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How I became a runner, lost more than 50 pounds of ugly fat, and turned my life around in just a few months.

Image credit:  Wonderlane


So we want to carry on living lives full of meaning and purpose don't we?  And we want to continue making a positive difference, helping change the world, right?  Well we're gonna need all the energy we can get! 

Here's a bit of the story of how I finally managed to get moving, lose bucket loads of weight, and find energy I didn't know I had. 

Hey, I'm not judging anyone for being heavy, but if it stops us making the most of the time we have, and if it's possible to get shut of it, then maybe it's worth a go?

I could spend the next fifty years analysing my childhood, un-hooking and un-packing each link of my DNA, and asking every shrink between Shrewsbury and Shanghai exactly why? why? why?

And I'd probably still be none the wiser. 
But it's a fact.  I've long HATED exercise
What about sport?  No...can't stand it! 

OK let's go back in time to 1999 and I'll ask myself a question.

"Ian, can you see a time when you will EVER enjoy exercise?"  "NO" I answer.
"What about sports?"  "NO" I reply.

OK come back in time to 2009 and ask the question again.

"Ian, can you see a time when you will EVER enjoy exercise?"  "Wrong question!"  I answer.
"What about sports?"  "Define "sports"" I reply.

OK here's the thing that's helped me change EVERYTHING when it comes to actually ENJOYING moving my ass and in the process losing MORE than FOUR STONES of ugly, heart squeezing, lung busting FAT (that's more than FIFTY SIX POUNDS or TWENTY FIVE KILOS).

"Bloomin' ek!" you say.  I bet you're thinking I must have been a right lardy-bum-fatty!  Well no actually. 

Since I'm 6'4" tall, very good looking and charismatic (a sort of cross between Ricky Gervais, Johnny Depp, and Danny DeVito) I managed to carry it off better than my shorter mates.  But still, carrying all that extra weight was not good for me, and man-boobs are so overrated.

So what is that thing that helped me most?

That's it.  Simply re-defining those things I'd previously called "exercise" and "sport", both of which had huge negative associations for me.
It won't help to dig up all the whys and wherefores but somehow, I discovered that simply using different language and a change of attitude - re-framing - could make all the difference.
I dropped the words "exercise" and "sport" and replaced them with far more interesting and enjoyable words which I'll get to in a mo.

I'm going to tell you exactly how I managed to do that, and once and for all, formed some great behaviours that I know'll be with me as long as I'm physically able to get my ass moving.

Image credit:  Mike Baird

I've gone from repeated failure at establishing good patters, to lasting, easy, and extremely rewarding success
I reckon some of the stuff I did might help you if you want to make improvements too but hey, I'm not a sports expert, or a physician.  All I know is that what I did worked for me.  You'll need to check this stuff out for yourself before getting into anything, and see your doctor (and all the other patronising provisos!) etc. too.

It's been over two years now, so long enough to call my changes "permanent" don't you think?

After a particularly dark period with all kinds of difficulties in business and life, I'd become a bit fat!  Not so much an aesthetic problem, but I was struggling to keep up with my then 4 year old, was often out of breath, and had little energy much of the time. 

The only zest in my life was from a shrivelled up lemon cake or three in the local cafe.

Want to know how I turned it all around?

OK.  Here are four perceptions I used, and they can help us right now. 

1)  Countless obstacles

Life's full of 'em.  No matter what the goal, they'll be there.  Get over 'em. Or under.  Or around.  Better, blow the crap out of 'em.  How?  By re-defining, re-focusing, using different language and a "can-do" attitude.
Having tried to exercise regularly and failed I eventually realised a big problem:  "Exercise" was a bad word, loaded with all the wrong connotations.  I changed it to "walking", which I thought of as easy, enjoyable, and something I could do more of right away. 

Once "walking" gets turned into "fast walking" and you're doing it 3 or 4 times a week and getting your heart rate up for about 15 minutes at a time, you're well on the way to massive improvements, potentially in every area of living.
I knew I liked walking, and the obstacles to getting out and about are next to zero - you just start walking!
But try going to the gym 3 to 4 times a week and it is a ball-ache and drains hours from your life!

Why?  You need clean gym clothes, you have to get there too, most likely by car.  Then find a parking space and pay for the ticket.  Get into the gym and change.  Warm up.  Wait for the machines you want to come free.  Do an exercise.  Wait for the next machine.  Repeat.  When you're done, go change, shower, get to the car, drive away.  Obstacle after obstacle to get over, and that's before you've even flexed your extensor carpi radialis longus.
So, we have to accept there'll always be obstacles.  No need to moan.  They won't go away.  Let's just look for ways to reduce them, and deal positively with 'em by demolishing 'em when they do crop up.


Image credit:  Mike Baird

2)  Relentless optimism

Do I like "exercise" and "sports"?  Not really. 

Re-frame the question:  Do I like the freedom of running, the excitement of mountain biking, the focus of climbing, and the fun of wild swimming?  Yes! I love those things!  Why the hell did I wait until just two years ago to even try them? 
Oh yea, it was the walking that got it all started.  When you do it fast 3 or 4 times a week, you soon feel yourself wanting to run, and that's exactly what happens.  At first, you can't run very long, but even running a little makes you feel like doing more. 
You start to think "maybe I could just go to that next lamp post", you push to it, you're knacked, but you did it!  That causes your optimism to grow and soon, the good feelings produce more optimism which becomes relentless.
Oh yea, I also discovered that it isn't "sports" I disliked.  Just the endless flamin' commentary, that some boring people make about games like football, that had turned me off.  The culture of out-of-shape folk in "leisure wear" talking endlessly about the minutiae of some bloody footballer or other!  Actually seeing a great game is a totally different bag of whistles and can be pretty uplifting!

3)  Senseless momentum

So I became a runner. 
Something I'd never thought likely, perhaps not even possible.  My transition from fast walker to proper runner took only about 6 weeks, after which I could run for 20/30 minutes, 4 times a week, without having to stop at all!  The momentum built as I saw and felt massive benefits; better sleep, more energy, less stress and frustration, clearer ideas, more umph, more fun!
I'd call the momentum "senseless" because to my old self, the amazing physical and mental powers my running habit brought, and the motivation I've discovered toward almost every meaningful thing I'm doing, just don't make sense from the blinkered perspective of my old non-running self.
It is also senseless to many folk who have not experienced such momentum, since so few people are "fired up" and high on life (generally speaking) anyway.

4)  Endless possibilities

It's well known that getting ourselves moving physically has so many health benefits.  I'd say it goes way beyond improved bodily function and a temporary burst of natural, mood enhancing chemical releases. 
I'd say, for me, and from anecdotal evidence from almost every regular runner and athlete I've met or read about, I'd say getting ourselves moving somehow puts us in touch with a much deeper sense of well-being
It helps us see beyond our current limitations.  It kinda "blows the cobwebs away", brings us refreshment, and is it just me, or do we runners and physically energised folk really almost leave our bodies behind sometimes? Well, that might be going a bit too far! (....or is it? ha ha).

Anyway, without wanting to sound cheesy, I'm gonna keep on running.  Not just physically, but as we work out how to lives full of meaning and purpose, make a difference, and use our collective energy to change the world.


Enjoyed this post?  You'll love "Seven Reasons Why 2010 Will Be Your Best Year Yet".

Thanks so much for reading this little story.  I love reading your comments, hearing what you think and learning from you.  Have you taken up running or become physically active ater a long time doing nothing?  What tips would you give others to help them get started?  Much love, Ian.

Your comments:

Pablonius Monk says:
18/12/2009 02:22:39

Nice post, Ian. My wife & I have been doing the 1st phase of the South Beach Diet since the week of Thanksgiving here stateside. I've lost 10 lbs. since. (I'm 6'3" and now 260 lbs.) But I can tell on the days that I don't walk, my energy level lags and it's harder to run around with our boundless 16-month old boy. Nice blog & good tweets. Keep 'em coming!


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  • Ian AspinLocation: Lancaster Lake District, UK
  • Bio: I’m passionate about my work:TV journalist, producer, presenter, business ideas person. I care about: family, friends, helping people, finding meaning, running