I Can’t Compete (and I don’t even want to)

I had an epiphany this morning while I was running.  Running is really good for that sort of thing, you know.  It’s mindless and rote, governed mostly by muscle memory, especially on a route you know well.  And this morning I was running one of my favorites.  It’s a completely straight line, and I run it out for three miles, then I turn around and come home.  Actually, today was three and a half miles out, and that’s not entirely necessary information for the story, but it was bugging me just now to be imprecise.

So, anywho.  Seven miles.  One epiphany.

Really, I hate to even call it an epiphany, because that makes it sound like one of those lightning-bolts-of-inspiration thoughts, and this was far more pedestrian than that.  In fact, it’s a thought I’ve had many, many times in the past, it’s just that I heard it differently in my head this morning.  It suddenly had a new layer of meaning to me.  Here it is:

I can’t compete with the 30-year olds in the fitness industry.

(Truth be told, I can’t compete with the 25-year olds or 35-year olds, either.  Possibly even 40-year olds, though I think I have a little better odds on them.  This is also not exactly pertinent to the story, just.  You know.  So we’re clear.  I have no beef with people who are exactly 30 years old, this is a much bigger, broader issue than, “Oh, you were born in 1985?  Well, then, I can’t compete.”  So, even though I am going to continue to refer to 30-year olds, what I’m really talking about is pretty much anybody younger than me – ha!)

Strangely, even though I was running at the time I had this thought, I wasn’t even thinking about competition in running.  I was thinking about life.  Fitness.  My business.  The internet and social media.  Ugh!  Social media.  I simply can’t compete on any platform with somebody so much younger than me.  My thinking isn’t as agile as it once was, and heaven knows my body isn’t, either.

Like I said, this is a thought I’ve had over and over recently and until this morning, I was hearing it in the negative.  As in, I’m the one coming up short in that comparison.  As though I should, or should at least want to, compete on the same level as the 30-year olds in the fitness industry, with their booty shorts and super-toned bellies.

But you know what?

I don’t want to.

Here’s what I know about 30-year olds:

  • They all seem to believe that you need to be “fixed.”
  • Pretty much every other one of them appears to be a Beachbody “coach.”  And yes, I put that in quotes.  I find it ludicrous that this company wants me to be “coached” in my fitness by people who aren’t yet fit themselves.  They’re salespeople.  Selling products.  That’s not coaching.
  • Their “beginner” workouts leave me – a fitness professional! – fumbling and breathless and feeling like a loser who can’t keep up.
  • They seem to think that wrapping yourself in goo is as good for your health as eating right and exercising.  (BTW, it’s not.)
  • They have absolutely NO IDEA what is in store for their skin and hair and body and metabolism after they hit 40-ish.  I say, “ish” because I personally sailed through until about age 44 before the “ish” hit the fan.  But then it hit the fan like a freakin’ ton of bricks.
  • Their goals all seem centered around doing something quickly:  21 days  or a (whole) 30 days or six weeks or even just 3 days when they’re doing that weird “cleanse” thing that I can’t even bring myself to Google.  I just don’t even want to know.

And then here’s what I know about myself:

  • I think you’re awesome the way you are.  If you want to be a healthier version of you, that’s super cool, but that’s not “fixing” things, that’s growing and evolving (something we all do, and at our own pace).
  • I will never, ever, ever sell you powders or pills and suggest that they’re good for you.  Frankly, they’re not.  I don’t care what the ingredients are, once they’ve been pulverized, they’re not really food anymore.  I want you to eat food you recognize.  Food that grew in the ground or walked on the earth or swam in the ocean.
  • I’m not a beginner anymore for lots of things, but I think it’s safe to say I might never actually get all the way to “advanced” in most exercise-related realms.  I know what it’s like to feel uncoordinated and awkward.  I have worked with clients in their 60s and 70s, and clients who deal with chronic pain.  I understand that fitness truly comes in all shapes and sizes and ages and abilities.
  • I’m not even going to address that wrap thing.  Seriously.  Snake oil.  And urine.  Read the ingredients!
  • I’m middle-aged and things change when you’re here.  Lots of them are good changes – I feel free to say what’s on my mind in a different way than when I was younger, for example.  But lots of the changes are challenging, too.  I can’t eat Cheetos the way I used to.  Like, ever.  And recovering from even one glass of wine takes longer than the amount of fun I had drinking it.
  • I don’t think that doing something for 21 days is going to bring you permanent changes.  Yes, you can begin to change some of your habits in less than a month, but are you really going to work out at that level or eat that obsessively carefully for any longer than 30 days?  Probably not.  I take the much longer view of things.  Fitness and health are just a part of life.  It’s every single day.  Day in and day out, whether you feel motivated or not.
  • I literally couldn’t care less about looking “beach ready,” but I am all about being active and feeling as good as I can for as many years as I have left.  And – fingers crossed – that’s going to be a very long time!

So I decided that those words I’ve been hearing in my head as reproach – “I can’t compete.  I can’t do what they’re doing.” – is my new mantra, my new power phrase:

I can’t compete because I’m not even playing the same game.

I can’t do what they’re doing because I’m doing what I believe in.

I’m going to keep on chugging along, spreading my message of moderation and good health.  No gimmicks.  No tricks.  Just good food and good workouts.  No more competition.

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