Monday, May 11, 2009

Ruth, the (non-competitive) Athlete

Nothing ruins exercise more for me than turning it into competition or in any way measuring anything. If I have to check my heart rate, keep track of time and distance, or beat or be beaten by another competitor, the fun is instantly sucked out of the activity.

Sometimes I forget this fact, maybe because the opposite is true for many people, my husband included. They like to measure progress, for instance, or work toward the goal of competing in a race, then trying to beat their own time in consecutive races. This is what gets them to the gym or on the treadmill.

When my husband ran the Boston Marathon, the kids and I went along to watch. Despite the pained expressions I saw on the runners' faces, after the race they were all filled with such pride and accomplishment. Training for and completing a marathon started to sound appealing. I bought myself some new running shoes, chose a local race to compete in, wrote out my training schedule, and got to work.

I stuck with the plan for approximately two weeks (okay, maybe a week and a half) before I realized two things: (a) I was never going to be able to keep up this schedule, and (b) I didn't really care anymore.

Here's what I do care about, and what motivates me to take a walk or go to the gym:
  • Feeling good
  • Having energy
  • Getting a little time to myself
  • Staying as healthy as I can for as long as possible
  • Talking to my great-grandchildren some day about their upcoming trip to the moon, or the time travel class they are taking, or whatever it is the young folks are up to in 2075.
The long term results are actually not nearly as motivating for me as the short term. When I exercise, I feel better, sleep better, and even eat better. After I work out, I don't want to negate all my hard work by filling up on empty calories.

I wonder how many people are like me, and how many are more goal-oriented. What motivates you to exercise? Do you have fun when you are exercising or do you mostly consider it work? What kinds of activities are most enjoyable for you?


Firefly mom said...

Right there with ya! I'm also non-competitive when it comes to athletics (could it be because I suck at all things sports??) And like you, I prefer the short term results that come with working out. Love that instant gratification ;)

Meaghan said...

Yeah, the short term results are definitely more appealing to my affinity for immediate gratification.

But I'm no marathon runner. I remember when I lived in NYC, every November on the day of the marathon, watching everyone walk around in those foil ponchos looking so...accomplished. And every year I'd think "Next year I'm going to do that." Then, the next year would come around and I'd see those ponchos again and be like "Shoot. Well, next year..."

I prefer a really intense Vinyasa flow yoga class. It's calming while also being really physically intense. I like the mind/body aspect of it. Plus, I'm actually able to do it, which helps.

Torrie said...

I exercise because i feel like crapola if I don't. But I am always competing with myself (not with others) I think its' different for everyone.BUt you just have to go with what motivates you personally. Otherwise it's hard to stay the course.

Angela said...

what firefly said. :)

on the days i don't have time to go and swim (which is what i really love, but has been hurting like heck lately) i've been getting up and walking down the street and back every morning. It takes me 6 minutes, but it is SO worth the joy I feel in those 6 minutes alone with God.
It gets me moving, and gives me energy and joy to start the day. :)