Don’t Talk to Me While I’m Running

I wrote this while sitting in Prospect Park after my first Couch to 5K workout. See, a few days ago, I couldn’t fall asleep and, for some reason, I decided to sign up for a 5K in October.

I don’t make great decisions at 1:30 in the morning.

Nevertheless, I paid the fee, so I’m gonna train and do it. So here we are, in Prospect Park, coughing due to some combination of the running, the pollen, and the rude old man who lit a cigarette upwind of me. I just finished week 1, day 1, which sounds like an easy workout on paper. It is not, at least not when you’re: a) out of running shape, and b) inadvertently going uphill. But I did it.

Picture of a road with "5K start" painted on it.

Unfortunately, while I was on the 5th or so run interval, I looked up at a woman passing me on a bike. She said something. I don’t know what she said, but unless she was complimenting my awesome shirt, I don’t want to hear it.

Picture of a white tank top that says "I thought they said rum"

Unfortunately, there are a lot of stories out thereof fat people being harassed while exercising. There are as many stories about people shouting “encouragement” as well.

If I had to guess, that’s what this was. Obviously I don’t know for sure, but I can speculate. And if that’s what it was, I don’t want it.

When you try to encourage a fat person exercising in public, you are perpetuating sizeism. You are operating under the assumption that we need encouragement. You may very well be assuming we are trying to lose weight (I am not). You are likely assuming we are new at whatever form of exercise we are doing. In this case, yes, I’m new at running, but that doesn’t mean I need a thumbs up. What I need is to be left alone, so I can work out and suffer in peace. I’m already self-conscious when I exercise in public, so the last thing I want is for anyone to acknowledge they can see me. And if I’m swimming or doing yoga or something else I’m more experienced at, your words of “encouragement” that assume I’m just starting out are massively condescending.

Don’t shout things at people on the street. Ever. When someone is exercising? Don’t correct their form unless you’re their coach, or they ask for help. And don’t cheer someone on unless you’re watching a race. Leave people alone, especially during a workout.

This post originally appeared on fatgirlbrooklyn.

By [E] Liza

PhD student. Knitter. Brooklynite. Long-distance dog mom. Reluctant cat lady. Majestic unicorn whose hair changes color with the wind.

6 replies on “Don’t Talk to Me While I’m Running”

I see your point, but I also think that many people have only good intentions. I live in a city with an extremely social and active running community, where random high-fives and shouts of encouragement to other runners are common and usually appreciated. These feel a lot different to me than catcalls or critiques while working out, which are never welcome. That said, if someone has headphones in and a “fuck off” expression on their face, I tend to assume they’d rather be left alone. I can’t speak for everyone, but my support for and encouragement of other runners has nothing to do with their size, shape, athleticism or level of experience, it’s just excitement over the fun and hard work of a good run.

I have heard this excuse before, but their intentions don’t matter when it makes me feel uncomfortable.

Maybe that works for non-fat people but when you get those posts about being ~inspired~ by fatties who are in a yoga class or at a gym or whatever, you are contributing to the notion that I’m a spectacle.

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