Thursday, November 7, 2013

Run Like No One's Watching (because they're not)

Here’s the most important thing I’ve learned since becoming a runner:

No one is watching.

I know it’s hard to believe because let’s face it: you look pretty stupid when you run. Your spandex are unforgivingly gripping every inch of fat you’re trying to banish by, you know, running. That tan of yours is sporadic and is hardly being helped by the red splotchiness you seem to be building with every stride. Don’t get me started on your bird’s nest of a hair puff, messily tucked under a neon-colored hat (because sportswear manufacturers apparently only serve that key demographic of Living In the ‘80s). 

Also, you run funny.

Sorry for the reality check, but now here’s the good news: no one cares. Sure, running in the morning means you don’t have time to tweeze last night’s unibrow sprouts. Running after work risks the knowledge that your weekday mascara is set to drip own your cheeks (which in case I haven’t mentioned, are quite splotchy).

Also, you run funny. 

You knew that, right? Your arms flail like inflatable lawn ornaments or crunch up like stiff stale bread. Your feet seem awfully confused about which direction to point their toes. Heck, even Matthew McConaughey looks like a demented impression of a Tyrannosaurus Rex rightfully going extinct. 

Trotting up hills? Ha! That’s just too easy to mock.

Except no one does.

If you’re a runner and you’re out running, you’re not people watching. You might glance at the person across the street as he or she passes or eye the jogger’s butt in front of you because it’s more interesting than the same old park view.

That’s the extent of watching and being watched. Sure, you might occasionally trudge past a cluster of bored teenagers with nothing better to do than whistle or laugh, but if a ninth grader’s taunt still hurts you, just remember that in 20 years, that same kid will be nursing his own blisters after attempting to shed the inevitable beer belly.

But no one will watch him.

The others out walking their dogs and having a picnic? They’re not judging. If they stop their conversation to watch you float by, they’re not thinking “what a stupid neon hat.” They’re telling themselves that THEY should be out here in stretch pats and an iPod armband, running off yesterday’s brunch like the person that just passed by.

That’s you.

But wait! You cry, because surely, you plead, the gym is different. Some women PUT ON MAKEUP before using the treadmill. Some men seem to split their workout between lifting weights and picking up dates.

Well yes, they’re looking. Ladies, if you want to be seen, then you can. Wear the kind of tight pants that advertise your toned rear as “juicy” or “pink” or whatever adjective you feel fits. Trade the neon hat in for more hairspray. If you want to be seen, you can make it so.

But man, that’s a lot of work. The men who shout to tell the room how much they lifted are busy guys, you see. There’s a mirror showing their own reflection and for the proud, that’s a hard image to compete with. You with your sweatpants and sweat-drenched hair are FAR less appealing a sight.

On the flip side, I don’t know a single female who’s ever said “there was this guy on the treadmill and he looked so STUPID.” Or “there was this guy at the gym and I looked at him.” See, we work out to improve ourselves, whether the end goal is to drop out of a plus size class or to beat your PR at the next half marathon. Some of us do it socially, chatting as we power walk. Some make friends from the routine, finding a pal in the other stupid-looking, neon hat-wearing sweat-soaked gym member that also likes the elliptical near the wall at 6PM every other day. But I promise you, running is yours.

No one can take away all the work your body put into a jog just because they might look better doing it. More importantly, no one is trying. The public watches baseball, football, David Letterman and The Voice. They don’t CARE about you doing the most basic exercise man is capable of. If they did, we’d have reality shows and sold-out cross country meets.

Do YOU watch reality shows about cross country meets?
There are plenty of reasons not to exercise, but worrying about what others might think should never be one. If I go out to eat and find a stem of broccoli stuck between my front teeth, I expect a stare. If I exit a restroom and forget to zip up, I expect a comment. But if I leave my home to run, to improve my body and maximize my health, there’s not a single rolled eye or snarky comment that deserves my attention. No runner will ever laugh at you, and any civilian without running shoes doesn’t have the calf muscles to support their judgment. You might look funny, but trust me: no one is laughing.  

Well, unless you're Matthew McConaughey. Because you know, this:

is pretty damn amusing