Sweat? In PUBLIC?
When I first ventured out of my domicile for the express purpose of exercise, I was oddly, intensely, self-conscious of it. I mean, I was just another person on the street as far as anyone else was concerned but that detail just didn't matter in the face of my worries. And yes, I'd use this as an excuse not to get GOING as well. However! Good news! I quickly learned that I was one of MANY. In more than one way.
Like I mentioned in a previous post, I started out just walking. But I couldn't just wake up a bit early, put on some shoes, and... just walk. I had to invent all these new insecurities. I convinced myself that the moment I stepped into the light of day, people would come rushing out of their homes to stare. Silently. And judge my size and fitness level. Ok, ok, it wasn't so melodramatic for sure. But I still imagined that people driving along the road on their way to work would glance at this dude on the sidewalk huffing and puffing away on a brisk stroll and comment to themselves "wow, what a fat ass." And that was it. That thought was enough to stop me from taking the initial plunge for a long time. I mean, of course, it's more likely just a weak excuse for me to continue to dodge the responsibility of my own health. But still, it was an excuse and I had to remove it so that could have no plausible reason not to. So FINALLY, one day... a sister of mine went for that first walk with me. Safety in numbers, right? And of course, exactly none of my fears were realized. No gawkers, jeerers, or oglers. And, you know what? If that kind of person existed for real, screw em! I'm doing the work to not be that way! This is what the process looks like! So many thanks to Becky for being the catalyst for this.
So that's all it took, really. That single buddy system walk. Once the unknown became known, once the fears never surfaced, getting out there was not longer an issue, as far as self-conscious anxiety was concerned. But then there was another one. I will tell you; exercising in a vacuum is hard. What do I mean? Well, lets just say that it gets to be an extremely repetitive chore on the same level as "brushing your teeth" or "making your bed" (yes, I do this, don't judge. And I don't care if you yourself don't). One thing that really REALLY helps to get moving every day is when you commit to a race. It can be months down the road. It can be a fun run. It can be as short as a mile. But the fact that it's on the horizon gives you something to think about as you exercise. You think about it and your performance at the even becomes and inspiration to push juuuuust a little harder. It's really helpful to have something like that to motivate you to get out there and push yourself.
But, oh no. New anxiety. When the date arrives and you're actually there, you're going to be so outclassed. So outmatched. Everyone there is basically Adonis, copy, paste 200 times. And then you. Surely, they'll laugh you out of the event. The ones who have special kinetic tape. Professionally profiled feet with custom sole inserts for shoes made of unobtanium. Fitness bands. Coaches. Pacers. Pre-race masseuses. And then you.
I seriously thought about this junk on my way to my first 5k. 5k! A run that just about anyone can complete after a few months of jogging. I felt so out of place, so awkward. I mean, I was GOING to feel that way. I knew it as a truth.
But then I got there and I saw the reality. It was Susan from HR. Dan from accounting. That jerk John in sales (sorry salespeople... no love lost between you and IT). Essentially, totally, 100% the everyday people that you'd never expect to see there. These aren't the people that get up early on Thanksgiving and do the Turkey Trot. These aren't the people that go for a 2 hour run. These aren't the people that have professional coaches with training regimens. You've just learned something: you're normal. They're normal. They're all in this together. They have their own struggles with fitness and weight. They're doing their own thing, proving their own stuff to themselves.
On top of that, this continues. Thanks to a wonderful girlfriend, I've started to become exposed to a new, higher level competitions. OK, I said to myself. This is where it starts. The complete outclassing. The total embarrassment. I'm going to go to the Ragnar race and be the schlubbiest schlub to schlub up everyone else's fun. I'm going to be the reason my team comes in dead last, I just know it.
But... then the same thing happened. I'm surrounded by people that are going to stay up in the wee hours of the night to run 3, 5, or 8 miles in pitch black (sometimes) on a dirt trail. Surely the only people that are into this are the personal trainers. The ones who actually LIKE physical fitness. But then I got there, and dangit... still not the truth. Susan. Dan. John. All there. People that, seen on the street, you'd say had no business in a contest like this. And yet, here they are. About to breath so hard they can taste their lungs. Who have to go back to work on Monday. Who forgot to get curry powder. Who are not racing anyone else but themselves. People that, wow, just really have no business being here (I didn't know they make leggings in XXL).
It's great to be a part of something like this -- to realize that you're all in this together trying your hardest. You know you're not going to win, but that's not the point. You're doing something that is only valuable to yourself; proving that you have the willpower to overcome and stretch beyond the limit that your past self could only see as an impossible goal on the horizon. The show yourself that you have the grit to get to the end. To remind yourself that you're made of sterner stuff. And there's so much support because this is true for everyone. The camaraderie is intense. All the haters you thought would show up just never do.
So, please. Please remove self-consciousness as a reason for not going outside like this. You're not so special. You're going to be right there with everyone else in this struggle. The person in the car that sees you huffing and puffing your way through a walk? More often than not, they say "hell yes. Do that work, you beautiful bastard."
At least, I will.