I’m Greg and I created Fit4XL to inspire, celebrate and educate plus size athletes.
My journey to become more fit and improve my overall health began about seven years ago. I started consistently working out at my local gym but really didn’t know what I was doing. I made every fitness mistake known to man and woman and only experienced minor, short-lived results. It wasn’t until two years ago that I started learning the proper way to exercise and truly embraced the benefits of making better food choices (see 7 Ways to Jumpstart Better Eating Habit). Within that two year span, I experienced some of my biggest struggles, mainly with consistency – consistency with my workouts and consistency with avoiding bad food habits. The hard work eventually paid off as I did reach a breakthrough point where I could see positive changes not just physically but mentally as well. Seeing my weight drop was very rewarding, but the even reward was that through the ups and the downs I was able to gain a better understanding of what it was that was holding me back. It was me holding myself back. I was afraid to set big, uncomfortable goals for myself. So what was different? I had turned the corner mentally tapping into a mental boldness that would prove to be my friend and not my enemy. This new mentality required me to not only get out of my own way but stay out of my own way. I had learned how to break from my comfort zone (see How I Left My Comfort Zone). I came to appreciate Neale Donald Walsh quote concerning comfort zone – “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
When it came to exercise, instead of my routine choice of walking, I finally got the courage to start running – even after the frequent warnings by others that it would be too hard on my knees. Getting started with running wasn’t a pretty sight (and many would say my running today still isn’t a pretty sight). I just didn’t fit the image of a runner. However, I did gradually improve my endurance and extended my distance, going from a half-mile to a whole mile, and then to a mile and half, and eventually reaching the ability to run 3 miles with no walking or breaking. Full of pride and a sense of accomplishment, I signed up for my first 10K event, the local Atlanta Peachtree road race , and went on to participate in it back-to-back years. In both outings I struggled terribly to finish. However, it was that boldness again that would prove to work in my favor as my big, uncomfortable fitness goals forced me to acknowledge the importance of committing to training and preparation, no more winging it. I reacquainted myself with a bicycle and started to work my legs back into decent shape. Although I knew I could never bring back the levels of stamina I enjoyed as a kid riding my bike through my old neighborhood from sun up to sun down, I must admit the bike was a tremendous help for my leg strength (the physical) as I gained more confidence (the mental) with my running.
Despite my new found motivation to take things to the next level with my fitness, I still faded in and out of my comfort zone. While at my local gym I always felt in good company, as there was an abundance of plus size athletes, both men and women, some larger than me and some smaller than me. I can honestly concede that I regularly benchmarked my size, exercise choices and overall progress only with that population of plus size members. Instead of staying focused and pushing myself to be the best athlete that I could be, I had honed in mentally on only trying to be the best plus size athlete at my gym. Essentially, I was back at it again, playing it safe and in my comfort zone again.
To curb some of my bad tendencies and get refocused I decided to take a break from the gym as my exercise venue. I moved all my workouts outdoors, spending most of my time at the local community track – no fancy equipment, no TVs, more sweat, more fresh air and minimal distractions. I experienced some good momentum and started dropping weight at much faster pace compared to the gym.
In my quest to find another opportunity to break from my comfort zone, I was invited to participate in my first Triathlon event. I accepted the invitation with no hesitation – it was supporting a great cause, I have a lot of love for the guy that extended the invitation, and the sincerity of friendship and camaraderie with all the other team members that I would be joining. I didn’t fully comprehend what I had just signed myself up for (physically or mentally) – a 500M swim, a 9 mile bike ride and a 2 mile run. Three challenging activities, precisely timed, executed back to back, and to top it off – all happening on a hot summer day. I’m a research-oriented person by nature and training so for months I vigorously gathered all that I could read and study on proper training, techniques and equipment for triathletes. I spent hours on the web viewing triathlon literature, images and videos since I was about to embark on becoming a triathlete myself. It was important to me to start eating, drinking, dressing and training just like the experienced triathletes.
The team that I joined included guys that were just as bold (if not bolder) than I was about this fitness journey. One member was a marathoner (26.2 miles), another member was an experienced cyclist (century rider 100 miles in a single outing), there was a former college track star and boot camp instructor, a member with prior triathlon experience, a former body builder, and the guy that invited me to join the team who had just kicked cancer’s butt. It was a dream come true – a perfect opportunity with a group of guys with so much tenacity and competitive spirit – it would hard for me to fall back into my comfort zone or so I thought.
Despite the intense accountability and daily inspiration from my team, as the event date got closer, anxiety (negative kind) was building up inside of me. I started to ask myself “Why don’t any of the triathletes in the videos, on the websites or in the ads and brochures look like me?” I played with the idea that maybe I had met my match and had over reached with this goal, or maybe I was not athletic enough for this kind of event and wouldn’t be able to keep up with the rest of the pack. Was I about to embarrass my family and close friends that took time to show up to cheer me on? Was I about to get in my own way again and retreat back to my comfort zone where it was safe? Didn’t I have every right to say to my team, family and friends – “Hey, I’m a big guy and you know events like this are just not designed for guys my size.”
Fast forward to now, this year I have successfully completed two Triathlons (a Beginner Sprint Triathlon and a Sprint Triathlon) and four 5K races. I’m blessed to be in the position that I am in now – on the other side of my fear. It was not just about being given an opportunity, but it was about being bold enough to push past fears, anxiety, available excuses and most importantly my comfort zone. I’m grateful for any chance to inspire plus size athletes, non-plus size athletes, beginners or novice and any individuals who’ve been discouraged by others and often have told themselves “NO.” In no way have I ‘made it’, but I’m further then I would’ve been if I just took no for an answer or taken advantage of a convenient excuse. Athletes come in all different shapes, sizes, genders and ages.
“If you have a body, you are an athlete.” – Bill Bowerman, legendary University of Oregon track and field coach and Nike Co-Founder.
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