So lately I’ve been using the elliptical machine to keep my cardiovascular fitness up while I wasn’t running much. I could have done a spin class but I didn’t really fancy it. I wanted something similar to running and something that I could control depending on how I felt.
With spin it’s very much go-go-go, whereas I can do whatever I fancy on my own. But invariably I’d find it so incredibly dull and would require some sort of entertainment to get me through. I found watching YouTube videos on my phone an effective way of keeping me on the machine. I would want something a bit mindless but also motivating and inspiring. So I ended up watching lots of fitness vloggers go about their lives. This entailed the types of training they did in the gym, the foods they’d eat and just generally what they’d get up to. Pretty much like the blogs I read really but visual, obviously.
I found myself watching videos of vloggers who I’d never in my wildest dream ever want to be like (which is actually quite different to the blogs I read). Not because they’re terrible people but because their goals are so far beyond what I’d ever aim for or want. But it wasn’t half fascinating to watch.
Some of the fitness vloggers were bikini competitors. At first I really had no idea what that was. I knew it was vaguely bodybuilding but I had no idea that you could (or would even choose to) train for months to just stand on a stage, in a bikini, and basically show your body off. These women would train, bodybuilder-style, in the gym and then drop their calories down to “cut” in order to show off their newly honed muscles. Like really cut down their weight – we’re talking 16% body fat.
To me it doesn’t look attractive at all. Why on earth would you do that? Why would you want to? For a short period of time on the stage?! Many of them would apply a shed loads of fake tan, wear unbelievably thick make-up, have fake nails, fake hair and boobs… and these muscles popping out everywhere from their hard bodies with barely an ounce of fat on them.
And before they’d go to that point, I’d watch them weighing out their food. ALL their food. Counting macros and calories with scrupulous detail. As the competition gets closer and closer, their food would basically be oats, tilapia fish, chicken, sweet potato and rice. I even watched one girl take her scales TO THE BEACH to weigh out her snacks while she sunbathed.
But this is a genuine thing. Apparently this is not crazy disordered behaviour, but an effective route to achieve their goal. They are not seen as disordered, but focused and determined. They work hard, striving every day to get one step closer to their dream. They have coaches, actual qualified professionals (most of the time), who guide them through this process.
I watch, fascinating and bewildered. I enjoy watching it because it’s just so mad and bizarre and I’m carried along their journey, hoping they do well. Whatever “well” turns out to be… winning a trophy, placing so they can go to another, better competition, or just achieving a certain body to prove they could.
It got me thinking. Their goals are a million miles away from my goals. I love running and hope to run many marathons in my time. I want my body to be strong and injury-free. Of course I try and watch what I eat most of the time (weekend adventures aside…) and I care about what my body looks like. But I have to stop myself before I say, “I’m not as obsessed as they are”.
Am I sure about that?
I’ve had many people (non-runners and people who aren’t interested in fitness) say to me “I don’t know how you do it”, “you’re so motivated”, but mostly “you’re crazy”. I get up at 5am most weekdays to go to the gym to remain strong and healthy for running. I’ll spend hours over the weekend running long runs while most people will be in bed. I walk round a park on freezing Saturday mornings setting up a course to then run round in teeny tiny shorts, my thighs turning pink with the cold. And I’ll finish smiling.
I’ll turn down social events when I’m in the thick of marathon training, or make sure I’m leaving so I can get home in bed for 9pm. I rarely drink alcohol. I’ll cry to my dad on the way to work about my latest injury. I’ll sob because I so desperately want to be outside, in that blizzard/hurricane/storm so I can get in my precious miles. I’ll pour over my spreadsheet to make sure I’m getting in the miles I need, I’ll analyse past performances on Strava comparing where I am now to where I was then. Can I run that pace? Am I faster? What’s my segment best?
I’ll endure hours of painful sports massages. I’ll roll about on the floor in awkward positions to get that knot out of my calf/glute/hamstring. I’ll spend hundreds of pounds on trainers, gymwear, running clothes, gels, foam rollers, running books and magazines, running holidays… it goes on and on.
There’s not one day that passes that I don’t not think about running or what I’m going to do at the gym. My weekends revolve around my running and fitness. My year is broken into when my next marathon is, when I’m training and what races I can squeeze in between.
Am I obsessed?
Where do you draw the line between determination and obsession? When does drive and ambition turn into something darker? Do you need to be an outsider looking in to gain a certain perspective? Am I wrong to have judged those bikini competitors just because it’s not my goal and it’s not what I’d do?
I guess we all have our own obsessions and goals… and it’s managing them and keeping them under control that’s key. I know from experience of injuries not to put my whole heart and soul into running because when it all comes crumbling down, you need something to be left with, whether that’s anything to do with fitness or not. But after thinking about it, I do judge those vloggers less harsh now. We all have goals, and those goals require different routes and methods, however bizarre they seem to me. People in glass houses…
What do you think?
Would you say you’re obsessed about anything?
Has anyone ever commented on your hobbies?