Writing and running in Austin, TX.
I spent a lot of time contemplating my first post of 2012. After all, I figure you can’t just start a new year with, “I went on a run and you won’t BELIEVE what happened! I choked on a GU!”
No, the purchase of a new calendar – or rather, the receiving of one in your mailbox from some random realtor you’ve never met – requires some level of acknowledgment.
This is especially true in the fitness community, where the New Year marks a time when our numbers magically–and in many cases, temporarily–balloon by 180%. (Seriously, the hardest part of last weekend’s long run was finding a parking spot.)
It’s a time-honored tradition for those of us who work out year-round to look down our noses at those of you who work out for only the first two weeks of January. (If you make it to March, we might talk to you. But until then, stop hogging my machine.) In other words, it’s natural that my first idea for a New Year’s blog would be “Why I Don’t Believe in New Year’s Resolutions”.
And I really don’t believe in them. I don’t make them for myself–although I usually make up a few to drop in polite conversation–and when other people tell me theirs, I do my best to smile and nod and think positive thoughts about how much more fun everyone will be in February when they give up on abstaining from joy and alcohol.
I don’t just dislike resolutions for selfish reasons. I mean, it’s okay if my social calendar slows down for a month or so because all my favorite beer-buddies have swapped Hefeweizen for herbal tea.
I dislike resolutions because I believe they’re a set-up for failure.
For those of you who didn’t know me pre-running, I was a fat kid. Not just chubby. Fat. I very distinctly remember going to the pediatrician at 12 and weighing 174 pounds. At 12.
Now, if you were never a fat kid, let me tell you: It is probably one of the top 5 most miserable forms of existence. And every single New Year’s I would resolve that this year would be the year I lost weight. This year would be the year they stopped making fun of me. This year would be the year that when a boy looked at me, he didn’t gesture to my Diet Coke and say, “Yeah Chris, you should be drinking diet.” (FYI: I’ll never forgive you Ryan whatever-your-name-was from 7th grade.)
Guess what? Every single year I failed. Every single year I stayed fat. Until college. Then things got even worse, and I ended up with a full-blown eating disorder. Great, now I was skinny(ish), but I STILL wasn’t happy. In fact, I was more miserable than ever!
And then I found running. It wasn’t a New Year’s resolution to get healthy. Sure, it started as “maybe I’ll lose some weight this way”, but honest-to-God, I decided to run my first marathon because I watched an MTV special called Diddy Runs the City (about the artist formerly known as Puffy, Puff Daddy, and the dude who convinced J. Lo to wear a crop top and a do-rag with his name on it) and thought – “If that guy can run a marathon, I can too!”
I freely admit that that’s the saddest running inspiration story ever. But it’s cool because it’s true! And it’s even cooler because it makes my point! Deciding to set some arbitrary date as the day you change your entire life sets an impossible standard. Down that road lies misery and ruin! (Or at least rice cakes and hunger.) It just puts way way way too much pressure on yourself.
On the other hand, deciding to run a marathon because you saw a rapper do it involves approximately zero pressure. I’m pretty sure I will live long and die happy without P. Diddy ever knowing how far or fast I’ve run. In fact I was so low-key about that first marathon that the only person who came to see me was my best friend, and that may or may not have been because her boyfriend was also running and carpooling was convenient. And guess what – that first marathon was an awesome experience. AWESOME. As evidenced by the fact that I’ve since run 4 more or them.
My advice: Don’t seek sudden transformation because you feel like a calendar date says you have to. Do things that make you feel good! Sure, I wholeheartedly endorse your decision to become healthier. Just please, make it an organic decision. Let it be one that comes from where you are in life, and leads you naturally along the path to a happier future.
And if it’s NOT making you happier – if living off 3 leaves of lettuce isn’t actually sustaining your soul – then drop your resolution right now and find a less-severe approach that you can actually live with. Find something about being healthy that you love. Find running, find cycling, find yoga, whatever. But find something that isn’t about losing weight, dropping a dress size, getting back some loser you’re too good for anyway, or even “making yourself a better person”. Find something that you would keep doing even if you never lost another pound.
And that’s my “but”. I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, but…I do believe in life change. I believe that every one of us could be living a healthier life. But by healthier I also mean happier. So, if it really really makes you happier to follow a new regimen that you started in the middle of a January 1st hangover, I fully support you.
But if it doesn’t, I’m hear to tell you this: It’s 100% okay to give up on your New Year’s resolution. You don’t even have to think of it as giving up. Think of it as trading. Trade that misery for something that you’ll actually stick with. Trade it for something FUN.
I couldn’t find any clips from Diddy Runs the City, but I did find this commercial for it on YouTube. Be inspired!
(Or contemplate how if he actually went for a run in NYC in the dark wearing that all-black ninja outfit, he would most definitely be flattened by a semi.)
Happy New Year!