It’s with some trepidation that I begin a blog post talking about Tina Fey, Lindsay Lohan, and Mean Girls.

But that Tina Fey, when she’s on, she’s on.  And lately I’ve been struck by that vision of poor Lindsay, in her pink, borrowed, Izod, walking through the first day at her new school cafeteria, clinically categorizing the students at each table.  “Girls who eat their feelings.  Girls who don’t eat anything.  Desperate wannabees…”  You get the picture.  In one scathing, piercing satire of high school life, she nailed it.

What I’m going to say might sound a little harsh…but look around.  Has anything changed since high school?  I’d like to think so, but the other day I had a great conversation with a young journalist from Columbia College in Chicago, and she got me thinking.  She had a premise, that when most people see overweight men or women, they think LAZY.  Period.  I got to thinking that we all judge, though, and not just on weight.  See a mother with her kid losing their shit in Target, and we think “Wow, parent, much?”  Catch a colleague not washing their hands for long enough in the bathroom and think “Piglet”.  (Or is that just me? I have a germ thing.)  Anyway, despite the fact that we’ve all been taught to be wary of judging (from such wonderous sources as The Bible – “judge not lest you be judged” – to Simon Cowell – “really, what were you THINKING?”), we still do it.  Why?  Because, we have been given the gifts of sight, critical thought, and experience, through which to analyze life.  And thus, whether we want to or not, we draw conclusions on what we see.  So maybe it’s Judging.  Or maybe it’s just Applying Our Life Experience.

Either way, none of us likes to be judged.  But sometimes, it happens.  Or we perceive that it happens, because we’re overly concerned, perhaps, that Lindsay is just around the corner, classifying us, and putting us at a table we don’t like.  And then what do you do?  How do you respond?

I’m asking because I think many of us who are just getting started with exercise again struggle with this issue. I know I do.  On Saturday, I went out with my running group and hauled out my walking poles (or, Nordic Walking poles, now that they have “official” little rubber feet).  People were curious, and people were interested.  And mostly, I didn’t care that I wasn’t running.  And yet… a teeny, tiny part of me, I kept thinking “I’m really a runner.  This is just a recovery thing.  I’m a runner….I’m a runner.”  I was anticipating the Judging, and a little part of me felt like I was being pushed from the Runner Table to the Walker Table, and I was fighting tooth and nail to stay put, poles and all.

It surprised me a little, to feel how much difference that made for me, when I know that I preach to y’all every day that all that matters is moving your butt.  But I guess even I’m human, and though I could normally claim Runnership with flying colors, I can’t now.  Normally, I can also hang my Size 20ish hat on the fact that I’m a pretty kick-ass athlete, but even I’m struggling a little with the feeling that I’m Different right now, and having a tiny pity party about it, too.

So what do we do about that?  What can I do?  Well, I can take my own medicine.  And I can move on.  Because, as I’ve said here so often, it really doesn’t matter what other people think. It only matters what we each do, on our own time, to take care of ourselves.   And right now, it doesn’t so much matter what I call myself (runner, walker, crawler) as much as how often I have a right to call myself an athlete.  As I build back up my endurance and a regular pattern of working out, I can’t get hung up on feeling like I should be at a Runner Table or a Walker Table or any Table.  Right now,  I’ve just got to concentrate on getting back into this great habit of using my legs good, not evil (read: walking – and not to the grocery).  And what better way to do it than though goofy-looking, but wicked calorie-burning Nordic Walking (ahem, and burning some extra FORTY PERCENT more calories!)?  It seems like the best plan for me…Judgment be damned.

So I suppose that’s today’s lesson.  Suck it up.  And focus on what’s inside – not what’s pressing in from the outside.  For me, that means the only thing that matters is getting out there again tomorrow.

See you on the path.

3 thoughts

  1. I hate to admit it, but I’m very judgmental — talking on your cell phone while driving, wearing too tight clothes, having a mullet, putting up Christmas decorations in October…

    The funny thing is, the only time I don’t judge people is at the gym or when they are running/walking/skating outdoors. Even if someone is 300 lbs and walking around the block in a thong (I’m not kidding, I’ve seen it) I think, “Good for them for getting out there and doing something.” Of course, I won’t run on busy roads because I’m worried people who drive by will laugh at me so go figure.

  2. I could write a small book on this topic but won’t, mainly because I don’t want to compete with your forthcoming bestseller, “Hiking to Find Shit”. Therefore I’ll just say that we probably are harder on ourselves than others and being injured and recovering from an injury sucks. Plain and simple. You WILL be back someday very soon and then you can sit once again at the Runner’s Table or stop by and see me at the Plodding-along-aren’t-you-glad-I’m-here-so-that-you-don’t-have-to-come-in-last table.

  3. First of all, a great post. I liked the movie Mean Girls and the book it was based on even more.

    Secondly, you are awesome for getting out – and then for writing about it. I wrote a modest little post about getting out the other day in hopes that in any way I could inspire those who held themselves back. I know you’ve inspired others because I am one of them!

    OK, so, here are some thoughts. I will never be allowed at the Runner or Athlete table – by SOME. There are always going to be those who, if given the opportunity, would see me as fat, or nonathletic, or not very fast, or undisciplined or not efficient in my training plan. The purpose of my activity should not be to care what they think or try to prove my worth in any way. The purpose of my activity should be to feed my body, mind and soul, and maybe make some friends and inspire a few people on the way, if I’m so fortunate.

    I’m guessing the majority of people respect and admire an athlete who has a love of what they’re doing.

    Ironically my readership in fat acceptance (FA) has helped me reclaim my exercise. Today I’m happy to report I literally do not care what people think, seeing me (in my threadbare gear) with my green hair and do-rag jogging around the track at speeds almost impossibly slow. 🙂 However… I have not tried an actual race yet – I’ve kept to myself (and whoever else shows up at the track or on the street while I run). If I do a race it will be interesting to see if I can keep my head held high and feel proud of myself.

    Thanks for another great post!

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