A Note About This Feature: Why Wednesdays is a Move Eat Create weekly feature determined to turn the mid-week doldrums upside down and celebrate things I love to do and blog about. I have completed series on the topics of running, creativity, and food. Now, I’m being a bit random and discussing whatever strikes me at the time!
I see a lot and I mean A LOT of articles and blog posts written about workout buddies. A general theme present in these writings is the idea that working out with someone will keep you motivated, accountable, and provide an overall more positive fitness (and weight loss) experience. Some of these articles cite studies that seem to support their claims. Others rely on personal experience. Through and through, though, there seems to be a prevalent belief that having a workout buddy is the optimal way to go. Rarely do you see an article that argues the opposite. I’ve looked. I haven’t seen anything that says “Do it alone! You’ll get better results! You’ll be happier and more motivated! Go at it solo!”
Here’s the deal. I have no doubt that training partners work wonders for some people. I’m sure they really do provide a sense of accountability, fun, and motivation for some people. But, it’s not for everyone. It’s not for me.
When I set out to drop some excess weight, develop my fitness level, and eventually become a runner, I knew that the only way I was going to be successful was to do it alone. In the past, when I had made similar attempts, I told people about them. I followed the advice given in articles that in order to be accountable, I needed to announce my intentions to others. The idea is that others could encourage me and help me follow through. But, what really happened, was that I became so conscious of the expectations that others then had of me that I failed completely. My goals turned into their goals in my head. Even if they weren’t applying pressure to me, I applied it for them. If I ate a big piece of cake, I thought, “Oh god, [insert name here] would be so disappointed in me right now.” If I skipped a workout, I would feel embarrassed and like I had let someone down. Eventually, I would crack from the pressure and just give it all up, because the idea of continuing to break the commitments that I made to others, to publicly fail at my goals was too much for me. Essentially, what should have been a personal journey and process turned into anything but personal.
I truly believe that a key factor in making sustainable, permanent changes in my life over the last two years has been to keep quiet about it. Two years ago (this month marks two years since I began), I set out on some simple goals. First, I would start to eat healthier. I would learn more about nutrition and would incorporate changes into my daily diet. I would cook more. I would eat less junk. Then, after a bit, I would start to be more active. Some time dedicated to walking and short fitness videos has turned into me now training for my first marathon, strength training a few hours a week, and being in the best shape of my life. And, I did it quietly.
I told only two people about what I was going to do. I told my partner and our roommate. They had to know, because quite frankly, there wasn’t any way around it. I live with them, so they would see what I was doing. But, other than them, I didn’t tell a soul. I just started doing. What this meant was that my goals were solely my own. No one else was telling me what I should do, shouldn’t do, or what they did that worked/didn’t work. My successes were solely were my own – allowing me to truly feel accomplished and own the progress I was making. And, my failures were my own, too. When I ‘messed up’, it was my choice and my mess to clean up. I didn’t let anyone else down, other than myself. That was liberating.
Of course, over time other people saw changes and asked about them. And, I would answer. I didn’t lie or cover things up, but I answered questions simply and didn’t engage in extended dialogue about it all. Now, two years later, I can talk about it all more openly because my entire way of living has truly changed and the things I’m doing now are part of my daily life, as ingrained in my routine as sleep and going to work each day. But, in the beginning, being able to keep it to myself was crucial in my success.
Maybe it’s because I’m an introvert by nature. Maybe it’s because I’m always thinking about how to accommodate the needs of others over my own. Maybe it’s because I’m sensitive to critiques after years of enduring them. I don’t know exactly why it was so crucial for me to make lifestyle changes privately, but it was, and I’ve got to figure that if it was for me, it may be for others, too. So, while the buddy system certainly has its benefits for many people, it’s not the answer for everyone. I suppose that my underlying point here is that what works for one, doesn’t work for all, and to have the courage to do things your way (even if it’s not the popular way) can make all the difference in the world.
Some Previous Why Wednesday Posts: