For me, running has always been associated with pain and humiliation of the emotional, physical, and mental sort that is really hard to shake. Aside from living my life as an overweight individual longer than I’ve been a fit one, I had other ailments that only accentuated my torture when it comes to this act of cardio that has one of the most devoted followings the world has ever seen.
For one, I’ve always suffered from chronic shin splints since I was a wee lad. Asthma has been another one of those contributing factors that made running about as awful as it can be for an average person, let alone a fat guy. It also worked as an excuse to get out of PE. The funny thing about that though is that I used a negative to help create a comfort zone that I THOUGHT I wanted to be in.
I wanted to be like all the normal kids
When I recollect on what it was like to be told “we’re running the mile today” in PE, I have no control over my hastened heart rate or feeling of anxiety that consumes me. I remember as a kid getting so physically sick the night before I knew we’d be running that sometimes I was able to get out running all together.
There is nothing more physically degrading than trying as hard as you absolutely can, digging with everything you’ve got. Feeling your joints explode and grind with the wear and tear of your obese body chugging along with all the might it can muster, and still running a 13 minute mile.
I found out quickly that the other kids never let you forget your failures. That sad fact though is that I was not the minority, I was the majority. And I wanted to change that.
On top of the emotional humiliation, I always got to look forward to my body feeling like it was going to drop dead of a heart attack or stroke. A child should never feel that way. Ever. That’s how bad off I was.
It’s all in your head
You know how someone who is claustrophobic can be absolutely fine until they get into a confined space? That’s when the cold sweat, increased heart rate, heavy anxiety, and nausea sets in. Often times it’s the equivalent of kryptonite to a person’s superman. Mental fears can cripple the most able-bodied and sharp-witted of people, and I happen to be one of those very people who has more allergies to kryptonite than most will ever know.
Late, I found that I was ACTUALLY settling for misery and finding a way to live with it as opposed to picking myself up by the boot straps and making things better. I firmly believed things would never get better. Not for a guy like me.
Follow your passions
This story is a happy one however. Once I realized that I didn’t HAVE to run the way so many people are either told or just believe by default, my anxiety regarding fitness started to ease up. I recognized that I could do cardio and not be brought back to a crippling emotional state that would end up hindering me in the long run.
I started to focus on not just strength, but conditioning! I incorporated undulating ropes and BOSU work into my life, as well as TRX and Zumba. I was able to be fit without running!
All too often I run into people who feel like they have to live up to a certain standard of fitness or they’re not fit. False.
There is no “right” road
This health journey is going to be different for everybody. Whether you take the freeway, the scenic route, or railways, the most important bottom line is that you GET there. You’ve got to TRY. You’ve got to DIG.
I have it on good authority that if you explore what works for you rather than convincing yourself you have to fit a certain mold, you will emerge victorious every time.
As for my current relationship with running? After years of training and weight loss, I found myself getting the itch to check out running again and see if my new found physique and found some opportunities to redeem itself from adolescence. Low and behold, I was a new man! Gone were the shin splints and asthma and in its place was a body that had been fine tuned by functional trainer and transformed into a body built for trail running.
At the urging of my wonderful girlfriend, I ran my very first 8k trail run this last January on the outskirts of San Francisco with an approximate time of 40 minutes. I’ve run 4 Tough Mudders (11-13 miles each) and am slated to run my first trail marathon in 4 months.
Not bad for a fat kid.
Photo credit: Difei Li