When asked to describe someone affiliated with a group called “Lift Heavy Run Long”, most people would probably paint a picture of a well-conditioned athlete. I know that I would. The image that first comes to my mind is of a tall, extremely muscled guy that – in addition to being able to outlift anyone in the gym – can manage to crank out 50 and 100 mile races every other week. Seems like a perfect fit for that LHRL group, right? Well, there’s a problem with that. I was selected as a LHRL Ambassador, and I surely don’t look like that. I only enter a handful of races per year and hitting the gym is a daily struggle. Most days, I find it difficult to even describe myself as an athlete.

Originally in this paragraph, I had a long, winding story of my life as it related to fitness and nutrition. Nobody wants to read about that, so it was deleted. Short version is: was active through high school, started working, made poor nutritional choices, got married, got fat. (Just so I don’t get clobbered, I should clarify that getting married to my lovely wife did NOT make me fat!) Moved from suburbs of Washington, D.C. to northern Vermont. Started being active again because I felt like crap at 230 lbs and there’s a lot of subtle peer pressure to be an athlete in these parts….

The question was asked as to how I became involved with Lift Heavy Run Long. At this point, I can’t even remember how I stumbled across LHRL. I’m pretty sure that it was from following a rabbit trail that started with hearing the idea of a “Hybrid Athlete”. My wife is a runner, and was constantly trying to get me to join her in races. Running is okay to me – I love hanging out at races, enjoying the atmosphere that a group of energetic and focused athletes creates. The feeling of having completed a race gives a great sense of accomplishment. But, if we’re being completely honest here, I hate the actual running. Maybe it’s the weight I carry, maybe it’s the lack of conditioning, but I tend to hold running at an arm’s length. Over the last five years or so, I’ve been trying out different sports, looking for something that really captures my interest. (Living in Vermont and being surrounded by so many absolutely amazing athletes tends to push a person towards finding a sport so that they can fit in.) Mountain biking is something I’ve found I enjoy, but, when I found my way back into the gym and started lifting weights again, I remembered how much I had enjoyed lifting so many years ago. So, when the concept of a hybrid athlete (one who lifts heavy and participates in endurance events) crossed my path, I tried to learn as much as I could. The research trail lead to a few different podcast episodes, some online articles, and eventually hit a site called Lift Heavy Run Long. Turns out they produced a podcast, so I listened to a few. During the first one, I remember thinking, “Southern accents – it’s good to hear people talking normal again.” (My entire extended family is from Alabama, so I was raised up speaking “southern”!) As a few more episodes flowed through the stereo, I was struck by the energy and inspiration that came across in each show. One of the early tag lines on the website read, “To inspire and be inspired”. Hearing each guest’s story while framing it through Wilson’s viewpoint of “everyone is interesting and has a story to tell” really reinforced that tag line. It’s impossible for me to listen to an episode and NOT be inspired by the athletic feats, amazing displays of heart, and incredible journeys that the guests have completed.

The podcast is a blessing in and of itself, but finding the Lift Heavy Run Long Community on Facebook has been wonderful as well. The people assembled in that space are so supportive, positive, and encouraging. There are members that push the limits of the human body by performing athletic acts that I can barely comprehend, there are some who are just starting on their journeys into fitness, and there are a whole lot of people in the group that fit in between. Regardless of where each person stands in their level of fitness or athletic accomplishment, they are met with encouragement. This community is inspiring, encouraging, and just a whole lot of fun to interact with.

That turns out to be a whole lot of words that don’t say anything about me as an athlete. I guess that’s by design. I’m not special by any definition of the term ‘athlete’. The podcast, Facebook community, and the LHRL app provide me with encouragement, inspiration, and direction towards improving myself as an athlete (and, even, as a human). I spend a lot of time at the ‘back of the pack’ in races and surely haven’t lit the world on fire with any of my weightlifting personal bests, but if – through the channels that LHRL provides – I could help light a little spark that gets someone moving into a better life through fitness or fan the flames of those already moving; that’d be why I want to work with and spread the word about LHRL.

If we could get the message of LHRL (encouraging and equipping those who want to live a better life through fitness) to as many people as possible; if we could make LHRL a well-respected and commonly known entity in the fitness world; if we could better ourselves and grow each other under the banner of LHRL – that would be totally cool. If I could have a part in any of that – I would be honored to have a small role.

Even though I barely consider myself an athlete, there are some goals that I’m working on this year. They include chasing that 50 mile/400 DL achievement, trying out a bunch of different athletic endeavors/events (for the new experiences), and spreading LHRL as far as possible around my corner of the world. (I think it would be great to one day be wearing LHRL gear while out and about and have a stranger recognize the brand.)

It feels like I’m jumbling up my thoughts and not expressing myself as well as I would like, but it (my take on LHRL, and why I’m here) all boils down to this: Challenge yourself. Try something new. Keep learning. Walk, jog, or run. Fifty feet or fifty miles, doesn’t matter. Move yourself. Pick up a bar; introduce yourself to some plates. Discover what your body can do when you push past your perceived limits. Keep moving. Bring a friend into this strange and scary world of fitness. Show them that good things come from the work and struggle. Encourage, support, and always Lift Heavy and Run Long.