Here’s my first publicly posted shirtless selfie.
As taboo as it is, there, I did it. Jump on the shirtless selfie hate train, or read on. (Although technically I guess this isn’t a selfie because I wasn’t holding the camera.)
I post this photo because I was reflecting on my 1 year cancer remission anniversary and I hope this photo can inspire someone to exercise.
Towards the end of my chemotherapy I became exhausted trying to accomplish the simplest tasks. Because of my inactivity my legs would occasionally, and without warning, buckle under my own weight when I walked my dog.
My body felt like a prison, a thin cage of skin and bones entombing me.
I have been active my entire life and was amazed at how quickly the accumulated fitness I had vanished and left me with an amorphous body pinning me to my bed in just a few months.
Once I was in remission, I re-committed to watchful stewardship of my body. I started from not being able to walk more than one block 1 year ago, to yesterday I ran in the local 5k road race in 17:43 (5:42/mile pace).
What did I do?
I started small, but eventually I ran one mile to the gym 2-3 times a week, spent 45 minutes doing a handful of free weight exercises, then I ran home. That’s all. No magic pills, no crazy diet, no cleanses and no extreme exercise routine.
I’m not the most fit person in the world and there are plenty of things I could do better or more of, but instead of worrying about the minutiae of diet and exercise and doing nothing, I just did something manageable and was relatively consistent.
There’s no secret formula. Just move! Do something, anything! Bad knees? Then get on a bike. No legs at all? Then do pull ups. Hate “exercising” then join a rec league and play a sport. Being active can save your life!
As soon as we stop moving, we start dying. Quickly. Our bodies are made to be used, it’s a requirement of owning one. You must use it. Make it a priority, the sooner you start the better.
Chris, one of my friends, is another great example. He said he’d thought the “exercise train” had passed him by because he grew up smoking and was never a ‘runner.’ About 18 months ago Chris started to gradually build up to running three times a week. Today, he has lost 40 lbs and ran in the same 5k race I did yesterday, a goal he initially thought would take years, took 18 months.
I also have a great support group where I live now and remotely. Friends from college put together this video for me during chemo. Another friend joined me on many early morning gym runs. All of this can help lift you up and motivate, find people who have similar goals and hold each other accountable.
Why exercise can be difficult and how to overcome it:
Humans do not like delayed gratification. If we put in effort we want to see immediate results. You’re at the gym or running and out of breath and hurt right now, not 3 months from now, so you want to see the results right now too! Be patient, trust what you’re doing, it takes time. It took me 3 months before I saw any visible changes.
And it’s not like it matters when ‘results’ happen anyway because you’ll be doing this the rest of your life from now on so you’ve got time. Quiet that voice in your head that says you’re too busy or tired or you’ll start tomorrow. I let that voice ramble on to itself in the corner with a dunce cap on it’s head while I lace up my shoes and head for the door.
It doesn’t have to be massive action, in fact, it’s better if it’s not, because if your body isn’t accustomed to working out, you may injure yourself if you go big at the beginning. Take small steps, but take a step, in any direction. Just go! Now! And you’ll be amazed at it’s cumulative effects over time.
Adopt it as just something you do now, like eating, it should just become a part of your life. Consistency is everything. I learned that quickly with a few months of inactivity during chemo.
Beyond exercise, delayed gratification has other applications and once you achieve it in one area, it’s easier to apply it to others.
At the beginning of the year, I got tired of saying how I always wished I could play the piano. So I was either going to stop saying that or I was going to get a damn piano. I got a damn piano. I haven’t taken any lessons, I just watch YouTube videos and after six months I could play this:
Is it great? No. Did I make mistakes? Yes. But I did it. Which leads to:
Our culture is so obsessed with being the best at everything that we don’t even attempt certain goals if we don’t believe we’ll get a gold medal. It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing situation. When it comes to exercise, doing anything is better than nothing.
If I miss a run, instead of doing nothing, I’ll do 100-up while brushing my teeth before I take a shower at night and make sure to run the next day.
With all the information we have access to today it’s easy to be paralyzed by figuring out what is the right shoe or workout regime. Imagine if all the time you spent researching interests were actually used on doing them how much more enjoyment and advancement you would attain.
It’s a realization I had about filmmaking as well, or any subject matter. How many books or articles do you have to read about a subject before you do it? There’s never a point where you’ll master something just by reading about it, or thinking how much you’d like to do or should do something. Just start.
It doesn’t have to be perfect and it won’t be, but it’ll be better than doing nothing. So go.
Here was my last day of chemo:
And one year later I’m doing my best to take advantage of the extra time I’ve been given and doing things like this:
Don’t waste another day starting your new life, there’s never a better time than right now.