Removing the Word “Only”

Something I have tried to do the last year is removing the world “only” from my training vocabulary.  For instance, I “only” ran 5 miles or I “only” ran an 8:30 paced run…my only could be someone’s best pace.  Their only could be my best pace.  I only had 5 comments on this blog post or I only got 10 page views…It just sets yourself up for comparison.

Plus using the word only, I’m downplaying my accomplishments.  “Only” running a 5k of a bigger race series is still an accomplishment.  Only running a mile or only recovering when needed are equally as important as running that 20 mile long run.

Why do we put ourselves down and belittle our accomplishments?  Why do we compare ourselves to others? 

Part of this (in my opinion) has to do with the fact that you can post everything on social media.  When we have a great race, people say nice job everywhere.  On a blog, on twitter, on facebook, on dailymile, on instagram…everywhere.  It’s almost as if you are waiting for that nice job or wow you did what?!  Has our society moved towards needing and seeking constant approval from others?

What happens when you decide you need more rest or do shorter runs for a while?  Case and point: Last week I ran a total of 47 miles.  This week I will run something similar. For me personally, that is a low mileage week.  I didn’t “only” run 47 miles, I just ran 47 miles.  Not once in my race recap at the NJ half marathon did I mention I had only run a 1:27.  I just said my splits and carried on.  Comparing yourself to anyone (including yourself) just gets tiresome.

With the ability to share and overshare everything, there is an easy ability to compare everything.  It’s not hard to start reading blogs and start comparing yourself.

I used to find myself doing this a lot more with food.  I’m a terrible cook.  About half of the things I cook are burnt/crusty.  I used to read a lot more food blogs and recipes with great and beautiful food.  I would find myself comparing myself to their amazing work.  Why can’t I do that?

Then I would compare myself with blogging.  I don’t get paid to blog. I don’t get a lot of free stuff.  I’m not complaining I’m just stating the facts.  It’s easy to compare who gets more stuff, who has more blog readers, who gets more page views…who really cares is my thought.  Each blog I read is uniquely different and if I didn’t enjoy reading them or found myself comparing them, then I would stop…that was a huge lesson I learned last year.

Then there is there is the comparison of running or working out.  Personally I think this is the hardest to even compare.  No one is training for the same race with the same time goal.  I remember someone once said to me “Imagine taking two identical twins and training them the exact same way for a race.  They do everything the exact same way.  Everything is the same.  Nothing is different.  Training, food, life, environment is all the same…one will progress faster.  One will be better.”  Now imagine if you did that with two people that were not identical twins?  Point blank: you cannot compare yourself to anyone.

Questions for you:

What words do you remove from your vocabulary?

Do you find yourself comparing?

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  1. You are so right that “only” is an awful word to use when we talk about our accomplishments. One of the things that I try not to say is that “I’m ‘just’ running the half.” A full marathon is an amazing accomplishment, but that doesn’t mean that half marathon, or 10k or 5k is any less of an accomplishment.

  2. I agree with this so much – one thing I *hate* hearing is “I’m only doing the half marathon.” There is nothing “only” about running 13.1 miles. It’s really far.

    I wonder if Usain Bolt ever says that he “only” ran 100m or 200m.

  3. New-ish reader to your blog, loving it! And Bravo on the topic! I am getting better about this as I read alot of running blogs, most of the writers have much faster mile/minute times than I do. BUT, I try (TRY) to only compare my times to MY previous times. And, even then, we have to understand that some days, everything does not come together to make a great run. But, we are running.

    1. Thank you for stopping by Melissa! I’m glad you are enjoying it.

      It’s so hard to just compare your times to you. Even then I feel like I’m comparing myself. I agree though, running is running. 🙂

  4. This is an awesome post. I find myself berating MYSELF for “only” doing blah blah blah- removing the comparisons is liberating. Each day is a new day- and one thing I have learned from being injured is to just enjoy the fact that you CAN run and not get tooo caught up in the details. That being said- I LOVE when I surprise myself with an awesome day 🙂

  5. Thank you for this! It’s so easy to compare yourself to others in the fitness/running world. I love reading blogs and writing my own, but I do find myself saying “only” with regards to my training and blogging a lot. It’s a tough one.

  6. Well said. I agree totally. I am contemplating running my first half marathon in November, but I won’t advertise it as a “Half Marathon”. I will feel better calling it a “Double 10K + another K.” 🙂

  7. I totally agree. I often fall into the comparison trap, especially with my running, with how I look, or even sometimes with how much I eat. And even if I “only” run 12 miles this week (something I was worrying about posting later this week because it is so little), that’s still a good amount for me in my current situation, I shouldn’t compare, and if people judge me for that then forget them. 🙂

    Funny story: I actually know a pair of identical twins (they don’t know if they are identical, but they look it) who train and race together and they finish all their races together, often holding hands. I don’t know if one or the other is capable of more and is holding back, but I kind of doubt it. They’re quite fast.

  8. I love the way you put it. I find myself using the words “only” a lot because there’s always someone out there who’s accomplished more than me and it seems like I don’t have the bragging rights.

  9. I really like this idea. Even if I don’t say it out loud, I regularly say to myself “I only studied for three hours” or “I only ran a few miles today.” I’m going to work on being more mindful of striking this word from my vocabulary when it puts my efforts down.

  10. This is a really great post. The worst is “I only ran the half” if an event includes both a half and full marathon. Running 13.1 miles in a race is not deserving of “only”. It definitely depends on the situation- I’ve had weeks when I had lots of work and “only” ran so many times, etc. You never know what the rest of someone’s life is like besides running and why they run how much or how little they do. There’s so much more to running, and other people, than a time on a clock.

    I try not to fall into the comparison trap with running and racing. Things like age group or overall awards are more about who shows up (or in my case, who doesn’t show), and I hate it when people do that. I mean, you can control your training and what you do, not someone else’s, and there’s no use to waste energy worrying on things you can’t control. I try to think of my own progress in terms of how my times have improved, and even then, based on the long term because you will always have a bad run or race every once in awhile, that is inevitable.

  11. I loved this post too. Thanks, Hollie. One of things I try never to say is “I should have”, or “you should have”, or “he/she should have”. Or I “shouldn’t have”. The fact is I, you, he/she “didn’t” or “did” so MOVE ON! 🙂 No use looking to the past on what we should or shouldn’t have done. Look forward, try to improve, try to be better.

  12. Agreed…when I don’t get the response I was hoping for on something I’ve shared I have to remind myself that I’m doing whatever it is for myself, not for outside approval. Social media has conditioned me to crave that outside approval and I have to fight it!

  13. I have noticed that using the word always or never is rarely true… I always to this to myself, I never finish what I start, you always make me feel this way, you are never understanding of my feelings, she is always late, he never follows through… most likely it is not as dramatic as ‘always’ and ‘never’, although sometimes it may feel that way! Great post!

  14. I saw this when you put it on FB and thought it was so true! I don’t use it to compare to others usually, but more myself. I also clearly don’t care about my blog and don’t care when I get 2 or 20 visitors (which is good, cause my stats are usually around 4 readers a day, haha). And I never care who comments on anything I do on Facebook or on my blog. It’s not for that for me. I blog totally for myself. I see people say they are struggling with where they want their blog to go or feel like they need to “step away.” I don’t get it. I blog when I WANT to blog! I feel no pressure on a busy day to come write anything and my blogs are clearly all about nothing even when I do write. However, I think saying, “I only skipped the gym for 7 days this week!!!!” sounds better than “I didn’t make it to the gym this week.” Haha 🙂

    1. I 100% agree. I think when I first started blogging I felt the need to blog to what others liked. Now I really just blog for myself and to share my story.

      1. I was going to post on that today actually, but have too much I want to talk about with my birthday, haha. Maybe tomorrow? And I love your blog and I really like that it’s not set up the same every single day and is clearly not just for other people to like and comment on. You seem to stay pretty true to yourself, which is refreshing for a blog that I’m sure has quite a few readers!

  15. It is demeaning to others when we say “only”. As you say, our “only” may be the PR for the person standing next to you. I’ve said those things before.
    I think part of it is humilty. I do not seek the spot light and feel a twinge of embaressment when someone says “good job” or they anounce my PR at our club meeting. I like doing well, I like people knowing I do well, I just don’t want it broadcasted I guess.
    Sometimes it seems my greatest accomplishments go un-noticed while my un-deserved victories get the most attention. I got a 5K PR on a short course recently. ;(

  16. I definitely need to work on not saying “only”…I’ve been trying to use terms like “fast for me”, “long run for me” or “easy for me” so that I keep these things personal and don’t offend anyone. With so much exposure through blogs and social media, you really need to be careful about what you say.

  17. This is something I’ve been thinking about since I started blogging, and an area where I could stand to do better. The very last thing I would ever want is for someone to feel that their own accomplishments were belittled bc of my use of the word “only.” We’re all at different places, with different histories and different goals and different challenges. I tend to compare myself to my pre-injury self, or my pre-whatever self, but it’s not terribly useful.

  18. I think we compare ourselves to others too much, and I’m guilty. But you are absolutely right; sometimes when people use the “only” word, they unintentionally demean other’s progress. I’m slow and I know it. When people say they “only” ran 8:30 miles, I turn green with envy. Only in my wildest dreams could I run that! I agree with funfitgirl who says “fast for me” or “easy for me” because it places relativity in there. It is people with that attitude that help break the cycle of comparison. Great post and great reminder.

  19. I’m trying to remove the word “can’t” from my vocabulary. It’s tough but I know I can do it.
    I often compare myself to others and this is something I have been working on. I’m envious of those who are able to run all the time, whereas I am trying to fit my runs in around my already hectic schedule.

  20. The words I look to removed from my vocabulary is “didn’t” and “can’t” for example on days when not fully completing a workout I did six intervals but I “didn’t” do eight. And l don’t do to much comparing myself to others but when I do I usually fall victim to such on race days instead of running my own race. It’s a constant work in progress to tell myself run MY own race. Excellent post Hollie!!! Loved every word!!!

  21. I’m very guilty of this, although I try to be conscious of it. I find that I’m very self-conscious of my running and I don’t want people to every feel like I am bragging about it. Being constantly surrounded by people who are much faster than me and run a lot more races that I do, I guess I always want people to know that I know I’m not that great. I don’t know why I would want that, I just do. You’re right, though – I hate the idea that I could unintentionally be demeaning someone else’s accomplishments by doing so!

  22. I’m very guilty of this too, and even just reading your post I feel bad saying that because compared to you my “only” is a HUGE “ONLY” haha. Sometimes it feels like I trap myself because I say I’m “only” this or that, so instead of trying to push past that I stay in my comfort zone. It’s like you took the words right out of my mouth. I’m glad you shared your thoughts on this subject because I feel like it’s something bloggers, well, people in general, feel a lot. Very relateable!

  23. Great read Hollie! Very very true, and I try to do the same thing. It is almost impossible not to compare. I find myself looking at the women I compete against, particularly at cherry blossom when I was surrounded by these women I have seen in the Olympics, but you are right, we need to cut it out. I try not to say only very much, especially online, but like yesterdays workout not going very well for me, it is hard not to compare against past Tina’s.

    Thanks for the insight, you have opened my eyes to something important. You are awesome!

  24. Cue the twilight zone music… I just did a post on my blog earlier this week about referring to “only” in reference to a long run. if you haven’t seen it, give it a read….
    And I agree that there are plenty of people out there using social media for constant self-validation (as well as the inevitable comparisons). And marathon race running is a good analogy to all of that. Some people are faster and some are slower, but we’re all running our own race… and that’s what matters. Besides if I compared myself as a runner based on someone like Meb, I’d never put on a pair of shoes again. Oh, and FYI, I’m a lousy cook too… but working on it.

  25. I remember an article stating how getting more “likes” on facebook can actually make you feel better about youself, while getting no “likes” can actually make you go into a depressive state.

    I definitely compare myself, but recently I have been trying to just look to the future. Sometimes I will even compare myself in the past, Oh I used to weigh this much then, I looked so much better then, etc etc. It gets exhausting! and it just isnt worth it

  26. Hollie, this is such a great post! I’ve been there with running. I “just” ran a 10k, or I “only” ran a 5k.

    Even in the blog world my blog is teeny tiny. A few weeks ago I didn’t get an opportunity I’d applied for and I felt bummed, like my blog wasn’t cool enough. Then I punched myself in the face because I was being annoying and tried to remember why I blog. It’s 100% not for free shit, it’s because I enjoy writing and the community.

    Comparison is the thief of joy is so true.

  27. Kind of off topic but as a mom of identical twin girls, I can definitely imagine one of my girls being faster than they other. Mainly because she is more competitive and the other would have stopped to pet a dog. Anyhow, great post. This is such a great topic and a great reminder!

  28. Love this post tonnes. I used to suffer from the comparison trap BIG TIME when I was younger, but I think it’s just something I naturally grew out of since I’ve found it becoming less of an issue over the years. I still catch it sometimes, though, and I especially notice when people say things like “Oh, I only ran 10 miles today” or “I ran a slow 8 minute mile”. Like… what? 😯 You freaking ran 10 miles today! I’m lucky if I can manage 3! 😆

  29. The comparison trap is something which I grew up on- as bad as that sounds. I know my mum never meant it but she’d always compare me to my friends ‘why didn’t you get X amount of awards’ ‘X person did this, you didn’t’ – and to be honest it really stuck with me and it’s hard to shake off. We really do need to appreciate our achievements and be grateful for it! Removing ‘Only’ is something I need to do.

  30. Yep, I say “only” way too much. In these environments–the running community, social media, etc.–it’s easy to downplay what you do because others do more … or other things entirely.

  31. I love this, Hollie! I am working really hard to stop comparing myself to others. It is just SO hard! I know that social media is a huge cause of this- I’ve been slowly unfollowing people on facebook because their updates are always too perfect and it made me feel like a failure! I like the idea of removing “only” from your vocabulary. No matter what we do- in fitness or life- we should be proud of ourselves! Awesome post- thanks for making me think 🙂

  32. I really think this is great advice. And 8:30 would totally be my best pace, so you’re right!

  33. This is fantastic, I’m extremely guilty of using the word “only” even when it comes to my own best efforts. (Which is ridiculous!) It’s funny that I just read this, on my run today I was scolding myself for my tendency to say “I only ran x pace” “it was only x miles” blah blah blah. I’m really glad to hear that I’m not the only one with only-itis….. 🙂

  34. You have a great blog – you talk about topics that a lot of people never talk about. The word “only” is indeed not a good word to use, I try to never use it. Because just for the reasons that you say – that your easy pace might be someone’s best pace ever. And comparison to others is one reason why I’ve started to look at less running blogs, because comparison is hard to avoid.

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