Saturday, April 9, 2016

Build Confidence. Don't Break It Down.

When I was in middle School in the late 70s, I was overweight and not athletic at all.  I never wore shorts. Actually didn't wear jeans either? Evidently back then the only thing clothiers thought kids my size wore was plaid. Just what the "fat Kid" needs, right? Plaid. 

Man I can't tell you the last
time I had a burger and fries.
I remember having to run the mile in Mr. Wade's 8th Grade PE class. Yes, I ran the mile in my plaid pants and my plastic/vinyl "athletic" shoes from Pic-n-Pay. Me and Danny Weidner were the last to finish. I think I ran that mile in 18 minutes and 20 seconds. Mr. Wade did not like me. His disdain for me and the other non-athletic kids was very obvious. He even met with my parents to let them know I was different and that they probably needed to do something about it. 

Yep, I was different. Those plaid pants, that "roll" around my middle, those plastic running shoes, and that 18-min mile made me who I am today. Ironically at 51 years old, I've run 15 marathons, 1 ultra-marathon, 20 half marathons and too many 5K and 10Ks to count. Oh yeah, and I'm RunnerDude, owner of a personal training studio and running coaching facility, founder and host of one the most popular running blogs in the country, and author of a running book.

What's up with the double
pictures? I think one of
me was plenty. LOL!
I'm a huge believer in things happen for a reason. I bet if I had been the fastest kid in the class, I would not be a running coach today. Now don't get me wrong. I think kids need to be active. But, each kid is different. Some kids are team sports players. My brother was. He played basketball, baseball, football, tennis and now golfs. I tried team sports. I played baseball 2 years and football 1 year, but did not enjoy it at all. I mainly played because my dad signed me up. It's what you did in 1974. If there were other options, I wasn't aware of them.

In middle school, I had a friend who was very fit and was into gymnastics. I always envied his ability to run and do flips in the air. He was strong, but because it was not football, basketball, or baseball, he was often teased too. During those middle school years, there was a sign-up day for gymnastics at the school gym. I actually got the nerve up to go. We lived in a small town on the North Carolina Coast. I rode my bike up to the gym. I was nervous as all get out. I had sweat stains the size of Montana under each arm. I walked in, climbed up the big built in bleachers and sat there watching the others register and try out. I sat. I did not have the confidence to try out. I was the fat kid. I couldn't do that. Really all I needed was someone to say, "Hey, come try." I stayed for about an hour then walked back down the bleachers, got on my bike and headed home. No one every knew I went to the tryouts that day. 

In that small coastal town in which I lived in, there was a man, Mr. Smith, one of my friend's dad, who used to run a big 10-mile loop around the town. He'd run with his big black dog. He always looked so content running with his dog. I admired his ability to run so effortlessly. Without him knowing it, Mr. Smith motivated me to try it. One day, not long after that gymnastics tryout day, I decided to try to run. Yep, in my plaid pants and plastic shoes. I didn't go far (probably a mile or two of Mr. Smith's route), but I did run and it felt good. I did it a few more times. Nobody ever knew. 

Later that summer, I decided to lose weight. My mom was doing Weight Watchers, so I just followed the same meal plan. I lost 40lbs that summer and started High School a new person. I ran the mile in 9th grade in under 8 minutes. My confidence boomed. I was still teased, because I wasn't a jock, but it didn't matter, because inside I had grown so much.

I didn't do too much running after that until my first year in college. I ran my first 10K in Raleigh, The Great Raleigh Road Race. That's when I discovered others ran too....all kinds of people. That's the day the seeds for RunnerDude were planted. I continued to run lots of 5K and 10K races and in the late 90s I got into running marathons. Plaid pants ditched long ago, I was feeling good about my accomplishments as a runner and all this confidence was helping me in other areas of life. Running reveals so much more about yourself than just your physical abilities. That's the message we need to instill in our kids. 

If you are the parent of a "plaid pants" kid, encourage them to explore different activities. Not all kids have to be in organized sports, but maybe you can do family walks, go hiking, or see if they're interested in running. What they are interested in is the key.  Maybe it's art, music, or dance. Get them involved in what they are interested in. Once they have gained some confidence, then they'll be more likely to put themselves out there to explore more.  

Lead by example. Kids shut out preaching, but if they see you leading a healthy lifestyle, they'll come around. It may take a few years, but it does work. My 24-year-old son, Duncan initially wanted nothing to do with running or fitness...and now he's working along side me at RunnerDude's Fitness as an awesome fitness trainer and running coach.

The great thing about running (as one of my runners, Brandon put it) "it's an individual sport that's made so much better by running with friends." You can start out on your own or with a similar-level group and build your confidence. You can compete with yourself or with others. You can run solo or with others. You can make it your own.

I guess in a way, I should thank Mr. Wade. Not because he was right. But, because I knew he was wrong.