Why do we let other people's perceptions define who we are and what we should or shouldn't do?

Written by our Coach Ansku Kangas

This subject of course carries through to all aspects in life, but I'm only going to look at it from an athlete's perspective.

So why do we let other people's perceptions define who we are and what we should or shouldn't do? Or is it that they define us or do we define ourselves first?

Before this gets too philosophical, I'm going to open it up a little bit more. So I do not like defining myself as a runner. That might sound bad, as I'm a running coach. But labeling myself as a runner, for me, would feel like putting myself in a small box. In a box where I'm putting myself in a position where the common perception of a runner defines me. So what is a runner and what SHOULD a runner do.

By labeling ourselves as a practitioner of a certain sport, we also search for reinforcement to our own beliefs. We spend a lot of time with others that are just like us and think alike. We share the common beliefs, so our beliefs tend to become stronger. It gives us the insurance that what we are doing is okey. Because who would want to hear that what they were doing is not okey? Or want to have somebody questioning us? But that's actually exactly what we should do. Spend time with people who practice a different sport, the less alike, the better!

So let's play with the idea a little bit. You ran 70km last week. Then you go and chat with other runners. The conversation could be something like this: 

How was your week? How much distance you covered?*
”I ran 70k’s. My lower back feels a little sore now, but I think a 10k warmup run will make it feel better.”
”Dude, that’s impressive! I had my old achilles injury warning me again, so I needed to take it a little bit easier and only did 50

A CrossFitter or a weightlifter would probably say " Are you crazy?". Not that what the CrossFitter or weightlifter does would be any better, but just that they can see it from the outside. Outside the little box called "a runner".

For me, labeling myself as a runner, would only mean putting unnecessary chains on myself. As a runner I should probably be skinny, stay clear from big weights as I shouldn't grow unnecessary muscle mass, do only leg work and stick with sets of 15-30 reps as that's what a runner should do. Forget about upper body work and measure my own worth by the kilometers I cover within a week.

What if I want to be a runner who is strong, flexible and fast? Who doesn't take herself too seriously and actually grows doing things that are out from my comfort zone? While running, I'm at my comfort zone however hard it gets. Under big weights? Not so much. And that's why it's exactly where I should spend more time at.

Could a yogi benefit from a little weight training? Absolutely! Would it be good for a gymnast to relax a little, let the hips go loose and do some salsa? Absolutely! How about a CrossFitter, would it be good to kick off the lifters some time, not think so much and count so much and just flow where ever the body feels like going? Absolutely!

Whenever a someone says " You don't look like a runner" or "You don't look like a CrossFitter" you should only take it as a compliment! Your just doing your own thing and that's just fine!

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