I was meant to be swimming today and tomorrow. I know that because my weekly exercise plan says so. It also has another 10 hours of physical training each week listed, and it was definitely clear that I should be swimming yardage tonight and then attending a coached technique session tomorrow. And I’m not going to. This decision has caused much guilt. Questions and thoughts such as “You’ll never complete a triathlon if you don’t train for it” and “What will the club think of me if I don’t turn up?” have gone through my mind and I’ve been uneasy and guilty about not swimming.
Is my guilt reasonable or am I being a little harsh on myself? One method I’m trying to employ to decide whether I’m being lazy and making excuses or if I actually have genuine reasons for the decision is to view myself as if I were a friend and I were judging their decisions for reasonableness.
Imagine I had a friend who was training really hard in the gym – 12 hours a week mostly, and learning lots of new things that were challenging in many dimensions. I’d be in awe of that for a start. I’d see dedication and determination and hard work and strength and focus and drive. All good stuff. Imagine that friend was also doing a Masters degree and had an average mark of “First” or “Distinction”. Studying for those things takes time, mental effort and agility, concentration, application, discipline, curiosity and focus. Just the Masters on its own is a great achievement. So if someone was doing both of these things simultaneously I’d be really impressed and I’d probably feel tired just watching them. So when the friend said “I should be swimming tonight but I’m really tired after University and I don’t feel like I have much energy. Should I feel guilty?” I would be the first to exclaim that I thought they worked hard enough and the swim session wouldn’t really matter in the great scheme of things. I’d prescribe activities that they would find relaxing and I’d warn that rest and relaxation are key to mental and physical health. I’d say “You don’t have to do it all all of the time – take it easy and be nice to yourself!” It’s difficult to comprehend any other responses. What sort of person would say “Yes, you should absolutely be guilty. You’re not achieving enough and you’re not working hard enough. Get to the pool now!”
Yet it seems that when we’re not dealing with a friend but rather with ourselves, exactly that type of unkind response is precisely how we sometimes respond. Why is it alright to talk to ourselves and treat ourselves in a much less sensitive, caring and much more demanding way than we would treat a friend?
So I’m not allowing myself to be guilty. It’s a negative emotion that doesn’t serve me in any way. I’m allowing myself some time out from training – either physical or intellectual – to recharge my batteries, to take care of myself, to pamper myself unashamedly and make sure I’m as rested and well as I can be. I’m being my own best friend and really, it’s the least I deserve.