I’ve been trying to be consistent about exercising though I’m not formally training for anything right now. Standard for me is to get at least 30 minutes of running or walking in on the treadmill, if I do nothing else. This week, I’ve been walking more than running and doing so on an incline to make the workout harder. Even with that short effort, I end up drenched and pleased with myself for showing up and making it happen. Then today, it all almost went to hell.
Today, I had young people on the treadmills on either side of me. To my right was a young boy. He could not have been even 14. And he was pounding the treadmill on a 9.9 setting. (I walk on a 3.8 setting when I do the 3.5 incline.) To my left was a young man, maybe in his early twenties, who was running at a 9.0 setting. Even with my earbuds in, I could hear them both banging on their machines. That noise got me agitated and then my mind started to spiral.
Am I working hard enough? Shouldn’t I be running? Am I getting much of a workout really? Why am I even here if I’m just walking? When did I become the old lady who walks at the gym?
It took me a minute to realize what was happening and to make it stop.
In just a few moments of comparing myself to my neighbors, I went from enjoying the book in my ear and being happy to be there all the way down to hating myself and having convinced myself that I was wasting my time and either needed to kick it up a bunch of notches or go home. Why? All because I happened to be surrounded be people completely different from me who were doing their workouts differently than I was doing mine?
It is so easy for me to fall into that comparison game and feel like I need to move farther or faster based on what I see around me. I know that about myself, but I hadn’t seen that part of myself in a while. And seeing it reminded me that I do not want to be that person who feels obligated to race the person next to me on a treadmill or anywhere else.
In my heart, I’ve never been that person. I’ve done races for years, not driven by the people around me, but driven by my own enjoyment of the event and the deep satisfaction I get from doing the work. The same goes with my work. I work hard, but I haven’t chased the path that is typically expected of lawyers. And I haven’t tried to buy bigger and better with each purchase, whether it be a house or a car.
That doesn’t mean I don’t work or that I don’t try to improve myself. I do, but I don’t usually play the comparison game. Most of the time, I motivate myself for my own reasons and in my own way. But there is a small part of me that occasionally pops up and distracts myself from my mission by looking to my right and to my left and saying, “They are better. You are bad.” And I have to work to stop that voice in my head before any real harm is done.
Today, I did manage to stop that voice. I wish I could say that I stopped that downward spiral all on my own while the people beside me kept running, but what happened was that they both stopped within minutes, unable to maintain the effort at which they started. Or maybe they were able but had just intended to go hard for a short time. I don’t know. But they walked away, and I continued at my 3.8 pace on my 3.5 incline. Only then did I see what was happening inside myself and how wrong it was for me to even care what was happening on either side of me.
I do want to be the best me that I can be. But at the end of the day, I want to be me, and I want to like how I got there. I don’t like chasing my neighbor. That does not feel good or right to me. I was reminded of that today.