Monday, December 12, 2011

Healthy Competition

When I first saw the email pop into my inbox I wasn't sure to feel offended or excited. My co-workers, all deciding they were in need of a heaping helping of workout motivation, had the brilliant idea to do a "biggest loser"contest in the office. But it gets better. Just having a contest was not enough, they had to make it worth more than their own well being (obvi...) and each add $20 to a pool that would go to the winner at the end of six weeks. And they added me to the email. On the one hand I guess it had a lot to do with the fact that I am always at the gym so why wouldn't I want to participate? But on the other hand, I am not looking to loose any weight. Tone up? Sure. Stay in shape through the gluttonous holiday season? You bet! But LOSE weight? Nope.

Why would I pay $20 to a pool that someone else will inevitably get to do something that I am motivated to do on my own every week? I didn't respond, but was oddly surprised by the number of people who were jumping on board. More so I was surprised at the TYPE of people who were jumping on board. Skinny girls, girls that didn't (in my opinion) need to be in a weight loss competition, never mind pay money for it. Of course to each their own and if that's the extra kick-in-the-pants they need than great. You know I am all for anyone working out and getting healthy. (for the record I am NOT into anyone turning to obsessive exercise and crash dieting. no. no. no.)

Coincidentally the very next week Ralph's group of friends also decided to start up a workout contest. But instead of doing a weight loss competition, which (I agree) unfairly skews the results to heavier people who have more weight to loose, they decided to log time doing exercise. You got points for the hours spend in the gym and the most points won. Simple enough. Clearly a system designed by a group of guys looking to get into P90X (90 min a day = more points = winning)

Everyone seemed super into it for the first week, and I hate to say I wondered who would give up after only a few days. But something really cool happened. I noticed my one co-worker L, who had always made mention of the fact that she wanted to get into shape but never took that next step, heading down to our office gym almost every night after work. After talking to her one day at work I realized not only was she doing this totally on her own (aka no one was telling her she had to go) but she was usually at the gym alone most nights (our office gym is fairly small and not too popular). Since I was trying to fit more gym time in my life anyways, I committed to joining her once a week. What I thought was going to be motivating her, turned into her also motivating me. For some reason I can totally convince myself to run ten miles and not stop once, but bring on the weights and abs and I get bored after 5 minutes. In a weird way, having her there made me accountable for my workout. I started showing her different exercises and we ended up doing a good 30 minutes of cardio and 30 minutes of weight lifting. It was great! (my abs have not felt this strong in, well, ever...). I doubt that she is doing this only for the competition, but if that was the push she really needed to get working out than I would say its worth it.

At the same time, I noticed that Ralph was more motivated to get to the gym, or if he was running out side to stop by the gym and do some weights or work on core exercises. Is it purely so he can win the contest with his friends? No. Is it a huge help to have the bragging rights that you've worked out the most that week? Sure.

I find it funny that my first reaction to all this was so negative. Maybe because I don't (ok I sometimes do, but I TRY REALLY HARD not to) judge my health and happiness by my weight. Or maybe because I am so self motivated to stay healthy (aka I am PARANOID of getting lazy and fat) so I don't relate well to this kind of contest. Add to the fact that in the running world everyone is so different with speeds and times I try to not compare myself others and what they are capable of and just focus on myself. But maybe a little healthy competition isn't really all that bad if it gives people motivation. I just hope they can make it last.

What is your take on the office weight loss initiative? Is it a good thing that can only help people get healthy and give everyone a dose of motivation? Or is it harming our self image to imply that EVERYONE needs to loose weight?

xx Sara

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