balance · next marathon · racing

The cult of running or how to stop myself from being such a grouch. And then just a quick update on my training.

I’m sure there are endless semi buddhist quotes floating around FaceBook and Tumblr (I don’t really get Tumblr but I think I may be too old) basically saying that what you resist persists.  Or something to the effect that those things that rile you / get your goat often reflect some kind of problem in yourself rather than any real problem with the thing you think is riling you.  Does that make any sense at all?  Let me explain.

A good friend of mine who is an acupuncturist was telling me about a client of hers who is 50 and very into crossfit and telling me she had never seen a woman in such good shape.  I surprised myself by responding with a rant about how crossfit was such a cult, that I liked the exercises but not all the lingo and the kneesocks and the endless raving about bacon and paleo diets.  To which my friend rather wisely responded that, in that way, running is a cult too.  To non-runners, endless chatter (or FaceBook posts – yes I know I am guilty) about PRs, pacing, nutrition etc. is exactly the same.  And why use the term cult? Because, I guess, with both running and crossfit (and god knows, many other hobbies like knitting and sadomasochism) there is a lingo which excludes those outside of that community and which can, consciously or unconsciously, serve as a barrier that keeps those not in the know out.  The truth of the matter is that I’m in the community of runners so I don’t feel excluded by running talk and I’m outside the crossfit community and I do feel excluded.  And is that all there is to my irritation?  The fact that I haven’t been asked to join in to play?  I suppose there is some truth to it – I am curious enough about the success stories that if I did not live in the middle of nowhere about 90 minutes drive away from the nearest “box” (sorry, but that does irk me) I would go there for some sessions to see what it is.  But I can’t, and so there is a part of me which pushes out her bottom lip and sulks.

In fact, honesty compels me to tell you that I use lots of crossfit-style workouts taken from YouTube and blogs as inspiration for the classes I teach.  It’s good, it’s definitely pushed me beyond my comfort zone strength-wise.  I mean, who am I kidding? I did NO strength work EVER before and since using some of the workouts I’ve found I am much stronger than I ever been.  I am doing pushups and burpees and planks and squats and lunges and all those things that used to terrify me on a twice-weekly basis and I can do them, and I actually enjoy doing them!  I can really see how the format of crossfit style workouts works.

But there is more to my outburst to my friend than just a bit of jealousy and a reluctant acknowledgement that some of it works for me. What annoys me is the blind zeal I see on some blogs and videos that these workouts are the best workouts in the world, for everybody.  If only everyone could do them, we’d all be buff and strong (that might be true, actually).  What irks me is when people believe that their hobby / interest is not only the most wonderful interest for them, but also the best hobby /  interest for everyone.  I just hate proselytising.  I don’t necessarily believe that what works for me, will work for someone else. Rarely in life does one solution solve all of your problems.  Nor does it tend to work forever.  Running pretty much fixes what I need fixing.  It keeps me fit, it keeps me strong, it gives me goals and direction, it helps me deal with much of the stress and problems that sometimes occur in my life.  It has prompted me to find a new career which I am finding incredibly satisfying.  But there are times in my life where it doesn’t answer all of life’s questions. I find myself low despite running.  A point in my life where running just doesn’t cut it.  I spent a whole year trying triathlon because running was not pushing my buttons anymore.  So I know that running is not always the answer, not even for me.  And, more than that, I know it is not for everyone.  I really know that.  Just because it fixes what ails me doesn’t mean it will work for others.  I don’t sell it to people, not even to my clients.  Some of them like running, others don’t.  I only have 2 clients with whom I run exclusively, and they have asked for that, everyone else tends to do more strength work with a bit of running mixed in.

So rather than believing that if only everyone did what I did the world’s problems would be fixed, ultimately I’m finding as I get older is that balance is the goal for me.  A balance between knowing what works for me, and seeing that others might have other needs.  And a balance within me which is often lacking, hence the grouchiness.  Not extremism.  Extremism is easy.  I’ve done that.  Extreme diets, cutting out all alcohol, or even prioritising running over most family and every social commitments.  Sometimes you need to do that for a while – I had 30 kgs to lose so I had to cut some things out there! – to reset your defaults, to stop the rot.  But once things are back where I’m happy, I then need to find my balance.  Between eating to train and perform, and enjoying a meal with my family and friends.  Between getting enough sleep to get up and run and sitting and having a conversation with my husband.  And ultimately, between getting the most out of my exercise and running and realising there is more to life.

Speaking of getting the most out of my running though – things are going well!  I am currently experiencing a little niggle with my knee (nothing new) but otherwise I am finally piling on the miles and upping my paces.  I’ve done some pretty challenging long runs recently and I’ve managed to hit the targets every time.  This Sunday is the Ashby 20 miler, a race I have run twice before and for which my coach has set me pretty challenging goals.  I’m feeling good about trying to achieve them and I can’t wait to run a race for the first time since Boston 2011 (eek!  It’s only been triathlons since then!).  Currently the balance is there. The self-pity has stopped and the enjoyment of training has kicked in.  I’m tired, it’s hard, but I enjoy pushing myself.  I am looking forward to London and can see the goals and the processes beyond April 21st.  So far, so good!

5 thoughts on “The cult of running or how to stop myself from being such a grouch. And then just a quick update on my training.

  1. What a fantastic way to perceive the cult of our hobby, Petra! I’m definitely guilty of ranting about other forms of fitness in the same way you describe above.
    I’m so happy that your running is going well lately! Have a blast in the Ashby 20 this weekend!

  2. You and I always seem to find ourselves in the same thought process. I don’t necessarily care that the crossfit cult seems to think they are mightier than thou; I’m way too old to really care about that stuff anymore, but I one of the reasons I switched coaches is because I just couldn’t follow a one-dimensional view to training. I am me, and me needs to be fueled with a little speed and if by doing so in the build-up process means I may be a microminute slower in a road marathon down the road, then so be it. It gets me excited, and motivated and that’s what is ultimately going to feed my running. Do what works best for you (and, btw, I’ve seen some pretty damn cut runners out there – WAY better looking than any crossfitters). Well said, my friend!!

    Happy to hear your training’s going well and I’m super excited for your upcoming 20 mile race. Can’t wait to hear about it.

    Much love!!

  3. I love your posts, Petra! They always get me thinking… I guess because I am a part of it, I have never thought about running being a cult. But when I think about all the blogs dedicated to running, races, lactate threshold runs, VO2 max, running shoes, injuries, etc., then I can clearly see that we runners are no different than the rest. And that I have just been unable to see that until now!

    So happy to hear your running is going well and that you are finding the balance that we are all seeking to find. More importantly, it is great to hear that you are enjoying your training! Good luck with your 20 mile race this weekend!!

  4. Ha! I wrote a post and I kept mentioning PR everywhere until my mom and a few friends said, “What’s a PR?” I went back and updated the post to include personal record. I find it funny that I’m a Technical Writer and I would never leave abbreviations out there without spelling them out first. So, I get it. And skydiving is so much worse when it comes to the cult mentality.

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