I was never a very good runner. I could only sprint for short distances. 100m, maybe 200m. I always had trouble running, either because my technique was sloppy, or because I just didn’t feel motivated to run around. It seemed a little bit pointless. Running from A to B just for the sake of running? Boy, was I wrong.
Moving here to America is about change. I want to change some things about myself, and I didn’t feel like I could do that in Australia. I needed to strike out on my own in order to accomplish those goals. At least one of them is about my fitness.
I remember back in grade five of primary school, I played Australian Rules football. The teacher/coach saw me doing extra sit ups one day, and nicknamed me ‘Mister Fitness’. I want to try and live up to that name. I know I have at various times, and sometimes let myself down on that score. That’s one of the challenges I have set myself in moving here. I want to become Mister Fitness again.
In high school I played sport year round – cricket, tennis, badminton, and my favourite sport of soccer. I was always in a lower ranked soccer team. In year 7, our team went undefeated due to the excellence of our encouraging, supportive and strategically minded coach. The year after that, our super-coach was moved up to the higher ranked teams, and we barely won a game. For the rest of my time at high school, soccer was about having fun playing with mates. We rarely, if ever, one a match over the following five years. No coach after Michael showed nearly as much enthusiasm for our team. None of them had his passion for strategy and teamwork, and love of the game. I think my love of soccer was directly inspired by him, the first coach I ever had.
After high school I stopped playing soccer, but longed to be back on the field again. Five years later I had a chance to play indoor soccer, and took to the court again. It was exciting and I loved it. With any luck I’ll find a team to play either field or indoor with.
In addition to soccer and school sport, I studied a martial art. It gave me physical strength for my slight build. In the lead up to my adult first degree black belt grading, I worked harder than I ever have in my life. I know what that peak fitness feels like. I felt truly strong at that point. I’ve been trying to get back to that level again ever since.
I hurt my progress on a holiday to the United States, in August 2012. I was lazy, ate candy cereal, and put on weight. I still sometimes feel like I have some of it on me. Call it ghost weight. It’s not a problem or anything, I just treat it as motivation to stay in shape.
It wasn’t until a trip to Japan in June 2013 that I actually lost the three kilograms that I had gained the year before. I ate small meals while I was there and loved it. The amount of walking I did each day helped too. I came home closer to my proper weight, and spent the next few months bulking up in martial arts training, and running during indoor soccer. A few friends and I routinely hit the 1000 steps (they ran, I power walked). All of that effort culminated in my second degree black belt grading in November 2013.
I was already set on coming here to the US. I knew I had to avoid those candy cereals and huge hamburgers. After a month in Canada on holiday, I felt unfit. I’m now taking command of my health and fitness, because no one else will. I’m eating healthy food and drinking lots of water (even though it’s winter).
Today, for the first time in my life, I started running. On my own. Just for the sake of running. I mapped out a course of two miles and timed myself. Made it back in 23:00 minutes. Not bad, but I have work to do. I don’t honestly know what inspired me to start running. It might have been the HBO film about Ali that was playing in the barbershop the other week. He worked hard to prepare for fights. I’m modeling my own running on the road work boxers do. You alternate between long, light paced jogging and interval running (reps of fast sprinting and walking). I shadow box while I run. Probably looks stupid, but it helps. I’ve also started doing push-ups and sit-ups here at home. It’s something I never felt comfortable doing back in Australia (working out at home, and going running on my own).
I honestly don’t know why I felt embarrassed to run for the sake of running. Moving here to the US has forced me to confront that fear of judgement. I realised it’s entirely in my head. I hope you are starting to understand a little better why I left Australia: I had no motivation to change my life. I had no carrot to run for, no stick to run from. Now I have the freedom, and a damn good reason, to go running.