Running Transformed My Life.
It started right around the time I got my first corporate job in 2014. I’d look around at all the men and I was alarmed. It wasn’t that they were obese – unfortunately Wall Street is notorious for their unspoken laws regarding body image – but rather that you could just tell they were all significantly slimmer in their heyday. I just never wanted to be that dude that fell off. I know it sounds shallow, but my introduction to running was really nothing more and nothing less.
The irony of it is I had already fallen off, years ago, and I hadn’t the slightest clue. To me, I was always just a solid guy -- not skinny, not fat. I went through life with no body image issues, and just viewed running as a preventative measure more than anything. Running was free, able to be done anywhere, and got me sweating – a lot. It checked all the boxes. But if you told me I’d go from that to someone who ran 3 half marathons in 2016 and perhaps a full one day, I would have laughed in your face.
It was gradual at first, maybe a few pounds, if that. I’d run 1-2 miles as hard as I could, never more than that, feel accomplished, and call it a day. But those few miles in the first few months weren’t really what transformed me. When I look back, I can point to four main contributors:
A Fitbit, A Foreign Treadmill, Harlem Run, and Positive Feedback.
Towards the beginning of my “running journey”, wearable technology was taking off and I loved it. The 10,000 step goal helped me, not only because it compelled me to get active, but also because of the competition with friends (and myself!), and finally being able to numerically assess my activity. I got addicted to the hitting my goal, and for three years, I didn’t miss my goal even ONCE. A major key to transformation is discipline, and also being able to hold yourself accountable. I’d call three years straight discipline.
The next most important development was a trip I took to Cancun in 2015. In my efforts to keep my Fitbit streak alive, I would head down to the resort’s gym to get my normal 2 mile run in. There was a slight issue, though. The gym’s treadmills showed distance and pace using the metric system. I literally had no idea how far or fast I was running. I just got on, moved the pace up to a comfortable jog, and ran. And ran. And ran.
Luckily, time is the same in all countries, and the 30 minutes I was on was the longest I had ever consecutively run. What I didn’t know up until that point was how I was limiting myself. By just setting the treadmill to 8 mph (7:30 mi/min) and running for two miles, I wasn’t challenging myself to get better, faster or stronger. Being unable to consciously set the treadmill to my norm ended up being the best thing that could have happened to me.
The third contributor was Harlem Run, a dope collective of runners that I saw running one day as I was out shopping. As a new runner, I was way too excited to learn more. After stalking them over the next week on social media, I showed up on the next Monday to join them for the weekly run and it’s been love ever since.
It’s super important when starting off to have more experienced runners help you out. Just like the Fitbit and the treadmill mishap, they will hold you accountable and push you beyond any limits you naturally set for yourself. I love promoting Harlem Run to my friends, tweeting them on Twitter, and rocking my gear around town. I actually don’t think I’ve ever consciously decided on a Monday not to go. I only miss it if I’m away on a work trip, or vacation. Sometimes they even let me pace when the normal pacers can’t make it!
Finally, the positive feedback. After the vacation, I knew I could run longer than the 2 mile, 15 minute runs I had limited myself to for months. From that point forward, mostly all my runs exceeded thirty minutes, generally falling between 3 and 5 miles. I stopped sprinting, slowed down the pace, and really tried to build up my cardio. And in the next month, everything changed.
I stopped eating bread and most carbs during the weekdays, ran longer, and made sure to hit my Fitbit goal every day. And almost like magic, the pounds literally started melting off. Every week the scale read a lower number, my once fitted pants became loose fitting, and my runs were way easier. Then it started. All the comments and attention.
External motivation is always good, but you have to also find it within yourself. After awhile, the comments will stop. The transformation will become normalized. The only thing that will keep you grinding, day in and day out, is you. Let the former lead to the latter.
So that’s my story. In truth, I was bigger than I had ever realized, but still not “huge”. I went from around 215 at my heaviest down to 185 at the peak of my weight loss. I’ve plateaued at about 190/195 now, and I’m happy here. Committing to yourself and your health is a decision I think every young person needs to make. It’s like a 401K – invest now, and reap the benefits for years to come. Don’t, and you’ll be playing catch up for the rest of your life. I am grateful to everyone who has been with me on this ride, and would love to help others see the light as well.