Guest blog by Steve Fox #mentalhealth
Anyone who has purchased a pair of Inov8 running shoes will be acquainted with the phrase “Obsessed is just a word the lazy use to describe the dedicated” that comes printed on the inside of the box. For those that have succeeded in establishing good habits, this statement reinforces the belief that continuous dedication and focus are key ingredients for progress – you can’t achieve a dream or goal without constant hard work.
However, can that continuous dedication and focus become destructive? Is there a danger that single minded determination will mean an unnecessary sacrifice of other parts of our lives that are equally or more important? I guess this brings us to the question I am often asked, “why do you do so much of what you do?”
Some people are driven to change the world whilst potentially sacrificing personal relationships. Some people that we will never hear of, work quietly towards humbler but not less spectacular goals like raising a family or caring for someone in need. The level of dedication can be viewed to be similar in both cases, even if the 'obsessions' have led to the sacrifice of very different life aspects.
I lived the nineties like I shouldn’t have – I drank too much, smoked too much and that was only the legal chemicals I put in my body. I was overweight, couldn’t run between lamp posts without wheezing and desperately needed a change. A lunchtime visit to a Swindon pub with a friend ended with an agreement to train and run the 2000 London Marathon.
I kept road running but got to a point where I started to suffer regular knee and calf problems. Rehab runs on a school field led me to a fitness trail with monkey bars which in turn led me to Obstacle Course Revelry. In 2017 I had a heart attack on a start line but made a full recovery and continue to regularly race and train.
So, in view of all that, does training five days a week make me obsessed? Let’s face it, not too many of us are truly capable of becoming elite athletes where sacrificing significant parts of our lives in the name of our sport would be really worthwhile. So why do I do it? Anyone who has
watched the film “Brittany Runs a Marathon” (and I highly recommend it) will be familiar with the phrase “It’s not about losing weight, it’s about taking responsibility for yourself”, and that is essential on so many levels.
All of us have an inherent responsibility (to ourselves primarily, and only then to everyone else) to keep ourselves in good mental and physical health. In so many ways they are conditional on each other because feeling good about yourself can be the foundation of being able to deal with the peaks and troughs of living.
Some troughs are deeper than others and I am by no means suggesting that regular exercise is a miraculous cure all for any crap that life will throw at you. But it can provide an escape to clear your head and recharge the most important muscle in your body, your brain. My step-mum was recently diagnosed with untreatable cancer, and having lost my mum when I was young to leukaemia, this feels like a particularly unfair trough.
Yes, I continue to train five times a week and that continues to keep me in shape for my Revelry. But more importantly, do you know what I am thinking about in that 60 – 90 minutes that I am training? Nothing, absolutely nothing. I know the route I am going to run or the gym program I am going to follow and then I lose myself in them. Whether you call it some kind of trance or a mental enema, I come out of the other side having disappeared in the moment, feeling psychologically refreshed. Yes, the troughs of life are still there, but for a short while the only person in my world that mattered was me and everyone needs to have that “me time”.
What really matters is being true to ourselves and working towards what really matters to us - not what we're told should matter to us. So why do I do what I do as often as I do it? I have taken responsibility for my wellbeing by ensuring fun, physical welfare and psychological health. It helps me plough through those troughs in the knowledge that I also have a responsibility to embrace the peaks when they come along, and they will come along.