On most days during the week you can find me running on the same road, it is a road that has many other runners and walkers on it. You may see an elite local marathoner who finished in the top 10 of the Pittsburgh Marathon a few times, or you may see a woman who runs Boston every year and does very well. You will also see your everyday runner like myself who is out there training to compete and get better. There is a good chance you will see people walking with their dogs and pushing strollers as they exercise, and more than likely you will see a person struggling as they run or walk who is overweight and is trying to drop some pounds.
The other day while I was running something very disturbing happened. I was coming up on a woman who was a bit overweight. She was doing a slow run and her face was bright pink and she looked as if she was struggling. I can’t say for sure if she was or just gave off that look. Anyway as I passed her, a car was driving by and as it approached a young man screamed from the passenger window inside the car. I was hearing my head phones, but the music was low enough so I could hear the traffic. The man yelled something on the lines of “Run fat ass” to the lady. I quickly stopped because I was actually taken by surprise at how loud he screamed it. The lady who was not wearing head phones also came to a stop, probably taken back by the same loud scream. The young man laughed and the car kept driving. The lady though obviously was embarrassed and hurt by what had just happened. I was a few feet ahead of the lady and I wasn't sure exactly what to do, so I just turned to her and said “Don’t pay any attention to those assholes.” She said thanks and I went on my way. The rest of my run I couldn't stop thinking about the incident. I am sure if you have ran on a heavily trafficked road you have had someone scream something. I have heard it all from “nice shorts fag” to the always famous “run forest run”. I normally just shake it off or I shoot the car the finger (not really sure if that shows my immaturity level). I however have not had anyone degrade me the way this lady was. Here she is out for a run, trying to better herself and has to put up with the immaturity of an ignorant person. I would like to be able to tell you this is the first time I have encountered something like this, but it’s not. Before I became a member at my current gym I belonged to one that is known for being more of a fashion show than an actual gym. The ladies show up in skimpy outfits and wear make up to work out, while the guys flex their steroid enlarged muscles in the mirror more times than they actually lift a weight. As I was there I was using the treadmill and there was 2 young ladies, probably in their mid-twenties using the machines next to me. They were both doing a casual walk and hardly breaking a sweat. In front of us was a heavy set woman using the elliptical. The 2 girls were pointing and laughing at this woman. Luckily the woman could not see them so had no clue that she was the center of these to idiot’s jokes. I overheard one of them say “Why would she wear those pants?” The woman was wearing your basic yoga pants. The 2 immature girls then begun to talk about the ladies weight. I wanted to turn to them and say, what type of pants do you want her to wear? She is wearing workout clothes and from what I can see she is working out. Yes she is overweight but here she is working out. I think that is proof enough that she is attempting to do something about her condition.
I can still remember the first time I went to the gym. I was living with my best friend at the time and he would go to the gym every day. I was more concerned about running so never went. He eventually convinced me to get a membership. We would go every day after work and he would tell me what to do and show me the proper technique. There was a period of time where my friend could not come because he was in the hospital with kidney stones. It was the first time I ventured to the gym alone. I remember not wanting to lift because I was afraid people would laugh at the small amount of weight I was lifting. As I was putting my weights on the bar a group of men who I had seen there almost every day asked where my friend was. I told them where he was and they asked if I was alone. I told them I was and they invited me to work out with them. Now I had seen these guys workout before and they were no joke, they would yell at each other and try to get each other pumped up. I accepted the invitation and quickly realized these guys were going to push me through a rough workout. It would be my turn to do whatever exercise we were on and they would be standing over me screaming “you got this, you can do it, one more you got one more in you” I struggled but I pushed through the workout and I walked away proud of myself. I may have had the smallest amount of weight on the bar but I did all the exercises. I was worried for nothing, these people were not there to judge me and make fun of me. They were there helping me out and trying to keep me motivated.
We live in a cruel society. A society where people love to judge everyone else. When things like this happen I know why people are timid going to the gym or going for a run to lose weight. You never know what you are going to encounter. What really baffles me though is that normally it is a woman doing it to another woman, at least at the gym. Chances are it’s a guy screaming something out the window of a car. I guess the thing that gets me the most is instead of putting the person down why not show them some encouragement. I know as a runner when I see a person struggling during a race, or even when they are out for a jog I want to encourage them to keep moving and push harder. By making fun of someone who is not up to your standard you are only making what is difficult for that person even more difficult. Go back to my first story and put yourself in the ladies shoes for a moment. A car is driving by and you hear someone yell something. You look over and see a person screaming “you got this!” and they give you a thumbs up. Instead of making fun of the lady at the gym, the girls say nothing and just do their work out. It isn't hard to go out of your way every once in a while and show someone that what they are doing is being noticed for the right reason instead of the wrong.
I look at the people who constantly feel the need to bring others down as people who have their own inner struggles. I will not lie I am guilty of making fun of people in the past. It was immature and as I look back I ask myself what did I gain by doing it? Not a damn thing, in fact I walked away looking like the ass. So I ask for a small request from you if you are reading this. If you see someone during your workout who looks like they may need some words of encouragement to keep them going, give it to them. You may not realize it at the moment, but chances are you are helping that person more than you know on their journey.
I have nothing but respect for the people that post their before and after pictures and how they transformed, it shows that they started from the bottom and worked to the top and didn't let anyone stop them along the way.
Have you ever encountered someone yelling at you as you ran or were working out? How did it make you feel?