Sunday, 7 June 2009

I'm so unfit....

... actually I'm not, I'm probably the fittest I've ever been and in relation to the population 'norm' I'd guess I'd be somewhere in the top few percent, but... self perception is a funny thing and having been around Ironman athletes, marathon runners and sprint distance triathletes on an almost daily basis for the last month or so I can tell you there are a serious number of seriously fit people out there... most of whom don't realise it... and the chances are I'm talking about you!

Let's get something straight right from the start, there are two things we can measure here 1) our own fitness and 2) someone else's. However, when we consider the the answer to question one we often subconsciously provide the answer to number two. What I mean by that is that the position we finish in a field or the amount of time we 'win' or 'lose' by is actually a measure of others fitness as much as our own. Unfortunately we too often find ourselves playing down our achievements based on these largely uncontrollable measures.

Unfortunately, the fitter we get the more fit people we hang around with and race against and the less fit we can seem (to ourselves). The first encounter I ever had with Ironman was back in around 1993 when I met a guy training for one of these crazy events. Although I raced cross-country mountain bikes at the time (to a fairly low standard) and considered myself a pretty fit 19 year old here was a whole other level of fitness... in fact it was so far out of my self-perceived ability that I couldn't even imagine getting to a level where I could consider not being able to do it let alone actually consider doing it. Here was someone who swam 100 lengths every day before work when I couldn't even swim 10 lengths in one go, someone who did 100 mile rides just for fun when my longest MTB races were 24 miles and nearly killed me and someone who ran for something other than a bus!

So what's my point?

Well, all those years ago I viewed Ironmen as absolutely the most phenomenal athletes with levels of fitness hundreds of times greater than I could ever hope to achieve. These were sporting gods who existed at a level I was not and never would be worthy of, yet... here I am at the ripe old age of '35thismonth' and within weeks I'll have completed my fifth. Add these five mdot medals to my 12 marathon medals and you'd think I'd be feeling like Buzz Lightyear on steroids but actually I feel, well... normal! You see, all those years ago I'd never met anyone who'd even done a normal triathlon let alone an Ironman, had I done one then I'd have been the only person that I, my family or any of my friends knew who had ever done one, I too would have been a true athletic god ;) But fast-forward to 2009 and not only do I know loads and loads and loads of Ironmen, I know plenty who can kick my a55 without breaking sweat... no sooner have I landed on a start line confident of a stellar performance than Chrissie Wellington or Chris McCormack has flown by me like poo of the proverbial (the former laughing and smiling like it was a quick recovery jog round the block)!

So what's my real point?

Just because the type of people I'm surrounded by has significantly changed for the fitter my own personal achievements are no less amazing... but this isn't about bigging ME up it's about bigging YOU up! The chances are you've achieved some pretty wonderful things in recent times, they could be anything from running your first parkrun or finishing your first triathlon to running your 50th parkrun or beating the worlds greatest triathletes into submission... the fact that someone out there is doing the same thing faster/higher/stronger (delete as appropriate), as I can assure you they are, that it no way diminishes what YOU have achieved.

So, stop beating yourself up, think about your best ever achievements (don't have to be sporty) and then think about how you would have viewed those achievements all those years ago when even contemplating them would have brought you out in a cold sweat... AMAZING aren't they!

I'll sign off with a quote (used before but I love it) for those of you who might be tempted to take this all a little too far and get a little ahead of yourself...

"no matter how good you get there will always be a 12 year old girl in China using your PB as a warm-up"

keep your feet on the floor ;)


p.s. today's picture was snapped by H on her iphone in our back yard in Lanza, she's an amazing photographer and I just wanted to remind her x


Rob Bane said...

Great blog article - those with greatest stature associate with both giants and dwarves, imho. That you've ran in a group lower than me and cycled with a world-class legend of triathlon, world athletics indeed, shows a decent range.

I was wondering if that picture was meant to be the gates to hell. Perhaps in a way it was.

Mama Simmons said...

I love this post. I've been doing triathlons for 15 years now (crazy!) and I have always surrounded myself with the best athletes I can find, which of course, always makes me feel slow. I'm always shocked when other friends/athletes say something about me being fast, because that's totally NOT how I see myself.

Jevon said...

Great work again, mate. On the page and, of course, off it !!!

Anonymous said...

According to the WHO "Fitness is the ability to cope with the demands of your environment" and as your post makes clear it is very easy to forget that the environment triathletes choose is 'extreme' compared to Joe Bloggs watching TV or even to people doing fun runs, or team sport.

Your post is a timely reminder to people reading that where ever we rank in terms of finish times and positions we really are pretty fit and some (Tom, H this means you) exceptionally fit.

Remember - if it was easy, everyone would do it.


Rob Bane said...

Oh, apologies to group 1 VARR people, I don't really think you're dwarves.

Tom said...


Cryptic as always... love it!

Mama S,

Glad you related to the post, I think we all need to stand back and appreciate ourselves sometimes ;)


Same to you Sir!


'Nail on the head' mate - remember though, it's all relative. H and I are super fit compared to some and super un-fit compared to others... the important thing is that we're super fit compared to ourselves... if that makes sense?

Debra said...

As always a fabulous read, and one I have kept returning to and reading agin as the week has gone on. In the past 12 months my fitness has improved no end since you guys motivated me to give triathlon a go but it's hard to remember that at times when surrounded by tri club members particularly the stronger far more experienced ones. however mid week I had an illustration that matched your blog comments, by doing the Otley 10 mile race for the 4th time, beating my previous efforts and having far more people behind me than I am used to. In 2005 there were 3 people behind me at the end, 2006 and 7 approx 12 and this year around 40. Ok so I'll never be contending for a prize and there'll always be fitter people but we should measure against ourselves and not others, as hard as it is to do at times

Tom said...

Hi Debra,

You're right that it is often hard to focus on our achievements purely in relation to ourselves. Remember though, there will always be someone fitter than us, it doesn't matter who you are there will ALWAYS be someone fitter, stronger and/or fast... that isn't a negative just some perspective ;)

See you soon,