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.