Am I really lapping people on the couch?

There are some quotes about running, like the one with the image above, that are aimed at making slow runners feel good and that resonate with me. Those expressions all make clear that we’re all runners whatever the speed. You do you. Race your own race.

I also like this one a lot:

But there’s one I don’t like. It’s the one below. It’s the one about lapping the people on the couch.

That rubs me to wrong way. I think it’s the comparisons thing. Yes, I’m faster than people who aren’t running! No surprise there. But it’s the assumption that I’m better than non-runners that I don’t get.

I work hard not to feel smug about exercise, about fitness. I try to resist healthism and the politics of respectability. I’ve got friends who prefer reading to running, watching Netflix to bike riding, and hanging out on the sofa talking over CrossFit. I’ve even got one friend who thought she hated all exercise but later who admitted she was wrong.

But I’ve also got another friend who resolutely hates all forms of movement (well, possibly excepting sex). Writing about her I said, “She loves books, good movies, the company of friends, fine food, good wine. She leads a rich full busy life, with a rewarding career and loving family.”  I don’t think that while she’s happily sitting around reading that I am in any way “lapping” her. She’s reading and I’m running. End of story. No judgement.

Ragen Chastain feels the same way. She writes:

“The thing I don’t understand is why it’s so important to people involved in athletics to be “better” than someone else – I’m not talking about people who choose to compete in a race. I’m talking about people who talk about lapping people on couches, and people who are sitting on couches who didn’t ask to be involved in this mess. I choose my own goals for my own reasons and I pursue them. At this time one of those goals includes running. I have no need or desire to claim be “better” than anyone else to be happy with myself and my choices.”

Enjoy your couch. You do you!

What do you think of the cat’s words below? Any running slogans that rub you the wrong way? Let us know what you think.


8 thoughts on “Am I really lapping people on the couch?

  1. Agree one hundred percent with your opinion on comparing ones self to others, however, from my perspective, there is a sub-classification of people you might have not considered. You are absolutely right, and in spite of being a Fitness Coach, I stand firmly in support of people doing whatever they please, be it hitting the gym for a session or a couch for a movie.
    In my industry, though, I bump up against a lot of people who want the results from hitting the gym, but are only willing to go as far as the process of hitting the couch. They talk a good fight, but they won’t get up to get to the actual “doing” part. When I see memes like the one above, I don’t think of people who have full and happy lives but simply don’t wish to indulge in physical activity, I think of people who wish to see results and make changes in their world but aren’t willing to put any effort into it.
    Nonetheless, as someone who took it upon themselves to become fitter than they’d ever been, then went out and did the hard yards, it is also my opinion that you should be proud of both the distinction between yourself and those people and the fact that you choose not to judge. There are many who use health, fitness, or a lean physique as a high horse. Like Bob Dylan said, “You’re better than no-one and no-one is better than you.”

  2. Great piece (and thanks for including me!) I think the whole comparisons thing is such a big issue throughout society. We’re taught by our culture that we should derive our self-esteem from being “better” than other people (richer, thinner, “prettier,” “”better” home/car etc.) and I think that when you do athletics in that kind of culture it just justifies and elevates the tendency to compare – so people confuse comparing themselves with those who want to race, with comparing themselves to anybody who makes them feel like they are somehow “better”. In addition to the “lapping people on the couch” thing, when I DNFd my half-IRONMAN a bunch of people tried to make me feel better by saying “You’re better than those who didn’t start.” And I understood that they had really good intentions, but was also like – wow, no, I’m really not. Attempting an IM 70.3 doesn’t make me better than anyone, nor would finishing it and certainly nobody is obligated to try to do this. Thanks for breaking this down!

  3. I agree. Shame tactics that make us feel good at someone else’s expense aren’t cool. I had the most awesome run this morning. Period.

  4. I agree 100% with you and with what the other comments say. The one thing I will note is that while I don’t feel “smug” about running or working out in any way — it’s all for me — I DO sometimes have ways of talking about it that might make it sound competitive with other people — when actually I mean to sound competitive with myself. Or not even competitive, but evaluated or something like that? Like if I get out for a run that I didn’t feel like doing, I’ll say “gold star!” But I mean gold star from the Cate-who-Values-Exercise to the Cate-who-Felt Lazy — not Gold Star because I am a Good Person in the World.

    I think that can be misheard — AND, sometimes, even when I don’t do “gold star” or what have you, I will get a sort of response from people who do feel bad about not working out that implies that I’m kind of running “at them” — because I’ll publicly acknowledge having gotten out for a run (e.g., on FB) and others will say something like “you put me to shame,” because of exactly the kind of thing you’re illuminating here.

    I run for ME — and I talk about it because I talk about ME, lol.

    Maybe I should talk about it less.


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