On Blogging

I’ve been blogging regularly for a little over a month now.  I know, I know.  I’m still basically a blogging baby.  But I went from reading almost zero fitness-type blogs and absolutely ­not­ being a blogger to reading and writing various blog posts regularly within the span of a few months. Despite being quite active on Facebook and several online forums, until recently, I don’t think I’ve documented my life through social media the way many people do.  For instance, I still don’t understand Twitter despite trying really hard, and I don’t even know how to approach Instagram.  Like, do I just take pictures of my food and my boyfriend’s cat, or what?  So taking the plunge into actively chronicling a large part of my life online was a big step for me, and I’ve already noticed a few ways that blogging has changed the way I approach both my training and my life in general.

1. I’m more aware of my workouts.

I’ve considered keeping a training journal for a long time.  The idea of consciously remembering my workouts and tracking them so that I can look back on them if I ever need or want to always appealed to me.  It seemed like it would be a really worthwhile pursuit, especially since I am no longer working out just to stay fit and sane.  I would really like to see improvement in my times and my abilities.  Of course, that never happened, maybe because there wasn’t any sort of accountability (real or imagined) attached.

Blogging has given me the push I need to start doing that, and I can already tell I’ve benefitted from it.  While I’m working out, I pay more attention to how I feel because I know I’ll be writing a short paragraph about it later.  I’ve started timing my runs because it seems less-than-satisfying to report that I ran five miles but have no idea how long it took because I couldn’t be bothered to time it.  And because I’ve started timing my runs, I’ve started running them a bit harder and more deliberately.  Every Sunday as I’m finishing up my Weekly Recap post (I recap each workout the day I do it and then just post it on Sunday), I get the chance to see and review each workout I’ve done that week.

My training has more integrated into my life and not just something that I do in the mornings.  I’m hoping this increased awareness helps pull me through some of the long winter months that will inevitably lower my commitment and excitement towards triathlon.

2. I’m more aware of constructing a narrative.

Our lives are not composed of perfect narrative arcs, tied up with a perfect little bow.  Neither we nor the people we know are characters populating those narratives.  But I think we tend translate the events of our lives into narratives after the fact to make sense of them and to communicate those events to others.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does tend to remove our objectivity.  We’ve all done it—someone says or does something that rubs us the wrong way, and then we think about previous interactions with them and interpret those actions through that new lens.  It sometimes makes me feel a little uncomfortable when I find myself actively crafting a narrative about something that I intend to write a post about while I’m going through a certain experience.

For example, when I visited my family over Labor Day, I found myself acutely aware that I was going to be writing about my experiences later and felt pressure create the story as I experienced the weekend.  I had to make sure to take a picture of TriTown because I knew it would be a good photo to include in a post.  I had to think about what elements of the trip I would include and exclude while I was experiencing them.  I was creating the subjective, somewhat fictionalize narrative arc that I would include in my post in real time.

Sometimes, this feels disingenuous.  For instance, the day I put the finishing touches on that post about my Labor Day weekend, I felt horrible.  I had a really rough day the day before.  I felt awful and sad and tired.  And even though I had been feeling positive when writing the post, it felt a bit like I was lying to post something so positive when I was feeling so negative.  I was acutely aware that the narrative I was publishing was, at the very least, incomplete. I’m not sure exactly how to feel about this.  On the one hand, I want to avoid painting a “social media” portrait of myself where I’m smart, upbeat, hard-working, and happy and where every day is “OMG the best day ever!”  And when I’m blogging, I sometimes catch myself writing that narrative.  On the other hand, we narrative-ize our lives every day, and I think being aware of the fact that I’m doing it can help me do so more responsibly.

3. I’m learning about new things.

I’ve never really blogged before, at least not in a way that was not essentially an excuse for me to write dramatic vents online for my closest friends to read.  And I am really enjoying learning how to do it.  It’s been a while since I’ve done something completely different for no other reason than my own edification.  In fact, I think the last time I did that was when I started doing triathlons.

After a couple of years in grad school and now nearly a year as a technical writer, I’ve loved getting back into some form of more creative writing.  I’ve loved learning about the kind of posts that people enjoy and are more likely to read versus the ones that they are more likely to skip.  (This is one of the posts they’re likely to skip!)  Interesting titles, pictures, and stories are what seem to attract people to a post.

I’ve also learned how to integrate photos into a piece of writing which is something I’ve never done before.  And it’s been fun to play around with.  When I first realized I wanted to include more pictures than I felt was prudent, I recalled how many times I’ve seen photo collages on Instagram.  I thought to myself, “I can do that!”  So I found a (free) app on my phone (I’m not ready to graduate to an Instagram account yet!), and got started there.

Guys.  Those were the most fun hours of my week.

Sure, I made some collages (or was it just one?) for my blog.  But then I started collaging everything.  And every collage was the best one ever and needed to be shown off to Rob (the person who would pretend to care for the longest).

“Hey, I made a collage of our ride!”

BikeRide

“Look, I made a collage of the seasons!”

Seasons

“Now I made an autumn collage!”

Autumb

“Here’s one of some unrelated Utah landscapes!”

Landscapes

“I made a collage of the cat!”

Cat

Yeah, I wore out my welcome pretty quickly that evening.

4. I want my training to have more variety.

It’s really easy for me to fall into the trap of doing the same old thing every day.  I like routine.  I’m the person who ran three miles a day five times a week and six miles a day once a week for over a year straight.  No change in my routine at all.  I’m the person who typically prefers training to races, even though I know that races are good for me.  I am boring.

But I like blogging and I like my blog, so I don’t want it to be boring.

This has inspired me to do more interesting things so that I can then write about them.  I’ve made a concerted effort to climb new canyons and sign up for races.  I signed up for the Salt Lake City half marathon, a $50 decision I may not have made if I hadn’t known that I would be able to write about it afterwards.  I’m thinking of doing a few sprint tris during my Ironman training cycle.  I’m actively thinking about new rides I can do and new bodies of water to swim in.  This really does help me stay excited about my training and mix things up, but it’s something I know I wouldn’t be doing if I wasn’t actively looking for new topics and experiences to chronicle in my blog.

Many of the changes in my perspective due to blogging are positive, but some of them—like the tendency to want to present a whitewashed view of my life—are more complicated.  And that’s okay.  So far, writing this blog has been a positive experience, despite the fact that I feel like it edges me a little bit closer to fulfilling the stereotype of the narcissistic, screen-obsessed millennial.  It’s good for my training, and—perhaps more importantly—it’s fun.  And if it ever stops being (mostly) fun and positive, well, I’ll write about it.  Gotta make sure to avoid only presenting the good side of blogging.

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