Most mornings it takes me longer to get ready than it probably should. I often find myself distracted, looking in the mirror and nit-picking all the details about myself that I don’t like. I know a lot of people are really down on the whole idea of allowing yourself to have a “negative body image,” but I can’t help feeling like mine is not only justified, but actually kind of earned. Because I enjoy cake, like, a lot more than is reasonable. And I don’t particularly care for exercise.
People often say to me, “Whatever, dude. There’s no way you don’t like running. You talk about it a lot. Why would you run so much if you don’t enjoy it?”
If you’re close to me, you’ve probably heard me explain this before. But it’s the God’s-honest truth. About four years ago, when Will Smith was promoting his zombie movie, I Am Legend, I read an interview with him online. Will (and yes, Will and I are on a first-name basis, in case you were wondering) lost twenty pounds for that role. Here’s what he had to say about how he did it: “If you’re willing to run 30 miles a week, you can have whatever body you want.”
I’d never heard it put so simply before, but that made perfect sense to me. So I just started running, literally within a few days. It was slow going at first, maybe a mile and a half. Gradually I worked my way up to three miles at a time, then five, then even eight. But just so you know, what Will said was not entirely true. Even when I did finally make it up to 30 miles a week, I still didn’t have Halle Berry’s body. (In fact, she wouldn’t even return my calls. But that’s a whole other story.)
The background that led to me becoming a runner actually goes back even further. When I started working at an Air Force base several years ago, I had a Bowflex. I actually used it for more than just to hang clothes on, and let me tell you: those suckers do work. I was stronger than I had ever been, weighing about 175 lbs. My coworker friend Paul convinced me I should try the gyms on base, because we could use them for free, and they had everything you could want. He got me hooked on free weights, and I lifted regularly. At one point, I even sold my Bowflex. At the height of my regimen, I topped out at 196 lbs. (Now, that’s a lot—I am not a tall guy.) Certainly I was strong and had big muscles, but I hated any kind of cardio, so I never did any. So while yes, I was big and strong, I was also overweight. How I felt then reminds me of an old bit from Cheers. One time when Norm (the heavy-set guy) came in, Sam asked, “What are you up to, Norm?” Norm responded, “My ideal weight…for a man eleven feet tall.” I secretly worried that although I felt I looked pretty good—broad shoulders, big biceps—my heart was just going to explode one day.
After I left that job, for the next year or so I laid off the weights, went through several phases of eating healthier, even fasting regularly. By the time I heard Will make that statement, I was in the low- to mid-160’s range, and I guess I was just ready to hear it. His little insight was the catalyst that got me started. At my peak running condition a couple of summers ago, when I was routinely running 25–30 miles a week, I tipped the scales at a whopping 147 lbs. While I haven’t consistently maintained that wonderful-feeling weight, I remain convinced that running is my own personal magic weight pixie dust.
What have you done for your health that works for you? Do you stick with it? If not, why do you think that is? And if you do, HOW do you? Do you have a “positive body image”? If you could have anybody’s body, whose would you want? What excuses could you start eliminating today to move yourself in that direction?