‘Tis the season to see them. New people out on the streets or the high-school field track ovals.
I don’t think there’s a culture within running that is exclusive; not in the way that gyms can have cliques of ‘monsters’ who intimidate new attendees into abandoning working out. There’s enough road and sidewalk and trail and track for everyone, so my point in this post is probably moot.
That point is, everyone is new at something once in their lives. Everyone takes that big step to do something different; reads articles and blogs, gambles and buys clothes and tech for their new-found hobby or sport, sets aside the time and fumbles their way through the first few sessions. These first few sessions are the make-or-break. Willpower and resolve, key elements both.
Let’s all be encouraging, is what I’m getting at. There is the running joke about people and their New Year’s Resolutions…how gyms are crowded from Jan 2nd thru Jan 31st, how stationary-bikes and treadmills attract laundry in need of ironing by Valentine’s Day, how Craigslist is thick with exercise equipment at Easter that had been so fresh with promise at Christmas.
I don’t laugh at anyone who says “I’ve decided – no more [X], [Y], [Z]” or “As of January, I’m going to [X] at least [Y] times a week“. That’s initiative. That’s a statement that comes from introspection, something all too rare. The person has identified a weakness or a flaw or an undesirable state in their life, and for this shining moment, they have committed to making a change.
Encouragement is what they need – encouragement in that “money where mouth is” kind of way, where we support our friend or spouse or family member with optimism, helpful advice if we’re in a position to offer any, continued interest in their goal…and that emotional Sword of Damocles in the form of our disappointment if they fall away from their task. Not disappointment at their legitimate lack of success, but an understanding of our disappointment if they intentionally give up. Trying to lose 15 lbs by Spring and only getting halfway there is still a win; stating that goal on New Year’s then stuffing down a KFC Big Bucket during the Super Bowl, having abandoned the quest ten days prior…well, that’s a letdown for everyone. “That’s too bad you gave it up…I/we really thought you could do it…”
If we know people who decide to work out, or to run, let’s encourage them and advise realistic goals and proper pacing. If we see strangers on the road, clad heavy in fancy clothes and devices, smile and give a thumbs-up. Let them in on the culture that let us in – which let me in, a year ago now. They may look like n00bs but they’re out there doing it, trying more than 90% of everyone else is. They’ll find their own ground in terms of clothing and shoes and GPS and programs, through advice or through trial-and-error. We should hope they keep at it, push through the soreness and bad weather and make it to summer.