Last night I was hanging out on my couch, drinking a glass of wine and clicking around on the internet, when I came across a random blog post that really got under my skin. I’m not going to link to the actual post because it wasn’t that particular post that bothered me as much as it was the fact that it was just the most recent time I’d been exposed to what I consider to be one of the ugliest aspects of the fitness community: elitism.
If you’ve spent any time in online fitness communities, you know what I am talking about. It’s everywhere! A certain kind of person gets super into whatever fitness philosophy they’ve chosen to embrace, which is awesome, but for some people, that’s not enough. It’s not enough for them to say “Crossfit/triathlon/running/powerlifting really pumps my ‘nads” and leave it at that. No, they have to turn around and talk about why their chosen fitness practice is better than all other fitness practices, and that everyone else who does anything different is a pathetic loser who should just do the world a favor and launch themselves face first into a volcano.
I’ve heard runners talk shit about triathletes, triathletes talk shit about runners, collegiate swimmers talk shit about triathletes, road cyclists talk shit about triathletes, powerlifters talk shit about bodybuilders, weight lifters talk shit about cardio queens, cardio queens talk shit about weight lifters, and CrossFitters talk shit about everyone. Then all of those people join forces to talk shit about people who don’t do anything at all.
And then places like Planet Fitness talk shit about everyone who is really into fitness and athletics. You know, just to make sure the ouroboros of shit-talking comes to a complete circle.
That’s a lot of shit-talking, and I am tired of it. I would like a break.
I’m not talking about good-natured ribbing, mind you. I’m totally down with that. Brian and I watched one of those XtraNormal videos the other day, one in which an Ironman triathlete talked to an ultrarunner, and we had a good laugh about it because it was funny and we can laugh at ourselves. But the things I see and hear do not qualify as good-natured ribbing. They are cruel and mean-spirited and so, so judgmental. I am often shocked by the venom with which members of one community will regard members of another. (This is why I can only visit LetsRun.com once every six months or so. Not only do those guys hate everyone who isn’t a runner, they hate everyone who doesn’t run exactly the same way they run.)
Fitness and sports communities can already be intimidating places, with all of the equipment and unspoken codes of conduct and special language that often makes no sense to anyone on the outside looking in. These kind of attitudes just add to that aura of intimidation and make them seem even more exclusive.
Never mind that most of the people I’ve met in all of these communities have been amazing, open, friendly and always willing to answer questions or lend a hand. It’s the handful of assholes who stand out, who people remember, who people cite as their reason for staying away from the gym or hating sports or never wanting to sign up for a road race even though they’ve been running three miles a day for the last six years.
Frankly, I don’t think that we as a society can afford that kind of elitist mindset. Anyone who cares about promoting fit and healthy lifestyles should be psyched whenever they see anyone doing anything, regardless of whether it meets your standard for the Holy Grail of Optimal Fitness Excellence.
Even Governator Pumping Iron himself is tired of the constant fighting:
Everybody, behave and stop bickering. This is about inspiring more people to get into fitness. I’ve never understood people who argue constantly about who is wrong and who is right in fitness, because the fact is, there are many “right” answers, especially for people just starting out…
Do me a favor. Try to focus more on expanding the fitness community as a whole than protecting your little corner of it.
I know there’s a lot to criticize about the guy, but he’s also been lifting weights since I was a dot in my parents’ respective gonads. I’m going to assume he knows what he’s talking about.
Now I’m not saying no one should talk about this stuff. Can you have opinions about what is more effective for achieving certain goals? Sure. Is there a right way and a wrong way to do some activities? You bet. Is there room for critique with a lot of this stuff? For sure. That’s why I have this whole blog. I basically started this blog because I was tired of going into a gym and seeing all the women on the cardio machines and all the men in the weight room and never the twain shall meet, and then it all sort of spiraled outward from there.
But while a lot of women do endless cardio because they thought that’s what women are supposed to do to lose weight, I’ve been told by some women that they actually really like getting on the elliptical with their Kindle or a magazine and doing their thing. Who am I to tell those women not to do something they enjoy? Who am I to write snarky blog posts making fun of them, or being shitty about them in online forums? My thoughts are that if you have something you do and you enjoy it and it makes you feel good and it works with your lifestyle, then more power to you.
There’s a huge difference between having a conversation about the pros and cons of certain exercises and ways of eating and being a total d-bag about this stuff. I would like to think it’s easy to tell the difference between the two, but sometimes I wonder.
There are a lot of ways to get fit and be healthy and active. It’s not like there’s only one valid way to approach this. I – and a lot of other people – say this all the time, but the best exercise for a person is one they will actually do. It’s activity that enhances their lives, that gives them pleasure, that they are actually excited about doing! That might be daily yoga for one person, CrossFit for another person, trail running, roller derby, belly dancing, whatever.
So please, let’s lay off the elitism and be a bit more accepting of the fact that what works wonderfully for us might suck for someone else, and that there isn’t a damn thing wrong with that. Because in the end, we’re all aiming for the same thing, and that’s to care for the bodies we’ve been given the best we know how, and to maybe have some fun in the process.