You Belong

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This morning, I went to the pool to swim a few laps.


All of the lanes were full so I jumped in a lane that wasn’t doubly occupied, next to this guy in his 40s who was wearing swim trunks, no cap, and goggles.  I nodded at him and began to swim.  During my second lap,  I noticed that he was struggling up and down the lane, so when we met at the end of the lane, I smiled and said, “Hey, thanks for letting me share the lane.”


He smiled back and then said, “Thanks.  I’m so sorry.  I really don’t belong here.”


I knew immediately what he meant – I’ve felt like I didn’t ‘belong’ before, too.  I felt like I didn’t belong at the starting line of my first 10K, the weight room at the gym, the yoga studio, the pool.   I know what it’s like to struggle up and down the lanes, feeling like all the other people in their professional-looking swimsuits and fancy goggles are staring at me, wondering why the heck I’m taking up valuable lane space.  In fact, every time I try a new physical activity, I kind of feel like an imposter!


So I said back to the guy what I always tell myself, “You belong here!  Just because you haven’t figured out your stroke yet doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be in the pool.  It took me ages to figure out swimming, and I’m still learning!”  We talked a little bit about swim classes and YouTube videos, as well as how to breathe through the stroke, and then we both got back to our workouts.  He kept at it for at least another 20 minutes; I don’t even know the guy and I was SO proud of him. 


In honor of the newbie in swim trunks and no goggles, next time I’m at the pool, I’m going to try to tackle one of the pool’s Swim Workouts.    I always look at the board and think, “This board doesn’t apply to me. I could never swim those distances.”  But now I realize that I’m doing what I always did before – selling myself and my abilities short just because I’m scared.  Next time – I’ll attempt one of the workouts! Hold me to it, okay?  

IMG_1643 IMG_1644

For lunch:


This sandwich was AMAZING – I know it looks disgusting but it was so tasty!  All mashed together:



Mmmm Sauce

Goat cheese


And post-workout:


Time for Girls on the Run!



  • Sara @ OurDogBuffy September 27, 2011, 2:13 pm

    Love this post. I feel that way with most exercises. I’ll keep this story in my head!

  • Casey @ Pocket Full of Sunshine September 27, 2011, 2:25 pm

    What a nice, uplifting post Caitlin. 🙂 That was a nice thing to do. I feel that way ALL the time! I still don’t feel like I belong in the blogging world, haha!

    • briana September 27, 2011, 2:33 pm

      yes, i was just going to comment that i think this mantra applies to so much more than just fitness!

    • Julie (A Case of the Runs) September 27, 2011, 4:25 pm

      Yes, very nice post! I think belogingness is one of the needs that we find most important, in any situation.

    • CaitlinHTP September 27, 2011, 8:17 pm

      You belong, Casey 🙂

  • jamie @ cueyourlife September 27, 2011, 2:31 pm

    Great post! Even when you’ve been doing something for awhile…aren’t there STILL times you feel TOTALLY out of place? That’s how yoga yesterday was for me. I was too hot, dehydrated, and WEAK! My instructor actually had to hold me up in a pose that I would normally have no trouble with. Those bad days make you even more thankful for the good days though! : )

  • Emily September 27, 2011, 2:32 pm

    You are totally awesome for telling that man he belongs!! 🙂 I feel out of place too when I try new things and I would love it if someone would come up to me and tell me I belong. You rock! You probably made his day.

  • Ciera @ Rose and Thistle September 27, 2011, 2:34 pm

    Good for him and good for you for giving him some encouragement! I’m also pretty chicken about swimming as exercise, I feel like I should use this as inspiration to get my butt down to the pool! 🙂

  • Paige @ Running Around Normal September 27, 2011, 2:38 pm

    Caitlin that was SO nice of you. I bet you really affected his morning in a positive way.

    I always feel like I “don’t belong” when I try a new-to-me group fitness class. This stuff can be intimidating!

  • Amanda September 27, 2011, 2:39 pm

    I love this post. You probably made his day. I know that feeling too, but you are right. The best thing is to power through! I’m so glad you were in his lane!

    • CaitlinHTP September 27, 2011, 8:17 pm

      Me too 🙂 He helped me too!

    • JenATX September 27, 2011, 10:43 pm

      yeah i immediately felt for that guy when he said he didn’t belong! hey, its not like people walk out of the womb as marathon runners, swimmers, bloggers, or whatever right?

  • Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat September 27, 2011, 2:41 pm

    Aww Caitlin, I’m sure you totally made this guy’s day! Thanks for the reminder – it’s little things like encouraging people who share the same struggles as us that make the difference, and I bet you felt great for it after too. 🙂

  • Laura September 27, 2011, 2:43 pm

    Love this!

  • Mary September 27, 2011, 2:44 pm

    I feel like an imposter all of the time! Especially when I walk into a running store. I see everyone else with their fancy running clothes and I think to myself “oh my god, I don’t know a dern thing!” and it’s funny… even though I’ve run a marathon and several halves. I STILL don’t consider myself a “runner” even though I’ve been running for 3 years or more.

    • CaitlinHTP September 27, 2011, 8:18 pm

      You’re a runner 🙂

  • Khushboo September 27, 2011, 2:53 pm

    For you m, those 20 mins must not have felt like much but I bet you made his day. The power of words can have such a remarkable influence on a person’s motivation levels!

  • Gina @ Running to the Kitchen September 27, 2011, 2:53 pm

    That guy said exactly what I would be thinking in my mind if I ever got into a pool at a gym. I already think it and I haven’t even gotten to the pool yet! I really would love to do a tri in the future but it’s that exact thought that keeps me from making it a reality (that and joining a gym ;))
    That’s awesome that you encouraged him like that. Good deed for the day = done 🙂

  • Marla @ Your Full Plate September 27, 2011, 2:56 pm

    Thank you for the reminder to extend this kind of gentle kindness to people around me! And myself, too. I don’t know where we all got this idea that there is shame to being a newbie at something. It takes cajones to try something new, we should all celebrate each other for it like you did today.

  • Kerry September 27, 2011, 2:56 pm

    Aww what a nice thing to do! You’re so sweet

  • Judy September 27, 2011, 2:57 pm

    Thanks Caitlin again for another great post. I’m not a runner, not a swimmer, not a serious walker either, unless getting from one place to the other counts; but I often take something away from here to boost me in everyday life. Love ya!

    • CaitlinHTP September 27, 2011, 8:18 pm

      Thanks Judy 🙂 miss you!

  • Suzanne September 27, 2011, 2:58 pm

    I feel that way at the pool all the time! I actually time my swim workouts for when I don’t think the pool will be as crowded. It’s not so much that I don’t think I deserve space in the pool, but I feel like I slow other people down. When other people ask if we can circle swim I always tell them they may want to ask someone else since I’m slow and have to take breaks semi-often.

  • Cheryl September 27, 2011, 3:02 pm

    Caitlin, you are probably the sweetest person I ‘know’. Sometimes it’s the littlest things that make such an impact in a person’s life! I bet that guy will continue swimming now 🙂

  • Darcy @ She Sings at the Table September 27, 2011, 3:09 pm

    This was pretty much exactly what I needed to hear today! I’m training for my second half marathon, and on my sloooow run this morning I felt… kind of a poser. But I’m proud of my friends who are training with me, so why not be proud of myself? Thanks for yet another great post 🙂

    • CaitlinHTP September 27, 2011, 8:19 pm

      Slow is awesome. Don’t ever feel like you’re not a real half marathoner just because you’re slow!!! No matter how slow or how fast, crossing that finish line changes you forever.

  • kathleen @ the daily crumb September 27, 2011, 3:10 pm

    i love this story caitlin! i have felt like i don’t belong SO many times… the first day of a new job, the first practice with a new team, the new girl in book club, etc. etc. We all do belong and it’s important to remember that.

  • Annette @ EnjoyYourHealthyLife September 27, 2011, 3:13 pm

    NICE. I love your lunch<—so simple yet filling and delicious!

  • Kath September 27, 2011, 3:14 pm

    I very much needed to hear this today as well! 🙂 I have not been running or exercising in over a year and have wanted to get back into it very badly, but have felt bad about going back to the gym alone, especially since I’ve gained so much weight and have to start from scratch. It really helps w/self motivation when others are encouraging!

    • CaitlinHTP September 27, 2011, 8:19 pm

      Where do you live? 🙂 I can try to find you a buddy!

      • Kath September 29, 2011, 9:59 pm

        Ooh, really? Awesome! 🙂 I live in Northern Virginia, actually – Arlington/Alexandria area. Any takers? I’m slow, but eager! 🙂

      • Kath September 30, 2011, 11:27 pm

        Thanks, so much Caitlin and to everyone who responded to Caitlin! I’m in grad school classes this weekend (weekend program) but will get back to many of you next week. I can’t wait to connect with many of you – I am very grateful and humbled by the response. 🙂

  • Rachel @ No Need For Speed September 27, 2011, 3:19 pm

    Wow – that post brought tears to my eyes! No doubt that that man truly appreciated your kindness. Awesome!

    • Becky September 27, 2011, 5:47 pm

      This post brought tears to my eyes, too! Caitlin – you are awesome and such a positive influence on more people than you can even imagine! Thank you.

  • Jodi September 27, 2011, 3:21 pm

    Gosh, this made me all teary eyed Caitlin! I’m a 43 yo mother of teenagers and I really want to train for a 5K that’s 8 weeks away. I tell myself all the time, that I “don’t belong” in a race. I’m a wannabe runner!!

    • CaitlinHTP September 27, 2011, 8:20 pm

      Do it!!! You can do it. Will one of your kids train with you?

  • Mallory September 27, 2011, 3:29 pm

    It’s awesome that you encouraged him like that! I think swimming laps is TERRIFYING because I feel that people are judging me for not knowing what’s going on or what the proper etiquette is.

  • Deva @ Deva by Definition September 27, 2011, 3:30 pm

    You are EPIC for talking with that man. There have been many times when I’ve had that thought “I don’t belong here” and just that one person saying to me “hey, you belong” was so helpful and ENCOURAGING!

  • Ashley @ Freckles & Spice September 27, 2011, 3:31 pm

    So glad you posted this! I am trying to teach myself how to swim. I’ve gone twice. I get in the “recreational lane” and still feel ridiculous but I struggle along. This reminds I need to get back to the pool. I will only get better if I keep trying.
    I wish someone like you was there to help me out!

  • Jennifer September 27, 2011, 3:46 pm

    That’s really sweet of you! I need to remember to be encouraging–it is not my way at all. I am not a praise giver, but it makes people good so it’s on my list of things to improve.

    Also–so neat that your pool has suggested workouts!

    • CaitlinHTP September 27, 2011, 8:23 pm

      I know! they also have sample swim/run workouts with little laminated maps you can take and run around the uptown area.

  • Clare - Never Niche September 27, 2011, 3:50 pm

    I’m so glad there’s people in the world like you and that you have a big blog following of young women who can learn from your example. Cheers.

  • CJ @ September 27, 2011, 3:54 pm

    How do you stay so positive and inspirational? Is it a tough job? Can you please come stay with me for a week so it will rub off?!
    PS I think im addicted to white chocolate macadamia nut clif bars…i can literally eat at least one a day.

    • CaitlinHTP September 27, 2011, 8:23 pm

      Being negative requires the same energy and it makes life suck!

  • Jen September 27, 2011, 3:55 pm

    How could chickpeas, Mmmm Sauce, and goat cheese possibly sound disgusting?! You’re cray cray. That sounds amazing.

    I think it’s really great that you encouraged the newbie. I walk into the weight room of my gym like I own the place, but I know there are a lot of girls out there who are too intimidated to even set foot in it. It’s unfortunate that so many people miss out on things because they’re afraid of looking foolish. Good for him for being there anyway! I’m sure you made his day. I always love meeting really nice strangers.

  • Cait @ Beyond Bananas September 27, 2011, 3:58 pm

    Sucha great story. You are one of the few people who i feel would really open up and support a beginner swimmer.. most people would get frustrated to have them in the lane they were trying tos wim in!

    Also awesome that your pool posts those work outs.. I know you can get them done!

  • Chelsea September 27, 2011, 3:59 pm

    That’s something I would do with a complete stranger 🙂 Every time I’m at a race and notice that someone is struggling I’ll typically cheer them. Typically I notice those people get their second wind and a little pep in their step. It makes me so happy and proud not only for helping but for knowing they pushed past their boundaries.

    • CaitlinHTP September 27, 2011, 8:24 pm

      Aw you are so sweet!

  • Devonshire September 27, 2011, 4:07 pm

    I’m glad you shared this story. There have been so many times in the past and still now that i feel like i don’t belong at the gym or even on the side of the road running (or trying to run)! It was very nice of you to talk to the guy, i bet he appreciated the encouragement.

  • Ashley @ My Food 'N' FitnessDiaries September 27, 2011, 4:12 pm

    Oh yeah, I’ve totally been there too feeling like I don’t belong. I used to especially feel like that with running as all of the other “true runners” were passing me by on the jogging trails. Now I’ve worked up to a point where I feel more like a “true runner”, but looking back, I belonged on the jogging trails just as much as anyone else! You gotta start somewhere!

  • Kendall (On An Inhale) September 27, 2011, 4:14 pm

    ahh i feel that way too! im so glad you said something to him! a lot of people feel that way with yoga and i have to remind them what yoga is and what it is about. thanks for sharing 🙂

  • lauren September 27, 2011, 4:34 pm

    It’s human nature to want to belong, but our first instinct is to feel like an outsider! I think this is something we [collectively] need to work on.
    I agree with another commenter, I’m not a praise giver, yet posts like this remind me why it is important. We have the abilities to make someone feel so much better with our words.
    I never feel like I’m a real x, y, or z – especially at first. I try and remind myself I can be whatever I want. I decide, not someone else.

  • Allison @ HappyTales September 27, 2011, 4:48 pm

    aw, this post made me smile!!

  • Kim September 27, 2011, 4:58 pm

    I love your encouragement of the swimmer and it almost made me teary! I teach middle school band and I love it when my kids encourage each other. A total tangent… can Maggie hop up on the couch and the bed with those short little legs?

    • CaitlinHTP September 27, 2011, 8:24 pm

      Nope. Well, sometimes, if she gets a running start. That’s why we bought a really low bed, though!

  • Lisa September 27, 2011, 5:16 pm

    What a lovely post!!

  • Carissa September 27, 2011, 5:21 pm

    Oh my gosh! You probably made that guy’s day. That is so awesome, and yes, you undoubtedly sell yourself short. Get in those workouts! 🙂

  • Jill September 27, 2011, 5:34 pm

    You are awesome! I need to step out of my comfort zone more often and just thinking that maybe there are more people like you out there- I will be able to do it.

  • Kim September 27, 2011, 5:38 pm

    This post gave me goosebumps, and the motivation I need to not be scared to go in the “men’s weight room” I always feel like I don’t belong there and just gaze at the machines as I go by! lol you’re awesome 🙂

    • CaitlinHTP September 27, 2011, 8:24 pm

      so are you 🙂

  • Hillary September 27, 2011, 5:42 pm

    It’s really funny that you posted this when you did, Caitlin. I’ve recently been thinking about trying something new, exercise-wise (yoga, swimming, biking, etc), but I keep holding back because I’m afraid of looking stupid. Thanks for reminding me that we all have to start somewhere!

  • Sarah September 27, 2011, 5:50 pm

    I love this so much. You must have made him feel not only welcome, but positive about his future progress.

    As somebody who exercises and is also fat, I have felt like I don’t belong in gyms, pools or even just out exercising on the road before. Now I know I am there for me and my love of moving my body, not somebody else’s idea of what I should be doing.

  • Molly @ RDexposed September 27, 2011, 6:09 pm

    Would you say the same thing if Maggie were to have snuck into your gym bag and some how squeezed herself into a bikini in hopes of going for a doggie paddle? I would just like to have that imagine in my head for a laugh.

    • CaitlinHTP September 27, 2011, 8:27 pm

      Maggie would look dead sexy in a doggie bikini, James wouldn’t be able to keep his paws off her.

      • Molly @ RDexposed September 27, 2011, 11:25 pm

        Perfect photo opp for a Hallmark “puppy love” Valentine’s Day card. I’d like some monetary kickback for the original idea.

  • Michelle September 27, 2011, 6:17 pm

    And I think you have just hit the nail on the head as to why so many people’s attempts to get in shape, or do something new end up failing.

    btw – no avoiding the pool to avoid the new workout challenge!!! 🙂

  • Paige September 27, 2011, 6:40 pm

    Hahahahahhaa the afternoon delight swim workout?! I love whoever posted that one.

  • SaraRM September 27, 2011, 6:54 pm

    Standing Ovation for swimmer guy!!! I wish he could see this to know he definitely BELONGS!

  • Mary @ Bites and Bliss September 27, 2011, 6:55 pm

    That’s so sweet! Sometimes people need a little more reassurance from other people rather than just from themselves. You’re incredible for being that person for him. 🙂

  • Corrie Anne September 27, 2011, 7:01 pm

    Ahh! That’s so awesome and inspiring. Love it. Good luck with the swim workout. I am totally going to try swimming and look foolish as soon as I can join a gym! 🙂

  • Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin September 27, 2011, 7:03 pm

    Great topic Caitlin! I can definitely relate to that man. I did my first swim workout last week and I felt so out of place swimming next to all these people who looked like they knew what they were doing. And I didn’t have goggles either, so my eyes were killing me! But I pushed through 1100 m and I felt awesome afterwards! 😀

    • CaitlinHTP September 27, 2011, 8:28 pm

      Get some goggles from Target – only $10!

  • Amanda @ AmandaRunsNY September 27, 2011, 7:06 pm

    Every time, I try something new – sports or life related – I feel like a fish out of water. But then I realize that a lot of great things in my life have come out of trying something that felt foreign and intimidating. Thanks for reminding me that everyone feels like this when they try something new, and that its perfectly normal to feel that way.

  • Tracy @ Tracy's Treats September 27, 2011, 7:38 pm

    It’s really touching that you encouraged him the way you did. We all know what it’s like to feel like we “don’t belong” when we first pick up a sport, and I’m so glad you made him feel more comfortable.

  • Kyla September 27, 2011, 7:54 pm

    What a sweet story, it made me smile from ear to ear. Everyone needs to a hear a pick me up, especially in times of struggle.

  • katie @ KatieDid September 27, 2011, 9:07 pm

    I loved reading that, I’m sure that’s one of those comments he will always always remember. It’s the little comments from strangers sometimes that leave a lasting imprints.

  • Kelly Adams September 27, 2011, 9:17 pm

    You really expressed what so many of us feel so well being an “impostor”

    totally random side note, what brand of bread is that? the slices look like the perfect size, and i love plain toasted bread.

    • CaitlinHTP September 28, 2011, 7:01 am

      Udi’s! So delicious.

  • Katie @ Peace Love and Oats September 27, 2011, 9:23 pm

    I know exactly how he feels, I’m too scared to try out the pool at my gym!

  • Lauren @ LaDolcePita September 27, 2011, 9:27 pm

    How do you make scrambled eggs? Yours aren’t completely yellow – do you not whip them together, or do you just use a higher amount of whites to yolks? Either way – they look yum.

  • Jen September 27, 2011, 9:37 pm

    Awww, this post warms my heart! That was so nice of you to stop and give that guy props…I bet he really appreciated your stopping to chat with him!

  • Joey September 27, 2011, 9:46 pm

    I LOVE THIS POST! I appreciate it so, so much when someone I pass on a run offers me any bit of encouragement. Sometimes it makes all the difference!

  • Mel @ Mel a la Via Paradiso September 27, 2011, 9:50 pm

    I am proud to be a reader of yours, which is a lot like saying I am proud to be your friend! I think we never fully know the impact that our words can have on others, and I like to think of that as reason enough to treat other’s with respect and lift them up if necessary. Good for you! 🙂

  • Lindsay J September 27, 2011, 9:57 pm

    Good work Caitlin! Positive Karma on you for reaching out to a fellow human being and offering some encouragement and compassion (some things that are scarce sometimes in this world). I experienced an amazing thing this weekend that arose from a bad situation. My husband and I were signed up to do the Pacific Coast Trail Run 21k in the Santa Cruz mountains…alas, the event organizers no showed and left all us trailrunners high and dry. Instead just walking away we all banded together to run the race on our own, with no marked trail nor any aid stations. People were so positive and encouraging. People shared food, iPhones, trailmaps and pulled through (some even completing the 50k distance). If that’s not the power of positivity, team work and a sense of community I don’t know what is. It was awesome!

    • CaitlinHTP September 28, 2011, 7:02 am

      Awww that is awesome!

  • Erin September 27, 2011, 10:25 pm

    Wow Caitlin, I love this post. I used to think I was the only one that felt like they didn’t belong all the time and after reading blogs like yours I feel less alone, more empowered and even more courageous. I love that you took time to encourage him. 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Mariel @ Mariel Moves September 27, 2011, 11:12 pm

    oh my goodness! That run in you had with the man at the pool just totally got to me! Funny how that happens huh? I could just imagine this middle aged man feeling that way and my heart totally goes out to him! Good for you for encouraging him. I think you said it right, we’ve all been there and it’s totally okay to be new at something! at least he is out there trying! 🙂

  • Claire September 27, 2011, 11:39 pm

    This is such a sweet story 🙂 I remember when I first started running how ridiculously slow I was and how out of place I felt with people on my team who had been running for years (and were much better than I was)…it’s hard to overstate how far a little bit of encouragement like you gave the guy today can go.

    I think no matter what level you are on you always feel like you “don’t belong” sometimes – even some elite athletes admit to feeling that way on some days. You just have to realize that your attitude is what makes you belong. When you’re in the pool you’re there to swim, and you belong there just as much as anyone else who’s there to swim. Thanks for posting!!

  • Laura September 28, 2011, 1:39 am

    How effective is swimming for toning up? I’m struggling with fairly serious illness at the moment, so haven’t really been able to exercise for over a year now because of pain issues. I’ve gained a bit of weight, but I don’t mind that so much. I *would*, however, like to tone up my arms and legs so that I feel comfortable wearing shorts with summer coming. I’ve never really been much of a swimmer, but I wondered if it might be a gentle but effective form of exercise that I could manage. Do you find that it keeps you fit? (I realise that you’re a distance runner as well, which would probably skew results a bit, heh).

    • CaitlinHTP September 28, 2011, 8:02 am

      There are many interesting studies on this ( Basically swimming is great for toning because it is a resistance-based cardio exercise, but you don’t want to overeat following swimming, which people are prone to do.

      I do think swimming keeps me very fit. It is a lot harder than running (seriously!) because it requires more muscles. I really love swimming.

  • Rachel September 28, 2011, 2:58 am

    What a great message!

  • Karen September 28, 2011, 8:20 am

    I am lost looking at that work out. “Pull”, “kick”, “swim hard”… What exactly do they mean by all that?

    I would really like to get more into swimming for exercise, as I have a completely torn ACL and a bad tear in the meniscus on the same knee. I need surgery, but I’m still trying to figure out a good time for me and my family to deal with it all. In the meantime, I’m having a hard time figuring out what cardio I can do because everything hurts my knee! Boo hoo.

    I’m tring to be tough and just deal with it, but it’s getting harder as time goes on and I gain weight.

  • Amber K September 28, 2011, 1:05 pm

    Wow, I bet you really made that guy’s day. I am actually amazed that so many of us share that feeling of not belonging. I feel it quite often, in some places more than others. And while I can’t belong everywhere, I also shouldn’t try to! We’re not all made for every single thing. But we all have a right to try.

    And thank you, yet again Caitlin. I don’t think I have ever left your blog not feeling good about myself and inspired.

  • Lesley September 28, 2011, 6:46 pm

    I just went swimming this weekend after a long hiatus. It was great even though I struggled. I got a huge muscle spasm in my calf during my 3rd lap! I had to get out of the pool and ask the attendant about stretches, so I could keep going without hurting. I ended up there for an hour. There was a time in my life I would have gone home after that 3rd lap, but I’m not embarrassed anymore by not being the best. You can’t get great at anything without being willing to risk being bad! And that’s my advice for “swim newbie”. I hope you see him again and let him know we all say great job!! 🙂

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