You are a special unique snowflake, and you can do anything you want, you can be whatever you want to be. Frankly, that type of thinking guarantees mediocrity. It’s precisely because we are all special unique snowflakes that we cannot do ‘whatever’ – we can’t do all things the same, because we are different. We can train as much as we want and we will still look different, because we are different.
But what about equality? We are equal, but we’re not the same. A marathon runner is not ‘worth more’ than a sprinter, who is neither more, nor less equal than a wrestler, who is worth no more or less than a painter.
Do what you are good at.
Overcome weaknesses, while playing to your strengths.
Don’t just focus on your weaknesses, while neglecting your strengths. Where’s the fun in that? That’s what perfectionists get stuck on. For fear of weakness, they never develop strength. Self-actualisation is impossible if you buy in to the fantasy that we can all do everything the same, that we are equally suited to all tasks, all employments, all walks of life.
If you only focus on bringing up your weak points, you’ll never excel at anything.
Focus on your strengths. How do you know what they are? What do you like doing? That’s your answer. If you focus on your strong points, you’ll still find enough weak points to keep you busy. In a world like this, especially if you’re a competitive athlete, you’ll be working really damn hard to overcome those weaknesses. To really excel clearly requires a hell of a lot of effort, so why pour all that effort into an area you aren’t passionate about? An activity you aren’t naturally inclined to do? A sport that’s an up-hill struggle the whole way, with no genuine enjoyment or feeling of satisfaction anywhere to be found?
What do you gravitate towards? Find out. And do that.
Or to put it another way: why does everyone want to run marathons, what’s with that? Is it just for the sake of some sort of achievement? Is it to distract us from the real reason we want to train? Is it to lock you into a process to give your training more meaning?
To run a marathon is a monumental undertaking. If legend is true, Marathon is the name of a city, which some dude ran to, seeking military assistance because another city was being attacked. This dude then promptly died. The distance he ran was 42.2 kilometres, which is now known as ‘a marathon’.
Very few people are cut out to run distances like that. If you love running, and endurance training is your thing, and you’re passionate about your event, go for it! You’ll have enough enthusiasm to get you through, enough drive and passion to enable you to commit to overcoming your weaknesses, and if you’re lucky enough to avoid injury while progressing through your training plan, you could have some very good results indeed... As long as you give yourself enough time, you plan well, you invest in the process, and you’re not just doing it because you’ve been deceived into thinking it’ll make you thin.
What is it about a marathon that gets people inspired? Is it the only impressive athletic feat we can think of? What about running 100 meters in under 18 seconds? How many people do you know who can do that? How is that an inferior goal?
Yay! For chin-ups!
What about developing the ability to do handstands? To be able to hold one for 30 seconds? What about being able to do 20 chin-ups in a row? What about any other feat of athleticism? Or are these things too intimidating, abstract or random?
No, I’m too old, I can’t run fast any more – I’ll just do myself an injury. What!?! You think high intensity sprinting is too risky, but you’re happy to attempt a marathon? People shy away from running faster because it’s too hard. What’s with that?
We’re afraid of handstands – going upside down has a tendency to make us anxious. Chin-ups are too intense. And then we start asking why we’re doing this to begin with. And then we realise we don’t really know, because we haven’t really thought about it. Are you really at a higher risk of injury by practicing handstands? People think if they’re fit, if they can run, a marathon is just extending that duration bit by bit. This seems simple when you don’t really think about it too much. That approach works for a remarkably small minority of people indeed. And even for that small minority, they don’t run good times.
If you just train endurance, you’ll be able to perform at endurance events, but it’s unlikely you’ll be fast and powerful. Once you scratch the surface, a marathon is much more complicated than just adding more distance to your comfortable pace. It requires programming, planning and dedication.
All exercise is simple when you don’t really think about it too much.
And that’s fine, it really is. If you actually, genuinely just want to be healthy, you really don’t need to think about it too much, you just gotta find what you like and do that. But losing weight isn’t simple, changing the shape of your body isn’t simple, and excelling at an athletic event sure as heck isn’t easy.
If it was easy, every special unique snowflake would be equally as good at it. There would only be one athletic pursuit in the world, rather than thousands of different, challenging and demanding sports. There would only be one training method, and one dietary approach really would work for everybody. Would that be a utopia or dystopia, I wonder?
The fact that thousands of people train, and few people change the shape of their bodies, indicates that ‘weight loss’ is not as simple as we seem to think. There’s something wrong with our assumptions.
Does knowing how hard it is to run a marathon make you more passionate to do one? If so, good! If not, maybe marathon running isn’t for you. It doesn’t matter; running a marathon does not make you a better person, just as doing chin-ups or winning an arm wrestle does not make you a man, and ballet does not make you a woman. It’s all bullshit gender stereotyping.
Running a marathon is not for me. I couldn’t care less. I like sprinting, jumping, doing tricks and lifting heavy things. I’m not an endurance athlete, I never have been, and I don’t care to be one. I admire them, I admire them very much indeed, but I don’t quite understand them either.
I could imagine myself competing in a walking event one day, but that’s about it.
Why? Because I love walking. I can walk for a really long time, and enjoy myself thoroughly. But about half an hour is my maximum for running – I’d enjoy a good 20 to 30 minute run at a good pace, but after that I’m not having fun, it’s not satisfying, it’s not rewarding. So I don’t do it.
You’re geared for certain things. Be clear and specific with yourself. If you believe in goal-setting, in truly developing yourself and really becoming good at something, it’s inconsistent to believe that you can do anything in the world. And why on Earth would you want to? Who wants to ‘do whatever’? Who wants to be that changeable?
Following your heart isn’t that difficult when it comes to training, if you’re able to let go of your preconceptions. Allowing your own curiosity and inspiration to determine your direction, that’s easy enough if you’re open to trying new things, if you question and investigate.
But if you’re just buying into doing what you’re told, if you’re allowing the shame and guilt to get to you, if you’re counting calories and wondering why you’re tired all the time, that’s tough. It’s really tough, so fuck it.
Do what’s fun.