Thursday, September 2, 2010

Defined by Labels

The definition of a label is 'a descriptive phrase or word that is used to classify people, things and even experiences'. There are times when I suppose labels are useful, like for instance the label that tells me that bleach is a poison. Thank goodness for that label because otherwise I might have tried to concoct a new fangled cocktail using bleach as the main ingredient. Other times, labels just seem to place judgement. Even the labels we put on ourselves can limit us to what we think we can and cannot do. I have never been a fan of labelling, it makes me feel too one dimensional.

As people we are labelled according to our occupation, marital status, place in family, hobby or even physical characteristics. With these labels comes preconceived notions. I remember one time I took a large amount of holiday baking in to work. One of my coworkers couldn't believe I had actually baked and when she explained why she was surprised, she exclaimed 'you're an athlete'. Luckily, for her I am also a baker! I would hate to be pigeon holed into being just one thing. Like Meredith Brooks sings 'I'm a bitch, I'm a lover, I'm a child, I'm a mother, I'm a sinner, I'm a saint, I do not feel ashamed, I'm your hell, I'm your dream, I'm nothing in between'.

When I was in Leadville I met a fella who would be labelled geriatric and octogenarian. If he listened to those labels and did what was expected of him he wouldn't be doing what he is. Keith was in Colorado doing high altitude training for the summer in preparation for his assault on the Pikes Peak Marathon. The summit of this marathon is over 14,000 feet and you run there from 6,000 feet. That is a heck of an elevation gain for 13.1 miles, not to mention that you have to come back down that same amount. I don't know very many 'young' people who would take that challenge on and Keith would not be labelled young. Not only did he take it on, he crushed it and set a course record on the ascent of 4hrs and 44 minutes. To me, Keith has now redefined that octogenarian label and I am grateful that he is NOT letting labels define him.

Me and Keith before he ran the Leadville 10km

As a woman I am all too aware that labels can rule our world. The labels on the inside of our clothing mean so much more to us than they should. The last pair of cycling shorts that I bought were XS. I am not an XS but have always been a M or S in this particular brand. Logically, I know that I haven't miraculously become an XS, I know that the the sizing has changed, or rather the labelling has. Still, I cannot deny that I felt a little bit of a boost from that. Sadly, it seems that all clothing manufacturers are trying to make us women think we have suddenly become that magical size below what we are. Makes me wonder if the latex companies are going to jump on this label bandwagon and start labelling their products larger. Pretty sure that no guy would want to be buying XS.

I always hear athletes that race talking about their races in terms of whether it is an A, B or C race. I guess that they have races that are more important than others. For me this system is flawed. What if it is my C race and I have an excellent race, I am then able to change it to an A race after the fact? Really, any race or workout that I get to do is a good one, I mean I got to do it right? Not only that but if I did it I learned something that can be applied in the future. Therefore, how can it be a bad experience? I am not saying that I have this method perfected so if I say I had a bad race or workout please remind me that I had a race or workout so it had to be good!

Recently, at a cycling event I was called a 'mountain biker'. Who knew that being labelled could be so exciting! Me a mountain biker, that is one label I am proud to be defined by!

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