Our Annual "Be Nice to the Newbies" Article, With a Twist

author : alicefoeller
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It's time for New Year's Resolutioners. Don't Get Mad. I Also No Longer Know How to Use the Pool.

Updated December 2020

It's that time of year when I write the year-end article encouraging everyone to remember what it was like when we were new, and to spare a kind word for the newbies who will crowd into the gym. Except in many places, we are not crowding into the gym. 

In my case, for example, I maximized my home gym for several months, got used to the new routine, and happily ignored my swim workouts (or moved them to the lake/beach) while the gym was closed, and then reopened with weird rules and shorter hours.

I recently went back for the first time, determined to start lap swimming again. I read for 30 minutes online, and thought I had it all handled. This is my 20th year of triathlon training, for heaven's sake. How hard can it be. I arrived ready for my touch-free scan in. As soon as I parked the car, I remembered the gym doesn't provide towels anymore. In typical triathlete fashion, I gritted my teeth and drove to the nearest drugstore where I purchase what I thought was a quick-dry towel, but really was a strange hair-only towel wrap that was thoroughly inadequate. (I didn't get the extent of it until I got out of the pool.)

I tried again, entered the gym, now 30 minutes late for the lap lane I had to register ahead for. I entered the pool and there were no lanes available. I talked to the lifeguard who sent me to the front desk where they told me they allowed a married couple to use separate lanes instead of sharing since I didn't show up on time. The desk clerk came with me to see if they would share again so I could swim in the lane I reserved. By the time I got in, I had less than 20 minutes to swim my 1250-yard set. I'm not that fast, so at 950 yards the whistle blew and -- as if we were children -- we all had to exit the pool at once.

So any smugness or condescension that may sometimes surface in this annual article are gone. I am a veteran, and yet a newbie. I no longer know how things go. So here we are:

The Annual Reminder to Be Nice

It's time for our annual reminder to all of our triathlon veterans that at one time, they walked into the gym filled with determination ... and had absolutely no idea where anything was and no idea about the courtesies of sharing a lap lane or hogging the weight equipment.

Those of us who have been around the block a few times know that most of the people who turn up at the gym January 1 will have disappeared by February 1. Meanwhile, they are standing in all the wrong places, swimming in the middle of the lane oblivious to you waiting at the side, and getting in the way of our normal routine.

This is a gentle reminder from BeginnerTriathlete that our goal is to have all of the January 1 "resolutioners" still exercising on February 1, moving around with confidence, and getting more fit. The people around them are a big part of that. Studies show that social connections is a greater predictor of success than most other factors when taking up a fitness routine. That is, people will sign up for health reasons, but they will come back because they made a friend they know will be waiting for them at spin class.

With that in mind, please be kind.

Of course it's annoying when people are in the way, or taking a long time to figure out how to use things.

But when we complain about them, stare disdainfully as we push past at the gym, or harp on the problem here on the BT forums, it makes people feel unwelcome and more likely to go back to their previous unhealthy lifestyle. 

The same goes for our forums. Before I was fortunate enough to purchase BeginnerTriathlete from its founder, I used a different triathlon website. Until I took a break from triathlon, came back and posted a question, and was flamed for asking something dumb. That's how I first found BeginnerTriathlete. If you're mean, people will leave.

And so we implore you to remember the last time you were trying something new and a lot of people around you were competent and familiar, while you were unsure and embarrassed. Hold that thought in your mind during January.

I remember being a fairly good runner and competent at riding a bike when I began my triathlon journey. But I had joined a Masters swim group at the YMCA, and I was NOT good at swimming. I was surrounded by people who could do kick drills faster than I could swim; People who made everything look effortless while I was thrashing desperately at the water. I realized during that time that when we are kids, we are always having to try things that are unfamiliar, and we are frequently not as good at some things compared to the people around us. But as we get older and have control over the course of our lives, we tend to spend our time in areas of skill and competence. We likely don't have a job at which we are terrible at the core skills. We likely don't have hobbies that are a constant struggle. And so we forget what it's like to be a beginner - to struggle and be terrible at something at first. To feel like everyone is staring at us.

So, when someone asks a question that seems to have a quite obvious answer; 
or when a person at the gym appears to be looking around for help as they attempt to adjust a machine;
or when someone doesn't understand circle swimming and crashes into your head;

... remember how much better the world will be for that person, their kids and everyone they touch if they feel empowered to stick it out in their new fitness routine. Be the person who gives them a hand instead of the person who gives them a glare. 


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date: December 31, 2020


Owner at Beginner Triathlete, web marketing consultant at SiteInSight, writer, entrepreneur, advocate for unstructured nature play for kids.


Owner at Beginner Triathlete, web marketing consultant at SiteInSight, writer, entrepreneur, advocate for unstructured nature play for kids.

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