What follows are my thoughts on how what has come to be expected from us as a fitness challenge has gradually reduced over time. I was worried that I may have been a little harsh on some people in the article so I asked a member of MPA (Helen Cameron) who’s opinion I value greatly when it comes to succeeding in fitness to offer her thoughts in response and her reply is written after. It’s another topic associated with health & fitness that you may care to read over for five minutes.
Sponsor You? For What?
If you have ever come to me for advice or coaching with health & fitness then at the very least there is one thing you will have noticed and it’s that I care. I want you to achieve your goals and I’ll do all I can to help you. I never ridicule, belittle, embarrass, shame or expose weaknesses to highlight where you are currently at or where you aspire to be. You’ll see that I’m genuine and I won’t need to tell you that I am.
What I’ll also make sure I do is not over praise you for standard behaviour expected of whoever you are. I won’t give you credit for being ‘normal.’ The American comedian Chris Rock performs a great routine about people wanting credit for ‘what they are supposed to do’. He skits people saying:
“I take care of my kids” and “I ain’t never been to jail.” This is all stuff you’re supposed to do! So, you won’t find me heaping praise on you for standard behaviour expected. An example of this with health & fitness could be “I didn’t drink fifteen pints of Stella and eat a kebab last night.” You’re not supposed to do that so why would I give you praise for it?
The paragraph above does of course come with conditions – if every night of your life you drink fifteen pints of Stella and eat a kebab and you are trying your best to stop that unhealthy behaviour then you deserve a pat on the back for not doing it. That’s fair and giving you praise will help you continue your good behaviour. Where I’m heading though is that if you behave like a functioning human being ought to behave then why should you get a ticker tape parade for it? It is expected of you.
There once was a time that people would raise money for charity by asking others to sponsor them for achieving a particular feat of strength or endurance. Running a marathon was the most popular of these of course and to RUN A FULL MARATHON WITHOUT STOPPING OR WALKING is a challenge that goes beyond the norms of every day fitness efforts. It’s tough and if you’ve ever done that then well done you.
In recent years, and largely down to the marketing from certain charities, the acceptable challenges for what is worthy to be sponsored for seem to have reduced significantly. I’ll refer in particular to the 5k Race for Life series aimed at women in an attempt to raise money for breast cancer research.
Now let me break for a moment here to say in no way am I knocking ladies getting together to raise money. I get the whole Aretha and Annie Lennox thing and if you all get together to challenge yourselves for a cause you deem worthy then that’s fabulous. What I will knock is what is perceived as a challenge so let’s stick with the 5k.
The charity have done the smart thing here and that is to set something easily achievable so as to capture as many participants as possible. If it was the ‘Climb Mount Everest for Life’ series then there wouldn’t be many getting involved. To transport yourself on foot five kilometres captures a large market because it is easy to do.
What I believe is risky for our health & fitness is if moving 5k on foot is perceived by those participating as somewhat of an effort. It isn’t. It’s nothing. To walk or run 3.107 miles and to simply COMPLETE that distance is nothing to cheer about whatsoever. If you are sick or have limbs missing then maybe so but, if you are an adult female aged 20-50 and in good health then to COMPLETE a distance of 5k on foot is simply standard daily movement that should be expected of a human being every day. It isn’t a challenge.
The danger with asking people to sponsor you for this is that you set such low targets for your fitness that you do not thrive as an individual and whats worse is it sets a marker for a ‘mini’ event to follow e.g. ‘The 3k Race for Life’ or ‘1k’ thus reducing expectations even further.
If you really wanted to raise some money for a charity and improve yourself as a person then you should put a clause inside your challenge. Ask for money to complete the race but only if you finish inside a certain time. The benefits of this are that you embark on a real fitness programme improving your health and reaping the benefits of enjoying the journey to a race goal. Training for an event is exciting! Also, if you’re really bothered about raising money for your charity then when you ask people for a donation you have more chance of securing a greater pledge when you inform them of what you are putting yourself through in order to achieve your target time. You can explain how the speed work and endurance sessions combined are going to be so taxing that they should dig deep in their pockets to acknowledge your efforts. This approach will carry much more interest than simply asking for money to move five kilometres.
If ever anyone of my clients or people at the gym asks for a charity donation for COMPLETING a task then the reply is always met with a target and that is how it should be for all concerned.
The times we live in are all too lenient when it comes to pushing ourselves and if we back off from pushing ourselves then we stagnate as individuals and as a collective. Strive to be your best and achieve the most you possibly can.
Ask for sponsorship to win the damn race!
So, thought-provoking as always. And contentious as always.
You ask if you’re going too far or being too harsh. Many, me included, will get exactly where you’re coming from. I personally would never ask for sponsorship for a 5k.
We’ve all been asked to sponsor someone for something that you think isn’t worthy. Recently I was asked to sponsor a friend to do the 60 second zip wire thing in Wales. My gut feeling was “What? That sounds like fun, I’d love to do it – and you want me to sponsor you for it?!” However, she’s in her 50s and terrified of heights, so I guess it was a pretty big deal for her (I didn’t sponsor her BTW).
And you don’t need me to tell you that’s the criticism you’ll receive…… i..e. who are you to decide what “behaving like a functioning human being ought to behave” looks like? My idea of fun is my friend’s idea of a nightmare.
Similarly, a 5k race for me would be easy (and therefore I wouldn’t ask for sponsorship to do one) but to a large, unfit lady who never walks further than her car, it may well be a challenge she feels worthy of sponsorship – even if in your opinion it’s just behaving like a functioning human being ought to behave.
The other point that jumped out at me was: “If you really wanted to raise some money for a charity and improve yourself as a person”… Well I think the two often don’t go together. People’s motives to raise money aren’t necessarily linked to improving themselves as a person. My 14 year old was recently motivated to do a 10k in Delamere Forest to raise money for the Stroke Association after Jim had a stroke. She raised just short of £2,000. She felt good about herself because she got off her butt and did something to raise money, and people respected her efforts and were happy to donate. But she didn’t do it to improve her fitness, that wasn’t her goal. It was a challenge for her because she isn’t a runner and had never run 10k before, but she didn’t really train for it and certainly didn’t do it to improve her fitness.
So I don’t think people necessarily set out to “thrive as an individual” when they sign up for a sporting sponsorship event. Their motivation is often more about raising cash for a cause close to their hearts, rather than it necessarily being a personal challenge. The event may be a marathon or a 5k or sitting in a bathtub of cold baked beans!
Hope that’s helped. I enjoyed reading it and thinking about the points you make. And I think you should upload it. My comments are just what occurred to me as I read it. No doubt you’ll get grief from some, but you’re a big boy!