Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Things That Drive The Beast

Last nite as I was running my Week 1 Day 2 session of the Bridge 2 10K program I began to forget about all of the things going on around me and got lost in thought about why I do what I do. I was soaked in sweat to the point that it looked like someone had placed a small fountain atop my head and turned it on, I could feel the slight twinges in my right heel from the Plantar Fasciitis with every stride I took, and my left hip reminded me with each step that I'm not 26 years old anymore. But all of the issues faded into the background of my mind as I began to wonder "why am I doing all of this?" Throughout my 40 minute running adventure, I realized that I had several different things driving me and I felt that it would be appropriate to share with you The Things That Drive The Beast.

First and foremost, I want to be healthy. After I graduated from law school some 17 years I quickly allowed myself to fall out of the exercise routine that I had worked so hard to establish. While in school I used to run and bicycle daily. I was in the best shape of my life at 6'2" and 205 pounds. Over the next 17 years I managed to balloon to 365 pounds. It wasn't something that happened suddenly, but rather was a gradual process of yearly increase. In February of this year, after attending a Super Bowl Party, where I drank a little too much beer and ate a little too much food, I ended up getting sick. I was sick both after the party and the next day. I knew that I could not continue to live my life like this. I had already been diagnosed with sleep apnea and high blood pressure, and I have my suspicions that I was borderline diabetic as well. I was also beginning to feel pains in the upper right side of my stomach. To be honest, I believe that it was my liver that was enlarged as a result of my unhealthy eating and occasional drinking. Combine that with the fact that I've had three maternal uncles pass away prematurely (2 in their early 50's and one in his early 60's--all suffered from adult onset diabetes) and I knew that my life was going to be prematurely cut shore unless I made some major changes. So I did. And I feel great. I feel healthier than I have felt in years, both physically and mentally. I can't imagine at this point ever returning to where I was before. I know that this will be a lifelong battle for me but it's one I'm willing to take on. And besides, I promised my wife 90 years together when we married in 2000. I'm not sure that I'll be able to make it 122 years old, but I know that with every step I take and every healthy bite I take, I'm increasing my chances.

Second, I want to be a role model for my children. I want my children to be able to see their father as a healthy, fit, active person, rather than someone who sits on the couch and watches life pass by. I don't want my children to suffer the issues that I've faced and the embarrassment of being too big to fasten a seat belt on an airplane (which I have had happen in the past). I want my legacy to be more than being a good father, or being a kind person. I want my children to want to live a healthy, active lifestyle and I want them to say that it's because of their father. I want their healthy, active lifestyles to be a continuation of what they have seen from me, so that that their children will do the same.

Third, I want to be an example to others. I want to inspire and motivate others who may feel that life has passed them by that they too can make the positive changes that lead to a happier, healthier life. A friend of mine from high school, Anita Holbrook Mills, is someone who has inspired me along my journey. Anita allowed her weight to balloon to almost 400 pounds when she decided it was time to do something about it almost 2 years ago. On her doctor's advice she started eating smaller meals more often and started walking. In 2 years she has lost over 230 pounds. She has been featured on the Rachel Ray show, on, and most recently in Women's World Magazine. She truly is an inspiration to me and when I think that my journey to health and fitness is impossible, I simply think of Anita's battle and her victory and it inspires me to keep on going. I want to be that type of inspiration to others. I truly feel like my purpose in this life is to help others and if I can help one person change his or her life through sharing my journey, the ups and the downs, then I have fulfilled my purpose.

Fourth, I believe that it honors God. I'm sure that I may lose some of you here, but I strongly believe that living a healthy, active lifestyle is simply another measure of showing my love for a God that has blessed me with so much. I read Rick Warren's "Purpose Driven Life" in 2006. I've actually read it several times since then. In the book, Rick challenges the reader to develop a life statement. Something that summarizes what your purpose is in this life. After much thought I came up with "Love.Live.Lead". Love God, Love Others, Live like Christ, and Lead Others to a Relationship With God. And while I've tried to hold true that that mantra for the past 5 years I realized that by being unhealthy I was not doing the best that I could do. By making decisions that affected my health and shortened my life, I truly believe that I was telling God that although I appreciated my life and the many blessings that I have, I didn't appreciate it enough to want to live as long as I could. Like I said before, I believe that my purpose here on this Earth is to help as many people as I can in any and every way possible. How arrogant and irresponsible of me to make decisions that could cut my life short and therefore leave my mission unfulfilled. I believe that by making my lifestyle changes that I am doing all I can to honor God and to complete the mission that He has charged me with. My only hope in this world is that once I die I will hear "well done my good and faithful servant".

Finally, I want to be an Ironman. I know that sounds crazy coming from a guy who is 43 years old and still weighs as much as an NFL Defensive Lineman. But I have been fascinated with the Ironman competitions for years. I'm not sure what it is about them that I am so fascinated with. I have a competitive spirit, but I'm not a competitive person. I know that sounds strange, but let me explain. I always want to do my best. Not because I want to be the best, but because I want to be "just as good". When I was younger, my older brother was 3 years ahead of me in school. So when I was a Freshman in high school he was a Senior. I had all of the same teachers that he had year after year and all of the same advanced classes. I was never able to match his grades although I tried very hard to do so. He was, and is, just a naturally more intelligent person than I am. I never wanted to beat his grades, I just wanted to do "just as good". I think this attitude has carried over into my life in almost every aspect. I'm not concerned with beating people, which is strange for an attorney, but I want to be considered just as good. So the competitive spirit that I embrace is really just a competition with myself. To prove to myself that I am just as good as anybody else at anything. When I was reading Rick Warren's book in 2006, I was also finishing reading the entire Bible. I had accepted a challenge to read the Bible in 90 days and decided to spend the last 40 also reading Warren's book (which has 40 chapters--one for each day). I also decided that I was going to do a juice fast for those 40 days. I would eat no solid food for the 40 day period, but rather only drink vegetable and fruit juice and water for that period. I had never done a fast before but had read quite a bit about them. And although the decision to do the fast was religious based, it truly became a competition with myself to see if I could make it through 40 days. I was successful and it was an amazing experience. So much so that I did it all again in 2007. So maybe that is why the Ironman Triathlon appeals to me so much. It is an opportunity to challenge myself to the limits of my physical and mental abilities. I know that I'm not going to win the race, or even my age division, but simply doing it would be a huge victory for me. I've already had a small taste of this success when I completed the Couch 2 5K program this past Sunday nite. I had challenged myself to complete the program in 9 weeks and I did it. I never walked when I was supposed to run during the entire 9 weeks and on the last day I pushed myself to run for 42 minutes straight just to be able to say that I ran 3.1 miles, even though my longest run to that point had only been 30 minutes. I can't even begin to describe how empowering it is to have completed that program. I challenged myself, I pushed myself harder than I have in years, and I accomplished a task that only 4 months ago would have been absolutely impossible for me to accomplish.

Those are The Things That Drive The Beast. And now you know why I do what I do.

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