In the blog world it seems like everyone is afraid of losing fitness. Not necessarily afraid of taking one rest day (I think/hope), but afraid of “losing” the benefits from training hard. I get that. It can be frustrating when a certain pace used to be easy and now feels challenging. It can be frustrating when a certain weight in the gym used to be a piece of cake and now it’s hard to lift up.
To avoid just preaching….an 8 minute mile is now fast for me, where in high school that was slow. 10 pound dumbbells are my bicep curl weight now, but I could easily use 15 pound dumbbells last summer. Does the fact that I can’t run as fast or lift as heavy now mean I’m out of shape? Should I be upset that I can’t do those things anymore? I think we (myself included) need to start looking at the bigger picture and stop placing such an importance on maintaining a certain level of fitness.
Thanks to Amanda for letting me Think Out Loud!
Out of curiosity I Googled what regular ol’ people (aka not bloggers or fitness professionals) thought it meant to be physically “in shape.” The most common answers, other than “there’s no one definition” and a few aesthetic descriptions, were eye-opening. I read forums and comments on posts to make this list…
-“Being able to walk up the steps without being out of breath”
-“Being able to do what I want or need to do without a problem”
-“Having a healthy relationship with my mind and body”
-“Performing daily tasks like walking to work and carrying groceries easily”
-“Keeping bone density and flexibility”
-“Running when I want, practicing yoga when I want”
90% of what I read said nothing about running a certain distance or speed, lifting a certain weight, doing crazy inversions or the like. The definitions weren’t based on a number. They were holistic and definitely refreshing to read.
The blog world can throw a lot of things out of perspective, but it’s not just all online. For example, just last week someone at the gym who recently ran the Boston Marathon told me she felt “out of shape.” This was one week post-race. Luckily I’m in a place where I can
roll my eyes and laugh to myself. I know her standards out of the norm.
I’m sure I’ve written something before about feeling out of shape, but I’m making a conscious effort to put my standards into perspective. No, I can’t run a super speedy mile but I can run. No, I can’t lift super heavy but I (try to) lift. Just because a workout that used to be easy for someone (me) is now hard does not mean that person is out of shape. Maybe out of practice, depending on the exercise, but not out of shape. I think some people get anxious about taking time off from exercise because they don’t want to “start from scratch.” Over the years I’ve distanced myself from that mindset, which I’m not saying is inherently good or bad. It’s just healthier for me, especially since I’m not an elite or getting paid to perform at a certain level.
So while our definitions of in shape and out of shape are very individual, I hope we can all stop exaggerating the terms to mean something they’re not. A week or more off from exercise is not the end-all-be-all. So what if the first few workouts back are more challenging than normal? There are more important things that
we I should be worried about.
Brie @ Lean, Clean, & Brie says
It is so good to stop and take a look at the bigger picture sometimes, especially with working out. We all have our own idea of what “being in shape” really it and I think it is important to not let others influence us on whether or not we are out of shape or not, it is our own body and we know it best!!
Brie @ Lean, Clean, & Brie recently posted…What Blogging in College Has Taught Me
Our bodies are so different, whether I like to believe it or not. What’s normal for someone else could very well be the hardest workout of my life.
wow! I needed to hear that today. I had to take 3 weeks off of Pilates and running, and I just started back. I thought I was so “out of shape,” but the break was just what my body needed. You did a great job explaining that!
I’m so glad it resonated with you, Kat. I feel the same way when I come off an extended break. But really, after a few “uncomfortable” workouts I feel back to normal. Workout breaks are so good mentally and physically!
jill conyers says
It’s all in perspective and relative to the individual. Unfortunately that perspective often includes not giving yourself enough credit. Interesting post.
Very true and I’m guilty of not giving myself enough credit. “She ran 10 miles in the time it took me to run 8.” Well, I still RAN and I still ran 8 miles.
Amanda @ .running with spoons. says
I think it’s super easy to get sucked into the blogging bubble where you feel like everyone eats super clean and runs marathons, but the reality is that that’s just a teeny tiny percentage of the entire population, and that what most bloggers consider to be normal is actually crazy healthy/fit for the majority of other people. That’s actually something I have to make a conscious effort to remember as well, especially with being a health coach and working with clients who may work out once a week and not even know what quinoa is…
Amanda @ .running with spoons. recently posted…. thinking out loud #129 .
I forget that the blogging bubble (I like that word) is such a small percentage of the population. Most people (non-bloggers) are probably VERY happy/proud to workout 3 times a week. Much more doable and realistic in my mind.
Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine says
I do totally think it’s just one of those things that people “say” without really thinking. But of course, like everything, every topic, in the health world, it really comes down the the individual perspective of the person.
Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine recently posted…What To Avoid With Celiac Disease
You’re right, I think some people say it without really thinking and don’t mean it literally.
cait @pieceofcait says
AH i totally agree! Last week or so.. my workouts have been very sub par and I didn’t feel like doing it! SO i gave myself the break. The body knows when it needs to slow down.. then pick back up.
I have that happen a lot! Learning to accept the break and/or lower intensity has proven to be beneficial for my mind and body.
Sarah @pickyrunner says
Yes yes yes. I feel like my definition of being “in shape” is constantly changing. But I really don’t think about it. I run when I want to, do I don’t run when I don’t want to. In some ways, I consider myself in the best shape of my life despite not doing 3 hour swim workouts or mile repeats on the track anymore. To me, being in shape is simply being “fit” enough to maintain your lifestyle. So for me, as long as I can walk to and from work and exercise regularly, I’m the healthiest I can be.
Sarah @pickyrunner recently posted…Catching Up
It’s weird to think of a certain time as “the best shape of my life,” because, like you, my definition is always evolving. Right now, I prefer “sacrificing” speed in running to incorporate other workouts. But that could (will) change.
Sarah @ Sarah's on the Run says
Love this. Great post.
Sarah @ Sarah’s on the Run recently posted…Thinking Out Loud
Thanks, Sarah! Glad you enjoyed it.
Hayley @ Full of Life says
AMEN. Love this post…especially because it resonates with me so much right now. I mean 6 months ago I could run 6 miles no problem and now after my injury I can’t run at all. And when I do start it will be like 1/2 a mile at a time. I think in the past this would’ve made me go crazy feeling so out of shape but it just is part of life and I’m sure at some point I will be in better shape then before and then again in “worse” shape later. I think it comes down to people being way too hard on themselves and feeling like they always need to be doing more more more or they are out of shape.
Hayley @ Full of Life recently posted…The Changing Natural Set Point
I often equate my workouts now to that when I was in the thick of marathon training. Um, dumb idea because it would be crazy to sustain that level of intensity year round. Was I in better shape back then? Not necessarily. You’re so right, more isn’t always better!
Emily @ Sweets and Beets says
So interesting! I never really thought about this. When I say I am or am not in shape, I’m really only referring to myself. Like you said, I compare myself to my “past” self .. a year ago, I was way more “in shape.” But does that mean I’m “out of shape” now? Not really, not compared to a lot of people…
As someone above said, just like anything else, it’s really all about perspective. Props to you for another “be easy on yourself” type post. In the blogging bubble, these are my favorites. :)
Emily @ Sweets and Beets recently posted…Trader Joe’s Grand Opening in Downtown Austin
Thanks, Em :) As quick as I am to compare myself to others I’m just as bad when it comes to comparing to my past self. But you’re right- having perspective and looking at the big picture (other things going on in life, etc.) is key.
I really agree that it varies individual by individual. For me, it would be:
1. Being able to lift heavy things without keeling over with a heart attack.
2. Going up and down stairs effectively.
3. Being able to think clearly and move.
4. I can go on a hike and not be miserable.
5. Being in shape might also mean for me: being able to run 2 miles without totally dying.
I liked this post! Thanks Emily!
Emily recently posted…Hands Down – The Best Race Ever
I love your list! I think going for a short run and “not being miserable” is something I would put on my list. But #3 is so important!
Liv @ Healthy Liv says
I agree that “in shape” is such a subjective thing. For me, I feel like I’m relatively out of running shape at the moment, but if I told one of my friends that, they’d be incredulous since I’m running 5-8 miles per day (just a bit slower than I have in the past).
But they might say they’re out of shape if they couldn’t squat their normal huge amount of weight, when I’d be totally impressed. So yes…very subjective!
Liv @ Healthy Liv recently posted…Move Out Day
Exactly! I’m so impressed with what people lift that they could decrease by half the weight and I would still be in awe. On the flip side, I know that I don’t feel in the best running shape possible but I’m happy because I incorporate a bunch of other workouts. Missing a few miles or speed doesn’t bother me.
She Rocks Fitness says
This is AWESOME! And I love that you gave responses from “non fitness bloggers”. These are the answers that a lot of clients give to me who aren’t associated with the blogging world and it really puts things in perspective. And you’re right…no numbers! Social media puts a lot of pressure on us and it SHOULDN’T. We need to live our lives and do what makes us feel good…definitely easier said than done sometimes. Thanks for sharing! XOXO
She Rocks Fitness recently posted…Post Workout Silk Smoothie
Yes! Social media (and blogs) make it seem like everyone is doing crazy workouts with crazy goals. Nope, not everyone. That population is so small in the big scheme of things.
[email protected] says
I love this! It is so important to keep ourselves in mind and not fall into the comparison trap! It is so easy to look at fitness from a perfection stand point instead of a health stand point.
[email protected] recently posted…Thinking Out Loud on a Thursday
The reason we (or I) exercise in the first place is to stay healthy…not to reach a certain level of perfection. That’s so important for people to remember.
(insert ALL the preach emojis)
This totally hits home because less than comparing myself to others I do a LOT of comparing myself to myself. Sometimes I look back and feel bad that I’m not running the same milage as I used to or spending as much time in the gym, but when I put things in perspective (something I need to do more of) I realize that where I am right now is what’s most important.
Thanks for another awesome post. <3
Georgie recently posted…What I Ate Wednesday: Control Issues
Yup I feel you on the comparing myself to myself. I had to take a few days off from running after the race last week and was a bit discouraged. Last year during marathon training I could run again right after a 20 miler. Does that mean I’m out of shape now? No way. Just in different shape- but still healthy and happy (most important).
Rebecca @ MyEagerFeet says
My parents aren’t runners, though they’re both pretty active, so they really help me keep things in perspective. Running three or four miles is pretty mundane for me now, so it helps to have someone be like, no, that is actually a sign that you’re in really good shape. You’re right that it’s so easy to lose sight of what’s “normal,” especially in the blogging world!
Rebecca @ MyEagerFeet recently posted…Weekly Training Recap: 4/26 – 5/2
Love that they help keep things in perspective for you. My parents do the same for me (although they are runners). I think when most people say they are “going for a run” they run 3-4 miles. But in the blog world it’s usually at least double that!
this is an awesome post and makes me think many things especially reading the comments. I am one of those afraid to lose fitness. really im afraid to have to get it back and how hard that will be. sorta like losing 20 lbs and gaining 10 back. u r so mad at yourself cuz you know how hard it was to lose it. I do like what you say about comparing yourself to others. i try to keep in mind that in any gym or on any running trail someone is my fitness goal and i am also someone’s goal. hell where i am now was my goal at some point. so what i ran 9 miles slow the other night ( i didn’t i rocked it – for me 10:20 pace is good for that distance but lets just say) there was a time in the not so far away past that i couldn’t run a full song ! 4 mins ! so what if last year i ran better…..i think at some point if we are going to compare ourselves to others its gotta be ALL others or to our selves its gotta be the self that ran the best race ever and the self that took the first step. Probably the right answer is not to compare at all but lets just put it out there….most people who are fitness enthusiasts or crazy marathoners or whatever are a bit goal oriented by nature so its just part of the personality i guess. I think we (i) need to just find a way to make that neurotic side of myself work for me and not against me. I find when i got super compary i have to really go back and look at how far i have come and i set longer term goals. like i want to be running when im 70…well to do that i probably need to not burn out now and get all injured, etc
I really like this post!
Thanks, Tara! I think comparison is natural and it’s definitely not going away completely, at least for me. But I’m learning to keeping things in perspective and “work on my grass” instead of looking at someone else’s. I also want to be running when I’m much older so taking a break now is not a big deal in the grand scheme of things.
Michele @ paleorunningmomma says
As I “get ready” for a 2 week break from running this was exactly the post I needed to read. Perspective needed!
Michele @ paleorunningmomma recently posted…Spicy Frittata with Beef Sausage and Greens
Trust me this break will feel so awesome for you. Hope you can sleep in at least a little ;)
Great post!! As an ex over exerciser this hits really close to home. I find myself constantly beating myself up because I am not “in shape” HOWEVER, I am in shape, just different shape. I am no longer abusing my body but instead giving it good, healthy moderate exercise :)
Diana recently posted…Weekend Update 5.10.15
Exactly! It’s just a “different” shape…and different doesn’t mean bad at all. So happy to hear you are in a healthy place :)
Les @ The Balanced Berry says
Loved this post. I agree when it comes to the blogging world and social media, it’s easy to get caught in the comparison trap and wonder if everything we do needs to be extreme or all or nothing. This is something I’ve struggled with too, and striking that balance wasn’t an easy thing to do (and is something I still struggle with). To me, being “in shape” means I’m able to properly fit my clothes and feel confident in them, and that I’m strong enough to complete daily tasks/challenges. I also believe more than anything, that fitness is a feeling. If the endorphins from my morning workout carry me through my day (even if I was a little slower, lifted lighter, etc.) then I truly feel “fit.”
Les @ The Balanced Berry recently posted…Mahi Mahi Tacos with Pineapple Salsa
Thanks, Les! I love what you said about fitness being a feeling. You’re so right…it’s not a look, number or level of achievement. The endorphins make me feel “fit” too.
Sarah Gaines says
What a wonderful post!! Absolutely love the holistic comments about being “in shape” vs. a set number.