From a distance, I saw him struggling in the center median.
He’d run about 20 seconds, then walk for a minute or longer.
I slowed down so I could observe him. I noticed he was an exceptionally-large man and he was really having a tough time. I on the other hand, was feeling great and effortlessly keeping about an 8:30 pace.
I turned off my iPod and ran up beside him to encourage him. “Good morning! How ya doing?”
He could barely respond because he was so out of breath. I slowed to a jog and said, “I’ve been there man. I give you all the credit in the world. I know it seems tough right now, but soon, you’ll be running the entire time and you’ll drop a lot of weight. I’ve already lost close to 50 pounds.”
I explained that the Galloway running method suggests that for Newbies, a run-walk protocol is just fine and if done properly, can provide nearly the same aerobic benefit as running the entire time, but with a much reduced chance of injury. (see: www.JeffGalloway.com)
His reaction was fantastic. He was just so appreciative that someone would stop to encourage him. He had been pretty embarrassed to get out there and often had been the victim of rude and hurtful comments by passersby. But he kept at it.
He was extremely grateful that an “athlete” would stop to encourage him. While I still do not consider myself an athlete, I started to think about this a bit more on the balance of my 14 mile run that morning.
To this brave guy, I looked slim. To him, I was running at break-neck speed. To him, completing a couple of half Ironman events and a 50K Ultra marathon would be inconceivable and unobtainable dreams.
They were for me, and at my heaviest, I was still maybe 75 pounds lighter than he was that morning.
If he sticks with it, he can achieve these milestones as well. Plus, his self-confidence and feelings of self-worth will skyrocket!
I’ve since made it a point to encourage anyone who is struggling or obviously new to sport and fitness. The heavier, the bigger, the older…the better.
I really have to hand it to some of these people. They are absolutely huge, yet they are out there doing something. They are trying. They are working hard. Sometimes I see guys well over 300 pounds on beach cruiser bikes struggling on the riverbed trail. An hour or two later, on my return trip, I will see them again, still at it. Still pushing hard.
These guys really deserve the encouragement and they get both that, and my ultimate respect. Frankly, I think I have a really soft place in my heart for these guys, because I WAS one of those guys. I can totally relate.
I cannot relate as well to the finely-tuned, 8% body fat athlete who has always been active and fit. I certainly respect their discipline and all the inevitable pain to maintain that level of fitness. But these finely-tuned athletes have absolutely no idea about being fat.
They don’t understand the humiliation, the ribs and barbs and hurtful comments, the embarrassment when your belly bounces around as you jog, the way your pectorals actually bounce around like female breasts, the huge “spare tire” that encircles your entire waist line.
Friends, these are humiliating issues that big people deal with everytime they step out of the house and try to do something about it. I don’t care if they are walking, riding a beach cruiser, or at the gym doing yoga, spin or weights. It is still embarrassing and humiliating.
For them to receive a positive comment and encouragement from someone who embodies everything they are hoping to achieve can mean the world to them. To get encouragement from a honed and finely-tuned athlete can keep them on a high for days.
I say that no workout is so important that I cannot slow down for just 30 seconds, ask them how they are doing, tell them how much I respect what they are doing and to offer encouragement because I’ve been there, I personally know how tough this part of the process can be and that I know that they will be successful if they are patient and disciplined.
If you are an athlete, take the time to encourage those who are working hard and struggling to get in shape and improve their fitness. I think this just makes the world a little bit better place for all of us.