I am an all in triathlete and coach, following and celebrating all aspects of the sport— from the pros to amateurs. I listen to hours of podcasts each week, read countless articles, and follow hundreds of triathletes, brands, and coaches.
One of the most recent debates that I was aware of through this myriad of media, and partially through my own experience, was the consideration on why there is more focus on the full Ironman World Championships versus the 70.3 (or half) distance. I won’t go into the speculation, specific debates, history, or any other triathlon geek info here… but, it did cause me to reflect on how the world not only views triathlon, but all forms of exercise.
We have created a fitness hierarchy.
Who hasn’t heard, said, or thought at least one of the following?
“I am not runner. I only walk.”
“I am just doing a 5K.”
“I can only lift 5 pound dumbbells.”
“I am just doing the sprint.”
“I have only completed Ironman. No, not the one in Hawaii (Ironman World Championships).”
I could go on and on. Sadly, we have created this cultural misconception that each step in fitness needs to be like rungs on a ladder to the top. You must try to be faster, stronger, or go longer to make it count. And if you choose to pause on what works best for you, then you must lack motivation, discipline, or even physical ability.
Frankly, I call bullshit on this way of thinking. In truth, every aspect of fitness stands on its own. And you deserve to move your body in the way that works best for you physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
You know that I stand for understanding your path of personal evolution, and for me this has been found through endurance sports. And, I also believe in the power of daily, intentional movement. But, these things might look incredibly different for you.
I am not “better” than you in any way because I have completed Ironmans. Truthfully, the realization of how my personal growth comes alongside sports is absolutely my greatest life accomplishment so far (well, other than being three feet from Snoop Dogg 😉 ).
I urge you to let you to let go of the idea of a fitness hierarchy. Instead, if you want to climb a ladder, start with opening your mind and heart to curiously to finding the real you. Then decide how you want to move your body with intentionality. Decide the how. And the why. And you will understand that life is about going up a few rungs, then down, then up again… and we will never reach a top.
Personally, I do a lot of things to positively impact my physical and mental health. I try to get good sleep, manage stress, establish boundaries in relationships, serve others, and nourish my body with good food. But, being “healthy” is not the motivator for my endurance athlete lifestyle.
So, why do I love the training journey and race day so much? Contrary to how it might look, it is not because I enjoy torturing my body or am obsessed with finish lines. It has nothing to do with my personal appearance. And it most definitely is not because I feel like I am unworthy if I don’t keep chasing the next goal. My whys are always changing. Each time I decide on my race schedule I consider what my needs are at the moment, and how I will feel fulfilled. Do I need gentleness and a break? Do I want new experiences? Specific goals? To do something really hard? Join friends and the team?
I know that I need to establish each why so that I can show up to benefit my mental health (my biggest reason for daily movement). I also know that if I am taking on goals that I don’t really want to do, my health will literally suffer.
I hope this message can encourage you to consider all of the same.
Let’s find a way to tear down the hierarchy and move to let go of our superiority, or our insecurities, and support our individual journeys. We can consider how we use language with ourselves and others. We can celebrate every goal. We can applaud each other for finding what works best for each of us.
I know I matter. You matter and therefore how and why you decide to move matters too. And I believe when you know what you want— and I know what I want— we stand shoulder to shoulder on solid ground. No hierarchy, even if I am walking my dog and you are sprinting past me.
When you decide what this means for you, show up to it. Own it.
And please, never, EVER say you are “just doing a 5K” to me. 😉 I want you to shout with a smile, “I AM DOING A 5K” with all of the emotion that caused you to sign up in the first place.
Let’s celebrate all parts of your journey— in fitness and/or with whatever you do to cultivate self awareness.