Marathon Update: Pushing It

DenialIn a recent marathon update I talked about working as a team with my body instead of treating my body like a limitation to be overcome.  I mentioned how working with my body instead of against it improved my performance immediately.

I got a lot of e-mails asking me how I could possibly improve if I never wanted to push my body, and telling me that the only way to improve athletic performance is to ignore your body and push past what your body thinks is possible.  I disagree with that, strongly, so I wanted to clarify a bit.  The only way that I know to improve athletic performance is to push beyond what is currently comfortable.  I am definitely pushing my body, I just don’t think that’s the same thing as treating my body like a limitation to be overcome or ignored.    Just like any physical challenge that I face, I never want it to be me against my body. I want it to be me and my body against a problem.  Whether that problem is an injury, or whether  I can get up that hill faster than I got up last time, or how to take another minute off my mile time.  If I achieve the goal, make the improvement, cross the finish line and get the medal, it will be thanks to my body, not in spite of it.

While I’m clarifying things, let me say this one more time:  nobody is obligated to be involved in fitness or sports in any way.  Those of us who do enjoy being involved for whatever reasons are no better or worse than those who choose other hobbies or pursuits or no hobbies.  The good fatty/bad fatty dichotomy is bullshit and it needs to die. We shouldn’t let the fact that other people impose their beliefs on us to keep fat people from being involved in fitness/sports, or from talking about it, or talking about the stigma that we face trying to pursue something that we enjoy, nor should anybody put us on a pedestal because of the hobbies we choose.

For those who choose to pursue athletic achievement it can definitely be about pushing, but it can be about pushing against barriers and goals and, at least for me, it doesn’t have to be about pushing against, or ignoring, my body.

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11 thoughts on “Marathon Update: Pushing It

  1. I like the attitude of working with your body to overcome obstacles/improve performance as opposed to assuming your body is the problem. It means you take better care of yourself while you work to meet the goal you have set, not that you don’t set goals.

    As for which goals people choose, that’s up to each person individually. Whether your goal in life is to win a marathon, write a novel, bake the perfect soufflé, compete in an international air guitar shred off, or carve the Lord’s Prayer onto a single grain of rice, it’s your goal and it’s worth putting your heart and soul into it.

    BTW, I recently watched a surprisingly inspirational documentary called Breaking and Entering, which is about people trying to get into the Guinness Book of World Records. Some of the individual challenges may have made me giggle (joggling: juggling at least three items whilst running a marathon, grape catching), but the determination and passion made me feel like it’s time to pick a damn goal and do something serious about it. If anyone wants to check it out, it’s available on Netflix Streaming, and it’s well worth a look.

    So this coming week, I’ll be teaching a good friend to make lasagne and bread pudding from scratch. Teaching someone to cook something delicious is a nice, small goal I can reach. Then I need to come up with a bigger one.

  2. Thanks. One’s body and one’s mind as a team vs. a problem is so remarkably sensible and kind.

    Another blog promoting being on one’s own side while being athletic.

    1. Just want to thank you for posting that blog. I just went there and read a lot of it and it’s been a real gift. 🙂

  3. But… but…

    I remember that post. And if I remember correctly, you never said one single word about “not pushing”.

    In fact, my recollection is that what you did say was that you realized that if you listened to your body, it often allowed you to do *more* training than planned than if you stopped running or walking after a preset time just because your plan said so.

    Don’t people read anymore? Or are fat people just so always wrong to them that it relieves them of the responsibility to read what was really said? Jeez.

  4. not fighting AGAINST is not the same as not pushing at all. sheesh. i thought you were pretty clear that you were treating your body like an ally, and you’re working WITH your body to handle the athletic challenges presented by a marathon training regime, instead of treating your body like the obstacle. not much with the reading comprehension, those fat haters, are they.

    that said, the idea that you need to push your body beyond what it thinks is possible, and the macho notion that there is no gain without pain are also pernicious nonsense (at least for the average person who wants to improve, but not break world records). athletic performance improves through progressive overload, but that can be very incremental, and does not have to hurt or even be seriously uncomfortable. realizing that i didn’t have to push myself to the breaking point, but just had to push a tiny bit more each time changed my relationship with exercise nearly as much as realizing i did much better once i stopped treating my body as the enemy.

  5. I’ve tried running before, but with limited success – because I pushed my body instead of working with it. But, I started doing yoga a few months ago, with no intent of pushing my body through anything it didn’t want to do (especially because I was doing yoga for my mental health, not physical), and despite that I’ve absolutely noticed changes in my strength. If I try running again (which I’d love to, I generally enjoy it when I’m not killing myself to do it) I’ll have to make sure I’m being mindful and respecting my bodies limitations in the same way I do in yoga.

  6. Fighting against your body continues to perpetuate the myth that bodies are lazy/gluttinous/insert horrible quality of the day here and that only through willpower and pushing can we overcome them. This, of course, is nonsense.

    I lift weights. My body clearly tells me when it’s time to add more weight – it lets me know we’ve gone as far as we can with the current weights and if we want to feel what we were feeling before, it’s time to go beyond. It also mentions when it’s been overworked and needs time to repair. It’s all pretty amazing, and it’s part of what makes weights so appealing to me. (Your mileage may vary and that’s cool.)

    It so annoys me when people set up dichotomies when there aren’t any. You can indeed listen to and respect your body and push beyond at the same time.

    I do enjoy your marathon updates – it’s great to be able to virtually listen in on someone pursuing their goals.

  7. Ragen, I love your attitude about training and improving performance while loving and caring for your body! Saving a link to this article for myself as well as any future clients. Thanks!

  8. Pushing myself – in a way, I do that. But as a 48 year old dancer/adult dance student I had to learn that it does not help to work against my body’s limitations.

  9. Just wanted to say that i love these posts and also that too many books by pro athletes focus on pushing harder and harder. It took me a long time as a runner to realize that pushing all the time was what was setting me up for each injury. Not to say i dont still push way out of my comfort zone on rare occasions, its just that i now know its not the only way to reach my speed goals

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