Fitness is Hard; Thoughts on Being Kind and the Online Community.
Like anything worth doing, getting and staying in shape is a major pain in the ass. Every time I see significant progress, I tend to backslide. I think, “Oh! I’m losing weight! That means I’m operating caloric deficits. I can up my intake!” And then I over compensate and gain. Or I add miles, and then kick up the carbs because I’m famished, and then I don’t make any real progress on my fitness. It’s disappointing. I wish it were easier. In the past month, all my key indicators went the wrong direction.
I say that. I say I wish it were easier. But you know, the truth is I’m kind of glad it’s hard. I’m glad it takes effort and sweat and dedication and time and willingness to endure. I’m glad for a good reason and an ugly reason.
The good reason is, I feel good about myself when I do difficult things. I gain a sense of accomplishment, and perseverance. I feel healthy when I do things for my body that require extraordinary effort. Accomplishing easy things isn’t as satisfying. There’s personal satisfaction in knowing that I’ve trained my body to do difficult things. I feel more confident when I feel like I’m fitter and better looking. I feel more secure in the future of my health.
The ugly reason is, I like being able to do things that not many people can do. According to Running USA, there were about 2 million half-marathon finishers in 2013. But it’s not clear if that means unique individuals, or total race finishes. I think the latter. So, if someone ran three races, they’re counted three times. Realistically, many fewer than 2 million people finished a half-marathon. I like being in a group of achievers that includes a very small percentage of the population. As ugly as it is, I like having a pedestal from which to look down on people.
I’m not proud of that. I work at not being like that. And I hope that I am very positive about supporting people who are striving for fitness too. Much like sobriety, I believe that fitness is there for nearly anyone who decides to reach for it. Not Olympic-athlete-level fitness. I’ll never have visible abs or finish a marathon in under three hours or be 9% body fat. But I think that general fitness is within the reach of almost all of us.
I guess my spirit of kindness and generosity needs as much work as my body. I’m taking steps to improve that. Finding that the way I was interacting on twitter was leading me to be nasty, and cynical, I’ve stepped away from my dr24hours twitter account. I’m going to try to contribute to different communities and be positive. I’ve instituted some measures which will help me improve the way I contribute, and keep me sequestered from people who I think are disruptive to me being the person I want to be.
Much like I cannot drink alcohol and still be a normal, kind, positive, contributing member of society, I am discovering that I cannot engage with cynical, sarcastic, angry people and still be the positive and peaceful person I seek to be. And to be sure, not all of academic twitter is that way: in fact only a small percentage is. But the cynics and agitators are interstitial to the matrix. There’s no way to exclude them from my community, because I don’t get to decide who is in the community. I only get to decide if I am or not.
So I’ve made changes to my online presence. Changes that I hope will change my surroundings, and therefore the way I behave. People, places, and things. I have to say goodbye to some people in order to build the environment I want to live in. That’s sad, maybe, but it’s just the way the world is. I set the parameters of my own interactions. I cannot expect others to change to make me more comfortable. In fact, the relentless externalizing of expectations – the demands placed by the academic twitter community upon everyone to adhere to community orthodoxy – is the main reason that I can’t be there anymore. I am uninterested in enforced, monolithic, echo chambers.
So I find a new way. I move forward on a tangential path. I don’t know where I’m going, right now. Maybe I’ll go back to that place. But only if I can find a way to do so that preserves my sense of positivity, and my ability to contribute elevating things.