I have to admit: I’ve never been what you’d call a “fit” guy. Sure, I’ve got the muscles and crazy intense workouts that give the trappings of a lifelong fitness buff. I’m here to tell you that, in the song of my life, those things represent the final notes of “November Rain.”
Growing up, I thought that being a “smart kid” was sufficient for anything I wanted in life. My mother always sent me off to these smart camps during the summers, while my friends rode their bikes and played Nintendo. Because of it, I sucked in that place where true victory rang true—P.E. class.
I remember how I bombed at the Presidential Fitness test that we took every year in elementary school. Even now, I can see those “cool” kids who could do 10,000 pull-ups with their pinkies; I maxed out at one strained lift of my brainy head to the bar. And the mile run! The best kids could cruise out those 3 laps at a breezy 9 minute pace, leaving this bookworm wheezing for a pitiful 15 minute time. I told myself that their physical efforts could never add up to the mighty intellect in my young noggin. That stayed my story for many years, right through Honors classes in high school and 2 college degrees. I kept right on telling that story until my smart (and underachieving) self nearly suffered a stroke at the ripe old age of 30.
Suddenly, I realized that all the knowledge in my brain wouldn’t be worth jack squat if I didn’t build the body to support it. I started looking at things differently about that time (Winter 2010-2011). If smarts alone wouldn’t cut it, what could I do differently? After all, our robot overlords won’t let me move my brain to a computer yet (don’t tell them I said that). Along with my dietary changes, I started setting fitness goals for the first time ever.
At first, they started small: take a walk around the neighborhood; walk for longer; train for a 5k (twice). Was it easy? Hell no! Moving faster or with more weight may make you look good, but don’t let anyone tell you that it’s more fun than that childhood Nintendo. Fitness involves pain, involves suffering. But more than that, it involves progress towards a higher goal. That’s why I first started at Iron Tribe, a fitness community focused on high intensity functional fitness (translation: lots of suffering, 45 minutes at a time).
I used to think Crossfit/functional fitness like at Iron Tribe would be fun. I thought that pushing myself to the limit for 45 minutes, 4 times per week, would tame that brainy little fat kid that still rests in my brain, eternally 100 lbs overweight. I thought that fitness, even years later, would get easier.
God, I was wrong.
Every single workout that I’ve done at ITF over the last several months taxed me more than the one before it. I used to think college algebra and economics were hard; they don’t have shit on 800m runs and 200 lb deadlifts. I’ve pushed my body to limits that would have finished me off where that stroke failed just 4 ½ years ago. Some days, I wish that I had quit working out after my first week and gone back home for ice cream and Netflix.
So why do it? Why do I—the brainy kid— make myself suffer through this crazy physical pain every time, including today? It’s because I realized that I’d been feeding myself a lie all this time. It’s because I want to belong to a community that pushes me. It’s because a big sexy brain doesn’t feel nearly as satisfying as the fit physique that carries it. It’s because I refuse to accept the life that was sold to me when I was a kid. It’s because I was spared from an early grave by some twist of good fortune years ago, so I’m going to make damn sure that I take advantage of this second chance. Ironically, it’s because suffering for a goal feels 1000% better than sitting around and never giving a shit to begin with.
After I dropped those 100 lbs of fat, I set myself a new goal. I learned that living life without a greater goal really isn’t worth living; trust me, I’ve been that guy. What does the brainy “former fat boy” do now that he’s not fat anymore? I set a new goal to suffer towards, of course! In 2015, I’ll complete the Spartan trifecta—a 3-tiered obstacle course race that consists of a 3-5 mile Sprint, an 8-10 mile Super, and a 13-mile Beast. The prize for putting my body through so much suffering, both on-course and in the gym? Medals. And mud. And pain. And glory.
You see, I’ve learned something by losing 100 lbs to save my life and becoming a first-time athlete at the age of 34. I’ve learned that life has its share of suffering. You can suffer the struggles and experience the joys of physical fitness. You can experience the joys of doughnuts and suffer the struggles of obesity (currently the #2 killer in America). Personally, this brainy kid got enough of an ass-kicking on the health front until now. Going forward, it’s time to kick some ass of my own.
Care to join me?