive way (particularly online). This kind of makes me seethe. Expressing your feelings regarding someone else’s fitness is one thing – assuming that they won’t catch your drift because you’re making a blanket statement about No One In Particular is quite another.

    This is why people have such a hard time (myself included until fairly recently) considering themselves Real Runners even if they run almost every day.

    We just have to keep puttin’ the love out there and continue making running FUN for ourselves and others. :)

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