I was recently speaking to a man at my gym about training for an Ironman. He’d never done a triathlon, and was just learning to swim, but all his friends are doing Ironman Canada and he thought it would be fun to do with them. Having done my last IM with a big group of friends, I totally agree – it can be a lot of fun.
However. Now, ok, I hate it when people are discouraging about doing an Ironman. I really do think anyone who wants to train for can do it – I really do. But you have to want to train for it, and given that “training for it” can become an all encompassing life changing time suck, I think it’s really reasonable that people tend to NOT want to train for it.
(When people tell me they have done an Ironman, I do not think “Wow you must be an amazing athlete,” I think “Wow, you have prioritized triathlon pretty heavily in your life.”)
So anyway, I was kind of annoyed when gym dude started arguing with me regarding the amount of training that was needed to do the race. “But I have a family” he whined “I can’t get in six workouts a week plus crossfit.” Which, I mean: that’s fair. Most people can’t. But most people don’t do Ironman races, and hmm, that might be why.
I wanted to tell him to not even bother if he legitimately didn’t have the time. I wanted to tell him that the stress of trying to meet family and work commitments on top of training commitments would overwhelm him, would make this year one of the loneliest of his life. I wanted to tell him that he likely wouldn’t enjoy the process, would come to resent the race, would have years of apologies due to his wife for the selfishness and stress he was about to bring into their lives. But I couldn’t get a word in edgewise because I was too busy listening to him tell me about why the training load I’d described couldn’t possibly work for him, why there had to be another way.
A family member recently told me that they wanted weight loss surgery, they had tried everything simply everything and nothing was working.
Now, I have never been obese and I do not have an appreciation for the work it takes to lose massive amounts of body weight. And I do believe for some people medical intervention can be a blessing. But it’s hard for me to look at someone who wants to lose 40ish pounds and agree, “yes, clearly you have tried everything” when “Everything” = “many, many diets, some lasting almost two months.”
Like I said: I’ve never had to undertake the work that would be needed to lose 40 pounds. But I do understand what it takes to drastically transform the physical part of your life, and when I hear things like this I can’t help but get sad, because, no, no: you are selling yourself short, no.
Two of my favorite bloggers on the web are Ben Does Life and AndreAnna. Sometimes when I’m bored and killing time, I’ll go to the BenDoesLife tumblr and start reading from the beginning. His short posts detail the daily undertaking of someone trying to change his life. When he started he was overweight, wanted nothing more than to fit into the desks at his college, and wasn’t really sure what to do, but he figured it probably started with different eating habits and a trip to the gym. And you read through these daily posts, you see the picture of what it takes to change a life. These short daily doses give a good sense that it was the little things, repeated every day, more than it was a major thunderclap that marked the difference between then and now. It’s a daily diary of What It Takes, and I find it to be one of the more inspiring things on the web.
I feel the same way about AndreAnna. Over the past year I’ve watched (read) her completely overhaul her entire life, in some ways to a degree I cannot even imagine, and I think ”Ok. Right. That’s what it takes.” It’s taken her ten years to figure out what works for her, but she’s done it in fits and starts and is still working it out.
Now, much like I don’t care if gym dude ever does his Ironman, I don’t really care if people want to lose a bunch of weight. Life is full of a lot of pursuits, many far more worthy than triathlons and weight loss. But it really chafes me to consistently hear from people who kind of sort of maybe want to do this major thing that requires a lot of effort, but they never will because man, that’s like a lot of effort, you know?
Well, sure it’s a lot of effort. And you choose to make that effort, or you don’t choose to make that effort, and I don’t really care which one, but don’t bitch to me about how things never change if you’re not going to work to change them.