First half marathon ever back in 2008, couldn’t run 1 mile without having to walk. Took me over 3 hours to finish… 3:16:09 to be exact. Every step I took was filled with a constant battle of a version of myself saying “This is stupid, I’m no runner. I’m Fat, these people are fast. I don’t belong here.” The other version saying “If that guy can do it, you can do it. It might take you all day long, but you will cross that finish line.” Back then I couldn’t run 1 mile without having to walk. So I walk/ran, I ran what I could and then walked till I could run again. I did a 5K earlier that August in my quest for weight loss with a time of 37:45 and I wanted to die afterwards. In fact after both races even though I finished, I let that negative self-talk tell me that in fact I was not a runner. I made up my mind that I hated running. For 2 years I let this train of thought derail my weight loss and I stopped running all together.
Then in 2010 I ran the Carlsbad Half Marathon again (pictured above on the left). I had some friends sign up and they wanted me to run it with them. I agreed to. Here I was faced with the same voices in my head, negative and positive. This time I couldn’t run at all… I walked my way to a 3:49:01 finish. That’s right, I walked all 13.1 miles. There was a level of dissatisfaction in knowing that I couldn’t run a whole mile. I felt deflated and let down. I wasn’t proud of finishing in a little under 4 hours. I let the negative self-talk win again for years to come. I didn’t have any guidance from anyone. Social Media was just starting to take off, and it’s nothing like it is today for people. I kept telling myself I have to try harder, and when I failed I’d beat myself up over it. Most people know how it goes… I’m not good enough, I’m too fat, I don’t belong here. Almost everyone who’s overweight knows that mentality. We believe that this is OK, and that if we aren’t hard on ourselves no one else will be. We see what the fitness industry puts out as the “No Pain, No Gain” mentality, or the CrossFit mantra that you need to have bloodied shins or hands. No one tells us right off the bat, that this is wrong and destructive. It’s not just destructive to our bodies, it’s destructive to who we are.
I let this mentality drive me to the gym every morning. I lifted the weights, I ate according to what the “experts” said in the articles. Nothing was changing, the scale was the same number week in and week out… 270-290lbs. My body fat% was stuck in the same rut of 21% to 25%. Like anyone who’s trying to lose weight, this infuriated me more than someone cutting me off. I’d frantically look at what I was eating, what I was doing to work out. I know I chatted the ears off some friends over it as well. None of it made sense, and I didn’t pay any attention to it at the time. I neglected how I thought of myself and how I thought of how I approached things. I not once thought of how my negative mindset was like shooting myself in the foot on a daily basis. Sadly this was not the defining moment where my life changed and I had that a-ha moment. I let this continue into triathlon training. It got me through training, racing, and training. Inside it was the same frantic beat myself up over it. The search through the data revealed nothing, so I’d train even harder. I knew the saying, you need time to recover yada, yada, yada, but I didn’t believe it. Remember… no pain no gain. I knew the workout smarter, not harder stuff. I didn’t believe it, and I made the excuse that it didn’t pertain to me because I was fat. Fat people didn’t have the luxury to recover. We can rest/recover when we’re dead. I rationalized it all with “I’m harder on myself than anyone else.” I didn’t do it publically either. I did it when no one else was watching. We and I, in my opinion make/made up reasons to keep thinking that way and give us a way out, “I’m trying to, I’m a work in progress, or I can’t”. Les Brown has a saying that when we fight for our limitations, we can keep them. That is what I have done and many others continue to do.
Finally, at some point down the road I started to embrace that I wasn’t ever going to be a fast triathlete. Yes, I was a fast Clydesdale triathlete, but I wasn’t a fast triathlete. It probably was the best and most profound choice. It was around this time that I actually started to believe in myself. I embraced “I might not be fast, but I’m doing it, and I’m having fun!” I was able to change my entire mindset towards everything. When I stopped worrying about how fast I was, it was a whole new world that opened up. I stopped worrying about being lean and thin, and just let my body do what it was going to do. Sure enough it did, I changed my diet to be more metabolically efficient. It really aligned with how I look at food for fuel now, instead of some having to be some pleasurable experience. Good things were starting to happen. It might have been while I was training for my first Ironman that I started to really believe in myself. There is something to be said that changes you when you start physically going farther than you thought you could.
When you realize there is good in you, you start to see the good around you as well. Then good things start to happen TO you. It starts with realizing that there is good in you. You can hear it from all the people in the world, but if you don’t believe it, it won’t mean a thing to you. Why is that? Because you’re so blinded by disbelief that you can’t see it. As a friend says “fantasy land” I had that frame of mind as well at one time. We call it fantasy land because we are so blinded by our ways that we decided that we can’t accept it another way. It’s not a fantasy land at all. We see it all around us in every day life. Facebook is really big with this we see a wilderness picture with a nice saying on it, then a few thousand likes. What we need is a believe button, how many people believe this? Embrace your faults, be kind to yourself, be positive, the list goes on and on. It’s POSSIBLE, for you to love yourself and NOT be seen as a narcissist or self-centered. It’s NOT bad to love yourself. All of a sudden more weight started to come off more as I stopped fixating on what I ate to what the experts where saying, and I ate according to what I felt was right for me (#metabolic efficiency). Just so you know I just ate 2 whoopee pie’s from last night all at once (yes I enjoy food at times). My training started to get better and better. I finished my 2nd Ironman slower than my first and with an injury. I didn’t beat myself up for it, I didn’t look at what I didn’t do, I didn’t have that negative mindset through the entire race. There was no voice that was saying quit, you can’t do this.
Then last month I was surprised to find out that Base Performance had chosen my Ironman Louisville finisher photo to be used in their ad in Triathlete Magazine (pictured upper right). It wasn’t till I was writing this blog post that it came to me. I DID achieve greatness that day. I shed some of the demons that really plagued me through training, through racing, through weight loss, through diet missteps. The ad is for Base Performance products, but for me it’s something completely different. It’s the defining moment to date for all the blood, sweat, tears, and mental fights I’ve had with myself to overcome my own hurdles. That picture and phrase together, show me that no matter what comes my way, I will over come it. It might not be easy, I might fail a few times, but I’m going to overcome it. I just found out that they are going to be using the same ad in next months magazine as well!
As several people have told me, and I believe them now. You can tell by your smile that you’re a great person. The picture in the lower right that I’m using for my book and I use for my health coach site (www.chrisholleyhealthcoach.com) really show that I am happy with myself, I don’t obsess over the negative around me, I look at the positive around me, and that I care about people’s health.