I’ve been thinking back lately on the number of times I’ve “started over” on my personal physical fitness. For me, one of the central issues has been weight/diet, but the lessons learned can be applied to any health and/or fitness challenge you personally must overcome. Fundamentally, I learned that:
1.) It’s your journey. You choose it, for good or for bad — you can alter your course if you put your mind to it
2.) Surrounding yourself with positive, supportive people who push you onward can be a critical factor in your success
3.) Being an athlete can be defined in a variety of ways — if you enjoy/crave an athletic activity, then it's more likely to work for you
Here’s how I got there...
Fort Lost in the Woods
I have fond memories of being a 130-pound high school athlete, eating an entire pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream on the bus to the game, playing hard, and then stopping at Hardees for a bacon cheeseburger (and of course, Diet Coke) afterward.
I was fit, so always figured that I was eating to perform — right?
Then I went to college. A diet of pizza and spirituous liquors, combined with stress and my general lack of physical activity, allowed me to gain my “freshmen 15” — as well as another 30.
During Basic Training the Army gave me an excellent lesson in what it means to eat well and work hard. I returned from Fort Lost in the Woods at a healthy and rock-solid 150 pounds.
Unfortunately my return was to college, and to my bad habits. Why not just maintain what I had achieved? When was I going to become a “success story” and not a constant “work in progress?”
I became a police officer and worked hard to get fit — when I graduated my academy I was once again at a healthy and strong 150 pounds.
Two children later, I was a whopping 235 pounds and was facing the very serious risk of getting hurt at work because of it.
So, I started over again. For two years, I did a lot of running and weightlifting, and 80 pounds came off. But sure enough, I soon found my weight creeping back up again.
Success Through Support
Then, I started CrossFit training and met Michael Moseley. In addition to being a Sheriff’s Deputy, Moseley qualified for the CrossFit games this year. That is no small accomplishment.
Moseley and his family own a local CrossFit gym, CrossFit Now. In addition to the teachers, physical therapists, and homemakers who train there, a large number of members are cops, firefighters, and paramedics.
I’ve always found the gym environment to be very intimidating — finding myself surrounded by insanely fit people — but that was not the case this time. It is one of the most positive environments I have ever been in.
I found I was good at some things, and awful at others. I’d do pull-ups with a rainbow of assist bands in front of me, and Moseley — along with the other coaches and members — would scream and cheer me on.
Everyone is always running around saying, “It’s your journey.” I soon realized how powerful that statement is. It has always been my journey. I’m in charge of it.
Choosing to make myself suffer in my career of “making comebacks” was the journey I used to choose for myself.
Now I choose a different path. I choose to be an athlete.
New Measures of Fitness
Being an athlete can be defined in a variety of ways. I don’t even know how much I weigh, but I know I can deadlift 215 pounds three times and got some wild women in Wisconsin law enforcement to do burpees with me.
A high school friend of mine still finishes in the top 40 for women at the Boston Marathon. I ran a personal best in a 12-mile race one time this year. A snake and a turtle passed me along the way (obviously they are freakishly fast), but I ran the whole event.
Fitness and diet both require discipline. Doing CrossFit and bike riding with my friend and mentor Betsy works for me, but any exercise will be great if you enjoy it.
Whatever your journey entails, be fit, be healthy, and most of all be happy. Surround yourself with positive people, give it your all, and remember that you are a force.