We all face a moral failure in our lives that comes from some instinctive response. It differs from person to person, but, in general, we think we hide its impact. The truth still exists: it cripples us in ways that others see better than we do. It upsets our relationships with the ones we love, our children, new people whom we meet, and even our employers. We generally go to the grave, holding till the final breath that our obesity didn’t really impact anyone else. Our weekend drinking didn’t really waste that much time. Our ten-hour-a-week golf habit was a healthy response to global warming. Our choice to bring our own bags to the grocery store reduced our carbon footprint. Crap, fueling out intellectual invigoration. We still burned half a gallon of fuel to drive to the grocery store for two items that could have waited a day or two.
I work with people who are overweight and/or underfit. For a lot of them, the act of admitting that their best efforts and rich educations did nothing to help them get to where they wanted to be. Some can’t fit into airplane seats comfortably; some can’t climb hills on a family trip to the mountains and need to use a car instead; some can’t go up ten flights of stairs to see something beautiful on a roof without profuse sweating. Some can’t lead by example or admit the truth of that claim.
Yet, the formula to get out of their circumstance still creates a mystical equation that they repeat to themselves. They say, “If I just set my mind to it, I can get this thing right.” Even worse, they say, “If I just try harder and rearrange my priorities, I can get on track.” A year later, they are still no better off than they were the year before.
When I was in my early 40s, I got home from a trip to the Caribbean with my family and looked at a photo of me and my kids in the pool. It wasn’t OK. I had a layer of fat on me. I looked like all the other men in my family. At first, I said that it was a biological thing, perhaps even genetic. It didn’t take long to realize that was a lie. I tried harder. More exercise. Less ice cream. Reduced pastries (a little bit less). I took a bit of wisdom from several sources, melding together a cocktail of food and fitness, and called it my own.
A year later, I looked the same. I felt the same. Sure, professionally, I advanced. However, employment goes away, but my relationship with my body lasts until my last breath. I had changed priorities, and I still didn’t have the outcome I desired. I lived the lie to its fullest.
My biggest specific step was to get out of the amalgamation business of using a bit of this and a bit of that was to hire a coach. She didn’t care about my opinion. She used science and experience (supposed to be the same thing, but they aren’t), and she created tasks that took me beyond my threshold. They were scary, too. One day, I had a 20-mile run and a 20-mile bike ride. Who does that? I did.
She sent me things to read that she found, not things I found. What is the difference? I have a bias in my perception of what I need. I pick what I like to read. She didn’t share that favoritism. Soon, the weight came off, and my speed went up in all disciplines. And I felt a lot better. And people started engaging me, wanting to know what I did.
Mine measuring stick was simplistic to read. I wanted to do well at the National Championship in Duathlon. I trained, qualified, signed up for, traveled to, and raced in the National Championships. In the first and second years, I was an alternate to get onto TeamUSA. In the third year and forward, I was on the first team. In my first world championship, I came in 53rd out of 67. Two years later, I came in 10th. I have now done nine world championships, finishing as high as 6th. I have two more in 2024 on the calendar, and I already have my plane ticket to Australia. This is a gift that keeps on giving.
We are all meant to share. Selfishness competes with that innate drive, but it remains a part of our identity. We make children, we cook for two people, and we like to go to bed with another person. I want to share with those who want to learn.
I am now that coach that I should have hired twenty years ago. I have the same goal that I had when I served in the State Department as a Peace Corps Volunteer. My goal is total unemployment. I want to teach you all that I know so you can fire me and do it all, on your own. And if I can be so bold, I want you to replace me and coach your own “disciples” once you get it right. That represents the ultimate compliment.
I don’t really need to ask this because you probably already have. Are you where you want to be, or are you in the same space you were at this time last year?
If you are ready for a coach, reach out. It is more of an act of surrender than it is an admittance of failure. But it is also an admission that a mediocre body is not what you had in mind when you thought about how you would be at the end of 2023.
I would be proud to have you fire me. But you need to hire me first. Scholarships are available, too.