How I started my fitness journey.
I’m publishing my book, Spartan CEO in a couple of weeks. It’s about the kinds of fitness that matter on the bottom line, physical, mental, and organizational fitness. I’m not super fit, because I have a sweet tooth, which is why I exercise. I’ll tell you how I got started, and maybe that will help you too.
I used to be a freestyle inline skater (ramps and jumps and scraped knees) and did a bit of downhill skiing and mountain biking in my late teens and early twenties in Canada, so I had some base fitness, but that had long disappeared by 2015.
When I was about 25, my metabolism slowed down. My son was born, and I didn’t lose any of the baby weight at all (eye roll). I had eaten my way through the pregnancy in solidarity with my first wife but didn’t give birth to anything in the end, and so there was no end. My weight hovered around 115 kg (242 lbs.) for the next decade or so. By the time I was 37, I was the poster boy for the chubby consultant. My suits were tight, and I didn’t like the way I looked or felt.
The breakpoint for me was at the beach sometime in March 2013. My closest friend in the world called me a “fat, ugly, pathetic little man.” She apologized later, of course. It was horrible, though, and it broke my heart a bit, but it did influence me to change. The very next day, I signed up to join a gym. My initial commitment was to exercise for one hour every day for 21 days, no days off. I knew how to discipline myself in education and consulting work, so I figured it couldn’t be that much different to do it in the gym. But it was different. Very different.
It was a lot easier.
I hated the first few days, but the addictive neurochemicals produced in the brain during and after exercise are a real thing, it turns out. I slowly trained my brain to expect hits of dopamine, serotonin, adrenalin, and endorphins from my time working out. After a while, my brain started to accept and anticipate the gym as a source of brain drugs, and after the 21 days, I didn’t stop going. I kept it up, going five to six days a week after that. I lost 17 kgs (37 lbs.) in the first three months, and my first wife, who had let herself go a bit as well, got motivated by my daily grind and decided to get fit herself. She joined a regular bootcamp. She’s now one of the fittest people I know.
Michelle was the trainer that the gym assigned to get me started. Three free sessions with Michelle were intended to get me going. She showed me the equipment and offered some structured training for me. We also filled out a couple of forms, on which one of the questions was “Why are you joining the gym at this time?” She continued, “Is there a wedding coming up? Do you want to look good at the beach? Do you want abs? What’s your fitness goal?”
“I’m here to earn the right to eat whatever I want when I’m not here,” I responded.
She laughed. “Well, that’s honest, I guess. I’ve never heard that one before.” I was serious, though. My abs were deeply buried under a decade of chocolates and fried yummy things, and I had no intention of changing my eating habits. I love food—bad food. I love sugar and fat and salt, all together if possible. I wanted to keep eating bad things and still lose some of the belly that weighed me down. And I did.
It’s been a few years since then, and I still don’t have abs. But that doesn’t matter to me anymore. I’m the kind of guy I would want to hang out with in an apocalypse. In fact, if the world goes to hell in a handbasket, with zombies and all, come find me. I’m smart, I can lift heavy, and I run indefinitely.
After the initial few months at the gym, I got into CrossFit, and obstacle course running.
I’m not a runner. I hate running, in fact. It’s boring, and jarring on the knees and ankles, and boring, and repetitive, and dull, and boring. But running in soft sand, over mountains, on loose rocks, carrying buckets of gravel, climbing walls, and throwing spears . . . that didn’t sound boring at all.
I remember the first time I ran an obstacle course race. It was in fall 2015, a five- kilometer (3 mile) Spartan sprint in Dubai. It was a fitness challenge that I had set for myself, and I’ll be real with you folks: I didn’t know if I would be able to finish it. I had never run 5 km (3 miles) in my life.
I was in okay shape, but it was still hard. Running a Spartan race in Dubai meant running in soft sand for most of it. That’s a special kind of pain for the calves. I wasn’t used to it. I cramped up, and it was a slow trudge for a while. But there I was, the first race of my life, carrying a bucket of rocks up a hill, thinking, This isn’t so bad. I can do this. Until I couldn’t.
When you fail an obstacle in a Spartan race, you are required to earn your way through the obstacle by doing 30 burpees. I think I did 120 burpees during my first 5 km (3 mile) race. One of the race marshals told me that since I was running an open race and not a competitive one, I didn’t have to do the burpees. But I did them anyway because my goal was to finish the race, not just to get to the finish line. Now it’s one of my mantras while running obstacle course races: “Every meter, every burpee.” I say it to myself whenever I’m tempted to shortcut an obstacle or skip the burpees.
To a real Spartan runner, there’s a big difference between getting to the finish line and finishing the race. But every race starts the same. Some caffeine-fueled fitness guru grabs a bullhorn and yells out, “Spartans! What is your profession?” to which we all respond,
“Aroo! Aroo! Aroo!”
So it’s your turn now. Pick a direction and move toward it. 21 days, no days off. Every meter, every burpee. All that’s standing in your way, is you. If you want to know more, register your interest in my book Spartan CEO here: www.drcorrieblock.com/spartanceo