Doing Everything…or Not

As anyone who’s happened across my blog in the past, oh, four months or so should know quite well, I’ve been taking hip hop and/or breakdancing classes since the end of October. Three or four weeks ago, we were stretching in one of my breakdance classes. In the course of this, it became apparent that one of my classmates has a lot of hip flexibility. My teacher then wanted to know how many of us could do a lotus.


^^ Like such.

Two of my classmates were able to contort themselves into that position with little to no trouble, while I tried to drag my legs over each other to no avail. I’m relatively flexible (sit and reach was my JAM during Presidential Fitness Testing in middle school P.E.), but the lotus just was not going to happen for me. When I got home after class, I was stretching while telling my roommate about this whole experience, during which I said, “Man, I’m a runner. Do you have any idea how tight my hips are all the time? I can’t be flexible and strong and a decent runner and a good breakdancer and a good hip hop dancer. I can’t be everything!”

Screen shot 2013-02-18 at 3.47.04 PM

It was one of those accidental epiphany moments for me that has had a major effect on how I’ve seen a lot of things lately.

Two weeks ago, I was putting in some laps at the pool in my training for my indoor tri. Lap swimming gives me a lot of time to think, and during this swim I thought to myself, “You know, I really need to work on my swimming. I need to get a lot better at this.” As soon as that thought finished, another one appeared: “Why? Why do I need to be a good swimmer?”

Other than perhaps in case of a nautical emergency, I couldn’t come up with an answer.

As someone who’s been driven by perfectionism and derived most, if not all, of her feelings of self-worth from tangible success for the past 22 years, this has led to a significant shift in my thinking. What if, instead of driving myself crazy over my shortcomings, I could embrace my mediocrity? What if I accepted that I can’t be the best at everything–I can’t even be good at everything–and that’s okay?

Folks, it’s one of the most freeing things I’ve ever done.


I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m going to take a wild guess here and assume that most of the people reading this blog spend a lot of their Internet time reading the same sort of material I read: healthy living blogs, fitness magazines, running articles, etc. I’ve recently become more conscious of just how much many of these outlets seem to preach the message of doing everything: “It’s great that you’re running, but you need to cross train! You need to strength train! You need to do yoga! You need to spin! You need to swim! You need to have full rest days! You need to have active rest days! If you don’t do all of these things, you’ll get injured/hit a plateau/lose your inherent awesomeness.”

Now, don’t get me wrong: I absolutely think it’s important and healthy to cross train. I think it’s fantastic to step outside of your fitness comfort zone and dabble in other activities to see if there are other things you enjoy in addition to your primary source of exercise (see: hip hop). But I also have come to realize in the past couple of weeks that it’s equally important to find balance in all of this. Cross training is just that: it’s cross training. It exists to keep you from overusing the same muscles, to make it less likely that you’ll be injured, to keep you interested in what you’re doing. It’s not there as something you have to master or be the best at.

I don’t have to be the best swimmer. I don’t have to be the best or most flexible dancer. Honestly, I don’t even have to the best runner. Should I strive to do my best at these things? Certainly. My best may not be the best, but that’s perfectly okay.

I don’t have any good questions to ask about this, so feel free to say whatever you want!
My registration situation is…complicated. All I know for sure is that I’m going to be an extremely unhappy camper if I don’t get into the race this year.

29 thoughts on “Doing Everything…or Not

  1. amen lady. way to put this in words. It is all about doing it all, society really preaches that. not only is it doing it all but being it all. I think it is a tough call and something I frequently have to take a step back from and realize is it worth doing it all? is quality of life actually better or worse?

  2. YES! Great post! I began to feel overwhelmed myself when I started marathon training and running higher mileage. I thought, but what about all these other awesome opportunities I’m missing?? Taking a step back and realizing exactly what you just said about it being okay to try your best but not make it all-consuming really freed me up to be happy with what I could do instead of worrying about not doing EVERYTHING.

  3. Ahh! This posts really speaks to me right now! I’ve definitely been feeling some pressure to “up the ante” with my running by adding in more cross-training, strength training, miles, etc. and why? I do want to get faster but I’m not going to win a marathon anytime soon. It’s all about perspective, it’s impossible to do everything and ultimately, you have to pick and choose to do the things that make you happy.

  4. Yes yes yes! Ahh girl this makes my day (and is also something I strongly needed to be reminded of…funny how that works). This is so something i struggle with too…am i doing enough? Should i add this or that? It drives me crazy! I don’t have the time for it all and i don’t even like half of it ha…i like to run and do yoga and sometimes some core and that’s it…should be enough and i’m getting to the point where it is…not always easy but practice helps 🙂

    • Glad this was able to speak to you and that you’re getting more able to be all right with doing what you like rather than doing everything! I definitely agree with the practice thing. It requires a pretty major reframing of your mindset, and nothing like that can happen overnight.

  5. FIRST THINGS FIRST i’m jealous of you running chicago (saw on twitter that you got in). i’m already sad that i’m not going to do it despite the fact that i have many other races i’m planning on running. it just was the BEST race…and my only marathon i’ll probably ever run, lol so there’s that too. anyway…seriously this post is exactly what i think regularly. i was running the other day and kind of dying a little but still pushing myself to be faster. and then i was like, “why? why the hell do i need to be faster?” i don’t even post my stats on daily mile, i don’t tell people my pace, and i can successfully run at vastly different paces depending on who i’m running with. i’m finally starting to realize that pace isn’t important to me – it’s getting out there and doing it and this post is perfect for reminding me of that…particularly that steinbeck quote.

    • Thanks girl! I’m both super stoked and currently dealing with a serious, “Holy crap, WHAT HAVE I DONE?!?!” panic. Haha. But I’m excited!!

      I really like what you say here about getting out there and doing it being the most important thing. That’s definitely something that I need to constantly remind myself of (especially on those hot hot hot hot hot summer runs where I’m putting in, oh, 12:30 miles. Haha).

  6. I was going to say, “hope you get in to Chicago!” but I am assuming you did by the comment above! 🙂 Yay!

    Gosh. I really hope no one is trying to be the best at all of these things… or even one of them! As much as I love to workout, and do a lot of different things, I do realize I will never be great, or even good, at most of them 🙂 And I am 100% okay with that, as long as I can keep moving! 🙂

    • Indeed I did! Right under the wire, too…I believe my confirmation says I registered at 3:00, so only 30 minutes before they shut things down. Phew!

      I love your sense of perspective here: being able to keep moving is totally the most important thing in all of this, and keeping that in mind can definitely help create a more grateful attitude towards exercise/running rather than needing to be the best at it all.

  7. Pingback: Crockpot is King (WIAW) | Chasing Chels

  8. I found this through Chelsie’s blog and I love it. I have been realizing lately that I do a lot of things because I am good at them and give up things because I am not the best. But I recently started running on the treadmill and sometimes outside, and I am slow. At first I was self conscious about my pace and the pace thing on the treadmill and then one day I realized I didn’t care. I was enjoying myself, who cares if I was good. Who cares if I never run a race! So I get what you are saying! And I think you are incredibly wise!

    • Thanks for stopping by and for such a nice comment! I love that you’re running for the joy of it — that’s truly wonderful. One of my favorite things about running is how it’s so open to anyone. There are plenty of competitive people out there, but you certainly don’t have to be fast to get out running.

  9. So, this is brilliant!
    In the ‘healthy living’ circles, there’s all sorts of pressure to be able to do everything with ease. run x times a week, strength train x times a week, do yoga, go swimming, take rest days…it’s wayy to much for anyone! While cross training and expanding your horizons are good practices to engage in, there’s no reason why we have to be the best at everything. As long as you’re moving your body regularly, you’re in a good place!

    • Thanks Sam! I completely agree with what you’re saying — moving and staying healthy is what matters. How you go about doing that–as long as it’s in a healthy way and a way that works well for you–doesn’t matter, nor does it matter if you’re the best at it.

  10. Great post! What resonated most with me was your description of the bombardment we receive to cross-train/do yoga/swim/run/walk/etc. When did doing something I enjoy (running in this case) become so complicated? Why must we always strive to be better (which is a good thing to reach for but only if it doesn’t lead to burnout) instead of enjoying where we’re at now?

  11. Amen, sister! This post resounds with my perfectionistic little soul. My whole blog is basically about this post topic. Isn’t it fun to wrestle with every now and again? Gosh, I love that quote from Steinbeck. It’s the truth, though. Once you embrace your imperfections and start loving you for what you ARE instead of what you aren’t, life is way easier, more fun, and just better.

  12. One of these days I will run Chicago. Sigh.

    Moving on…excellent, excellent post. I’m like you where I love so many different fitness things and know they are good for cross training but will sometimes put pressure on myself to be great at each. Um, not possible.

    • Yes you will! I totally have faith in your body’s ability to heal and carry you through Chicago. And I will most DEFINITELY be there cheering you on when that happens! (Unless I’m running the race myself, in which case I’ll be cheering you on mentally haha).

      And thanks! It can be really tough to not get caught up in that “must be the best” mentality, but it’s something I’m working on!

  13. Great post! I think it is important to choose your priorities. If you want to be a great runner, that’s fine, and you should set your goals for that and plan accordingly. But I don’t care about being great and I do think that’s okay. I’d rather take a Zumba and a Spin class every week and so it cuts into my running. But in the summer when I am training for a triathlon I cut back on those other things because I have set my goal for triathlon. We don’t need to be great at everything, I think it’s more important to be happy.

  14. Yes! Love this! You don’t have to be the best at everything! Just do YOUR best, and that’s good enough. Heck, sometimes you don’t even need to do your best, just get it done and move on to the next thing 🙂

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