I’m writing this while sitting in the lounge of a hotel in downtown Orlando, where I’m fronting like I’m some sort of young professional on a business trip – which I suppose I am, but anyway – and I’m taking advantage of the relative calm to update my blog, which has languished like a neglected little puppy dog for way too long. (Not that I would EVER neglect a puppy dog, but anyway.)
Anyway, I wanted to write about the past year, specifically how I kind of underwent a personal transformation this year. I know, I know – what a totally boring, trite and cliche thing to say. But I actually mean it. Something happened to me over the past year. I suppose you could say that 2011 is the year I became an athlete.
Sure, there are the superficial signs, like the fact that easily two-thirds of the clothes I own are either Lyrca, sweat-wicking or bear the logo of some racing event or other. There’s also the fact that I have that permanent sunglasses tan line that makes me look like a reverse raccoon. And, I do have to admit, my shoulders are pretty fucking ripped.
The stuff that counts goes a lot deeper than that, though. For instance, I have the kind of focus and discipline that I’ve never had before. (I used to be so unfocused and undisciplined that I thought I had adult ADD. Nope! Turns out I was just a pothead.) I mean, I get excited about having a day off because it means I can go for a long run or bike ride. I go to the gym on my lunch break. I even use the fitness center at hotels. What’s up with that? Who even does that? Me, I guess!
Here’s the crazy thing – I don’t feel like I have to do these things. I do them because I want to. I hear so many people joke about how working out is torturous for them, how they would rather saw their own arm off with a spork than run three miles, and yet it’s one of my favorite parts of the day.
And check this out – me and pain? We actually have a pretty good relationship now. I live for the kinds of workouts that leave my lungs and muscles burning like fire. When I run so hard across a finish line that I feel like I’m going to puke my brains out, I’ve done something right.
I once read a Runners World article in which the writer talked about how Dathan Ritzenheim could run until he collapsed on the grass yet would still ask his coach for more, and I didn’t think, “Damn, that dude needs to have his head checked.” I thought, “I want to be like that, too!”
So many other things are different, too. What I eat, the amount I sleep, how much I drink – these all changed in a way I can only describe as organic. As I became more interested in being a better runner, I gradually changed the rest of my life, and in ways that have only served to help me feel more energetic, happier, healthier. And when I do deviate from this – for instance, the day I ate pizza/cheeseburgers/chili dogs – I feel like such a huge, heaping pile of stinky ass that I have pretty much no desire to do it again.
Of course, I recognize that I’m an outlier. I would never suggest that anyone has to be like this to be healthy. In some ways I worry that by being all “yeah, I ran a half-marathon this weekend!” and “hooray for asparagus!” might make people think you have to be all hardcore to be healthy. That’s not true. I think that as long as you make a reasonable effort to be active and to eat whole foods, you’ll be just fine.
But I can’t really deny my own experience, which has been that becoming hardcore about strength/health/fitness has been transformative for me. It’s been so powerful that I started this blog in an attempt to channel it into something concrete and outward, because that’s maybe one of the more problematic things about a fitness-oriented lifestyle, which is that you can become very focused on yourself. I also have plans to start pursuing a master’s degree in exercise science, so stay tuned for more on that.
In the meantime, I’m busy setting more personal goals for my life as an athlete, and working toward achieving them. I’m set to run the Big Sur International Marathon in April, and I’ve signed up for a triathlon in June and several duathlons, including an Olympic distance one. I also have a long term goal of running an ultramarathon in 2013.
I’m sure they will be hard, and I will have moments when I will ask myself just what exactly I think I’m doing, and I will probably feel like saying the hell with all of it several times, but I know that in the end, when I cross the finish lines, it will be so worth it. And for days afterward, every time I wince while walking down stairs or trim away a loose toenail, I will beam a little bit with pride. Because I am an athlete, and that’s how I roll.