“What are you training for?”
It’s a common question and it’s not usually meant to put you on the spot or make you feel inadequate. It’s actually runner speak for “how are you?”. Depending on your answer though, it can invoke certain feelings of insecurity inside of you.
So the answer is “nothing”. Well then some of us feel the need to justify that “nothing”. Well, I’m recovering from this illness or that injury.
So the answer is “well ONLY_____”. Fill-in the blank with whatever distance you don’t feel is worthy of bragging about training for.
So the answer is “____ race but only as a training race” because you don’t want to set people’s expectations too high for your performance.
So the answer is “well I want to do _____ but only if ______ & ________ goes well” because sometimes you need races to justify other races.
Nothing is wrong with any of these answers. In fact, they are just par for the course when the question is being asked. How else are we supposed to respond? With our deep seeded insecurities in the possibility of our failure? Ok…yeah sure Dr. Laura Schlessinger.
What we should be changing is the question. All of us (for the most part) love talking about racing and having that “purpose” to help motivate us when motivation is low. But how about we ask, “What’s bringing you joy right now?”. That’s what we all really want to know, right? For some people that will be racing and for others it will be adventuring and for some it might not even have anything to do with being outdoors at all.
So much unintended judgement is being framed in that simple question “what are you training for?”. I have asked it myself, many times! It wasn’t until my answers started changing that I became much more aware of how focused we all are about doing the next race, the next distance, the next milestone. I truly don’t think it’s ever meant to make the other person embarrassed for their response. I think we all just want to celebrate in each others joys and successes and for us runners, racing is a big part of that…some of the time.
So why not try and rephrase the question and see how much the answers change? It could be the beginning of a fantastic new conversation.