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I'm a Compulsive Fitstagrammer, So What?


I didn’t realize I had become one of those people.

Then a friend called me out on it: “You only post pictures of yourself working out,” she said with a certain tone. I was immediately offended—I used to roll my eyes at the people who filled their feeds with race bling, #sneakerporn, and artfully posed pictures of their bikes. And yet…my social feeds look a lot like that right now.

It all started a few months ago when I decided to sign up for a Half Ironman in Austin, TX. As someone who runs only to catch the subway, who hasn’t been on a bike outside of a spin studio since high school, and who refuses to go in any large body of water unless it’s above 70 degrees, I knew it was going to be…an adventure. So of course I decided to document it all on social media. (Can #Fitspiration Actually Become Unhealthy?)

I like to think I have an eye for good photos, and I’ve always loved roaming through New York City with my camera. And exploring new parts of the city on my long runs and bike rides opened my eyes to sites I’d never noticed on subway or bus rides to studio classes. So, slowly, my feed changed from one full of travel ‘grams, shots with my friends, and more than a few pictures of my cat to one full-out fitstagram feed.

A crow in nature. #bethedifference @adidaswomen #yoga #yogalove #yogaeverydamnday #travel #vancouver #canada

A photo posted by ashleymateo (@ashleymateo) on

By including increasing mileage and speed below photos—and by sharing stats from MapMyRun/Ride—I wasn’t trying to brag. I was proud! I’d never run further than three miles before I started all of this, so when I finished my first eight-mile loop through Central Park and back to my apartment, you bet I posted a celebratory snap. When I logged 35 miles on my bike, riding all the way into New Jersey? That felt worthy of commemoration.

Sure, some of my friends and followers were confused (and to some extent, impressed!): “Um, I’m watching you become Superwoman via Instagram!” said one college friend when we were catching up. The thing is, I wasn’t posting for them. I wasn’t posting for anyone, really. I was posting for myself—so that I could scroll back and look at how far I’d come over my Ironman journey.

As I posted more and more pictures, I noticed that I wasn’t losing followers who couldn’t understand why I was flooding their feeds with #fitspiration, but I was gaining a new kind of following: runners, bikers, swimmers, trainers, and other fitness addicts. They weren’t just quietly following either; they were leaving encouraging comments—virtual pats on the backs for each new milestone I passed. Suddenly, I had a digital pack of cheerleaders that made posting even more gratifying—and it provided that extra dose of motivation needed when your training plan calls for a 7 a.m. wakeup or a 43-mile bike ride. (Speaking of, Is It Better to Sleep In or Work Out?)

So it turns out I am one of those people. But it also turns out that I'm not ashamed of it. Because those are the people who’ve kept me powering through this journey toward completing 70.3 miles—and I owe them a pic from the finish line.


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