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For Shame: Stop the Life, Sport, Fitness Shaming

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Quick disclaimer: I have included some GIFs in this post that are of a humorous nature, but I truly feel really strongly and very seriously about this topic. The GIFs are merely a chance for some lightness in the midst of discussion.


I’ve noticed over the past year a marked rise in shame-full talk in fitness circles: shaming, and talking about shaming. Fat-shaming, thin-shaming, last-person-to-finish-the-race-shaming, cardio-bunny shaming, meat-head-lifter shaming. Lots of people looking down on whoever is doing what they (the looker-downer’s) are not.

You don’t do speed work/HIIT? PSshh.

You only run how far/lift that much? Psssshhhh.

As well as the other side of the coin:

Wow, you run how far? But I only run this far…. I suck.

You run how fast?? Wow, why do I even bother?

And so on. I’m over it. I’m just flat over it. Enough with the life/sport/fitness shaming.

So, you don’t run 50+ mile weeks while maintaining a perfect diet that you make from scratch (including your own almond milk) and your personal garden. So, you don’t do all of your perfectly prescribed training sessions. So, you don’t go out and have a huge sundae every other night of the week to plaster on social media because you are “Like, YOLO, you guys!!!”

I would insert a gif or something here, but then I would have to punch myself in the face.

Maybe you are struggling. Struggling to gain, struggling to lose. Struggling to find the balance. Or maybe you are the freaking BOSS: speed work is like waking up in the morning and you make THE BEST almond milk. And you have a smoothie every day. And nut butter etc etc.

I don’t care. You = you. And you (yes, you), should be proud of that.

I bring this up for the aforementioned reason (that the topic is becoming increasingly prevalent around media and social circles) because I honestly do think that we should be proud of ourselves, warts and scars and all, but also because of several experiences I have dealt with recently, both where I was put on a pedestal as well as one where I was villified, to an extent.

When you run a marathon, you get a variety of responses. And you get both positive and negative responses from people who have and who would never run a marathon.

Positive Veteran Response: “Good for you! Which one? Oh, wow, that’s fantastic! How are the legs feeling, heheh!”

Positive Non-Runner Response: “Wow, that is so, so cool. I have such respect for people who take that on!”

Negative Veteran Response: “Nice. What was your time? What, that is like a 9:40 pace? You need to do some serious work to get better. And what was the name of the race? Never heard of it.”

Negative Non-Runner Response: “Why on earth would you do that?” also “That is so bad for you.”

At the studio (and loving my shirt!)

At the studio (and loving my shirt!)

So, Sunday. I went to the Body R+D class. And again, I want to stress that I did like the class work that we did. When I got there, the instructor (a middle-aged man) asked me what I did for fitness and exercise, as it was my first time there. I replied that I ran, and before I could also include that I practiced yoga, spun, and lifted weights, he started laughing and in a loud voice (to be honest, typical of how he comported himself) said, “aaaaaaaaacchhhh, you all know how I feel about THAT!” And then as he was sauntering away (I was filling out the contact form) I could hear the good old fashioned “You know it is just so terrible for your knees” etc. PLEASE, like I haven’t heard that before.

Later on, I asked him, “So, how did ‘little runner girl’ do?” And he said “Who?” “Me” “Oh, fine fine, we just gotta build some strength up in you! (patting me. WRONG MOVE).” I say, “well, I used to do quite a bit more strength training, and I’m looking to get back into it now that marathon season is over.” You would have thought I had shot him at the mention of “marathon season.”

mentally

Granted, this guy was totally full of himself, even though he looked like Richard Simmons mixed with Mickey Rourke and was about 20 years too old to even slightly titillate me, even if he was a) attractive and b) not built like a Box Troll. I get it, you’re the expert. I also fully well know that not everyone thinks like this. But a lot of people do.

(Please pardon the rash generalizations that I am going to make, and please know that I am talking about extremes, not many of the people that I know who do these sports and fully accept and encourage others who engage in different sports).

Crossfitters and HIIT’ers shaming on runners and people plugging away on the elliptical.

People saying ballet is not a sport, or that horseback riding isn’t.

Runners scoffing at walkers, and anyone scoffing at anyone else who isn’t as good as them.

That is like hating a person because they are blond, and prefer their hair shorter than longer. Or because they wear makeup every day. Or a dress to work. It is arbitrary and ignorant and just being a d*** for the sake of being a d***.

Want to know why they (the people who do what you don’t like/understand) do what they do?

Because they like it. Because it works for them. Because, for all of the hassle, it makes them feel good. It gets them ready to take on the day, a positive outlook. Because they like Twitter, they like to blog. They don’t like to blog. They like to be up on the news, they like to watch gossip shows.

Someone makes different decisions than you? Ask them why, in a real and genuine way. You have no obligation to change/convert to their ways! Find out why they think the way they do. What inspired them? What have they learned along the way? Maybe you leave the conversation with a new insight, maybe you leave feeling the same way about your previous ways, maybe you question everything you’ve ever known. Regardless, you are richer for it. Make your own choices, but be informed. Seek guidance, but do you. 

But always show others respect.

No one should tell you how to live your life. People can certainly make suggestions, and you should always be open to suggestion and learning. That is how you grow. But looking down on someone simply because they don’t measure up to your arbitrary standards, or adhere to your personal choices?

Now, that is shameful.

Be proud of who you are, but enable others to see the beauty and power in themselves as well. Foster the good in people. You never know where it might take them (and you).

What you should be saying to yourselves right now.

What you should be saying to yourselves right now.

Have you experienced shaming, sport or otherwise, in your life? I’m sure there are a lot of moms who have gotten flack for going back to work, or not. (Mom, I’m looking at you!)

Do you tend to belittle your own accomplishments when around those that are at the “top of the class”? Or do you stand firm and hold your ground?

How do you think that we can work on this societal problem in a real and meaningful way?

But why does it have to be like that

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