What sent me into rant mode this week was the long distance swim community and their attack on Diana Nyad. Honestly, with the amount of media coverage on her swim, what are the chances that she would even have the opportunity to cheat without someone catching her? And even after a 3 1/2 hour Skype inquisition, the swim community is still grumbling in the background about her achievement. What the heck? So she caught a break with the current...how many times did she have the elements defeat her efforts? Didn't she deserve a little break?
And for those that are ranting about her jellyfish mask...really? Kudos to her for being creative to solve her problem. I only swam 2.4 miles for my Ironman, and I know that having to wear something like that would have killed me. It probably made it hotter than hell, and the amount of chaffing she got--not to mention all the salt water going into that chaffing--probably felt miserable. Besides, if long distance swimming rules are anything like triathlon rules, which states that you cannot wear anything that "propels you forward," which would include arm paddles, fins, etc, then I am thinking that unless she had some jet packs hidden inside that mask, it did not propel her forward or give her a particular time advantage. What is wrong with people? Why do people feel it is okay for them to not only question her, but completely take the joy out of what should be an amazing time for Nyad? Is it the whole Lance Armstrong cheating incident? Well, not everyone is a big, fat cheater!
I also started thinking about her jellyfish mask "controversy," and I wondered how record holders of the past would feel about all the modern athletes that have beaten their records using technological advances in sports equipment. For example, should we not have allowed carbon fiber bikes into racing because it gave them an unfair advantage over racers with steel framed ones from the past? At some point we have to let advances in equipment take place, right? And the funny thing is that as I was thinking about this, I came across an interesting article on the changes in triathlon over the years: How Triathlon Was Different in the 1980's.
I felt similar emotions while researching Tara Costa, who, after competing on The Biggest Loser, went on to complete the Kona Ironman Championship race. I was curious to find out what her Kona finish time was to see how I measured up. After all, we had both been well over 200 pounds, and we had both achieved our dreams of crossing the finish line at Ironman. She finished in 13:56 and not only blew my time out of the water, but she was able to accomplish this at one of the most difficult Ironman competitions out there. But guess what? Some in the triathlon community attacked her because she had not actually "earned" her way into the competition. She was admitted because she was a celebrity and therefore "did not deserve" to be there. Really? Did you see that finish time? Maybe she did not get into the competition in the traditional way, but she brings recognition to the sport you all love so much. That's how you get more sponsors interested in a sport that is not one of the big three: football, baseball, and basketball. Again, what is wrong with people? Why can't you just be amazed that someone can be inspired by what you all do, lose an amazing amount of weight, and then finish the race with more than three hours to spare? To read more about Tara, check out these articles: Tara Costa Kona Ironman Article and Tara Costa Lake Placid Article
And this kind of questioning is not unique to sports. How many of you have experienced this at work? People love you until you decide to step out and do something different. In teaching, as long as you are in the classroom you are one of the teachers. As soon as you step out into any kind of leadership role you all of a sudden become one of "them." I have even been told that I have gone over to the "dark side" i.e. administration. But the funny thing is that I am still a teacher and have no interest in administration. I have longer hours than I did in the classroom, but I am not administration. My job title for the last few years has been Teacher on Special Assignment not Administrator on Special Assignment. Again, it is a small number of people who question my worthiness, but it hurts nonetheless. Why can't we just support those of us that decide to go on and take a different role or face a new challenge?
You might be wondering how all this fits into a blog about health and fitness, but I have also experienced this kind of negativity and questioning in my weight loss journey as well. It might be a little more subtle, but it is not very supportive either. A perfect example is the friend or relative who is quick to criticize a person's weight gain, but then that same person will be the first one to get upset when you do not say yes to the fattening and unhealthy foods they offer you. So it goes something like this, "Wow, you really need to watch your weight," but in the same breath, "Here, have a piece of my cheesecake that I slaved all day to make for you." Please family and friends, when we say no to some kind of decadent treat, please, please do not take this personally. We need every ounce of support we can get.
I also witnessed a woman at Old Navy trying to purchase some jeans under the watchful eye of her husband. She asked him what he thought about the jeans she was trying on and his comment to her was, "Well, those are just glorified stretch pants!" So instead of being proud of her for fitting into jeans, he had to demean her by pointing out that she only fit into them because they were stretchy. Now, that may have just been my take on the whole thing, but her defeated look kind of supported my hypothesis about her unsupportive husband. The day I finally fit into a pair of jeans was a huge triumph for me, and I felt horrible that this woman was deprived of that same triumphant feeling. Why can't these negative friends and relatives just support us instead of feeling like they need to knock us down when we are finally brave enough to stand up?
In addition, people might not be so subtle. They might directly question why you want to change at all. You might get the, "You are perfect just the way you are," or "Why would you want to run a marathon anyway?" Or if your spouse or family is not supportive of your change you might even get, "How are you going to find the time in your busy schedule to make healthy meals and fit in your exercise," as if you are not worth the time they perceive you are taking away from them. I am extremely lucky to have a husband who realizes that the time I take to become healthier actually makes me a better wife and mother (not to mention the fact that he is not unhappy with the newer body he gets to see on a daily basis). You might not have that support right now, but you really need to demand that your friends and family honor your need to be a healthier version of what you are at the present. You deserve to be healthy!
So my final message for this week is more a series of questions: what is it that makes people feel the need to tear others down when they step out of their comfort zone to try to do something good for themselves or others? Why can't we all just be excited and proud for women like Diana Nyad and Tara Costa who push themselves to their limits? And can we please not undermine our friends and family that want to get healthy despite the huge amount of obstacles in front of them? So when you hear about someone standing up and tackling something they never thought they would ever be able to achieve, let's check that first instinct to focus on what might be wrong with their attempts, and instead stand up and support them! Life can throw enough obstacles at us in our lifetimes, so it would be nice if friends, families, and colleagues would not add to these.
This journey has always been about reaching your own other shore no matter
what it is, and that dream continues.