Cameron Smith: Running is for bears, but fitness is for life –

This is an opinion column.
Running is terrible. Whenever I hear people talking about their latest 5k, I wonder who hurt them earlier in life to give them such a bizarre source of pleasure. I prefer to swim. As the other swimmers exhibit dolphin-like technique, I channel the grace and majesty of a drowning English bulldog. I’ve taught my sons that Smith men try hard things, but practicing what I preach isn’t easy when it comes to being physically fit.
About a year ago, I realized that I wasn’t nearly as healthy or as strong as I wanted to be. Honestly, it slipped up on me. I was an active kid who played sports until injuries took their toll in college, and then figured I was due some time off. The vacation from regular exercise lasted for most of undergrad and my first year of law school.
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When my wife and I married, we exercised together and even took dance classes at the University of Alabama. After we moved to Washington, D.C. where I took my first job working for Sen. Jeff Sessions, I didn’t have time for exercise in the hustle and bustle of the Hill. Then we started having children. Before I knew it, I was almost 40 and tired.
The blur that I called life from about 25-35 years of age mixed the fog of parenting young children with the stresses of professional life. I heard about people who balanced work and life, but I didn’t actually know any of them. I assumed that taking care of myself meant occasionally ordering the bone-in ribeye at Ray’s the Steaks.
Miraculously, my marriage, family, and sanity emerged from that period roughly intact.
Nobody tells you that you go from invincible with magical healing powers in your 20s to spraining a hamstring by carrying a heavy bag of groceries in your late 30s. While I am sure that some people age gracefully and maintain the fitness and recovery capacity of their younger years, I aged like a fine milk.
If my health wasn’t enough of a motivator, several sets of young eyes began to watch me intently. I teach my sons to be mentally, physically, and spiritually fit to take on the world’s challenges. Mental and spiritual fitness aren’t easy tasks in their own right, but I enjoy reading the Bible and researching for work projects far more than spending an hour at the gym. My boys are now old enough to know whether their dad takes physical fitness seriously or not.
Children also expose hypocrisy like it’s their job.
So I made my way back to the gym. I went through an introductory screening with one of the trainers, and I’m pretty sure he expected me to sweat butter when we started doing a few exercises. The ordeal was pretty embarrassing. I knew I was far weaker and less healthy than I was my freshman year in college, but the initial workouts made it real.
I also needed to get that kick in the butt…and then go back again when everything hurt.
I somehow kept showing up and doing the work. That’s what I expect of my sons, and I must be accountable to the same standard.
To be clear, I haven’t lost a ton of weight, but my body shape has changed from that of a decorative pear to a lowland mountain gorilla. That certainly isn’t everyone’s idea of progress, but I can work worth it. My blood pressure and other health indicators are great. Exercising regularly has helped with everything from my mental well-being to overall energy levels.
I also picked a gym where most of the people look like fitness models. They have their Lululemon and UnderArmor. I rock my threads from Costco and Amazon Essentials. I hear them talk about their “macros,” and I’m just working for an extra spoon of Blue Bell Cookie Two Step. Along the way, I’ve actually made a lot of friends. My gym buddies are truly encouraging. I’m sure they judge me, but that’s mostly on the days I wear my t-shirt that says, “I AM YOUR FATHER.”
I don’t love the gym every weekday, but I am enjoying the results. I’m taking care of the body God gave me, and it helps me care for my family and set a good example. I am not a fitness guru. I am not a crossfit bro. I have come to realize how important it is for each of us to be active in body and mind. More importantly, I’ve seen how deeply the two are connected.
If you see me on that treadmill jogging like I’m being chased by a bear, just know that Smith men try hard things. Also, being chased by a bear is one of the only legitimate reasons to ever run. I simply want to be prepared when that time comes, and you should too.
Smith is a recovering political attorney with three boys, two dogs, and an extremely patient wife. He engages media, business, and policy through the Triptych Foundation and Triptych Media. Please direct outrage or agreement to or @DCameronSmith on Twitter.
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