Every time I get a “Jim McCloskey just ran 6.8 miles!” on my Facebook feed, or somebody brags about their long bike ride online, I like posting this comment: “Your chubby friends secretly hope you twist your ankle.”
The 1.79 billion monthly active Facebook users can be divided into two groups: runners and the rest of us, who think they’re smug braggarts.
That’s why I did not post pics of myself leaping over the ginormous fire pit at the finish line of the Spartan Race back on Nov. 12 at the Van Vleck ranch outside Sacramento. Why would I post something that only aggrandizes myself and makes my less-able friends feel inferior? I couldn’t do it.
Instead, I straight stole from a satirical post on the comedy website “Above Average,” capturing the headline “First Person To Run A Marathon Without Talking About It.” The story beneath goes, “She had the guts and determination to not even Instagram it. Her husband’s mind was blown, her friends were confounded.” There were precious quotes from the fictional racer who asked, “Why would I talk about something that’s not interesting to anyone else?”
Though running 4.8 miles over 20-some dangerous obstacles was clearly more impressive than running a marathon, the point here is more about our digital motives for exercise than my achievement. Are we running to get healthy, or running to impress our virtual friends?
Are these wonderful devices getting us skinnier? Would half my friends even click into their thousand-dollar titanium-alloy road bikes if they didn’t have a phone app that measured their average speed, distance and calories burned?
Phone apps aimed at the active like “Strava” (“The social network for athletes”) and “RunKeeper” (which “… helps people get out the door and stick with running forever”) and the ubiquitous FitBit claim to provide powerful tools to motivate sofa spuds into a lather through precise measurement and an easy platform for posting on social media.
Devices to track our movements have been around for decades – remember the pedometer? Still, data from various studies show we’re just getting fatter and less active despite the devices.
Stanislaus County ranks 45th of 57 California counties for “Health Outcomes,” according to the “County Health Rankings and Roadmaps” site funded by the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation.
The survey has nasty numbers for our populace, such as 20 percent being in “Fair or Poor Health,” or 18 percent of us being guilty of “Physical Inactivity” and 32 percent qualifying for the category “Adult Obesity.”
Looking at those figures, you can’t think a better workout gadget is the solution.
What we’ve left behind in this societal shift to the digital is rugged individualism and grit, like I used training for six straight weeks for the Spartan race. Up and down the Oakdale Alps I sprinted, over neighbor’s fences I hurdled; I could center-punch a beer can throwing my regulation Spartan spear from 50 feet away into hay bales stacked in my front yard. You’ll find no mention of my incredible training regimen on any of my online accounts, except for that one muddy pic I just had to post after I crawled something like two miles through sludge by the river.
Twenty-one percent of respondents made “Losing Weight/Healthier Eating” their New Year’s resolution, according to a poll released around the first of this year by the Statistic Brain Research Institute. Second place got only half the percentage of votes (12.3), for a vague “Life/Self-Improvement” goal.
We’re clearly motivated to get skinny, but is exercise even the way to do it?
I didn’t lose an ounce during the weeks of training and even the day after the race. I used an online workout calorie calculator for my race that showed I burned 1,530 calories. 1,530? That’s like two of my favorite milkshakes.
Spartan Race Inc. predictably embraces competitive metrics with sensors strapped onto racing wrists, and I later learned from its website that out of 18,195 entrants, my finish time of 2 hours, 38 minutes, 34 seconds placed me 3,045th overall, or 1,920th in my gender and 159th in my age group. I was not even envious of my 45-49 group winner, who finished a full hour ahead of me. He’s probably a poor schmuck without a job who trains all day, then brags about it for everyone to read.
Steve Taylor, a resident of Oakdale, is a behavior analyst. Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.