Recently I was walking my dog to our usual park in Bernal Heights, a cute little hilly neighborhood in San Francisco.
We go there almost every day, and to get there, you have to go up a few pretty steep hills—and a long set of fairly long stairs.
On days when I’m sore from the previous day’s workout, or when the wind is blowing hard, I’ll admit that even I find the climb a bit daunting, but I’ve never once stopped to rest and always keep a steady fast pace.
This time, when Rocket and I made our way through the chilly fog up to Bernal hill, a noticeably overweight woman and her little terrier dog were blocking the stairway in the middle.
Bent over and panting from lack of breath, she noticed us approaching and her face turned red from embarrassment.
“We’re just taking our time,” she said between breaths. “Go ahead and pass us.”
We did, and when I looked back after we’d reached the top of the stairs, she was still standing there, a look of misery on her face.
I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the woman as Rocket and I sped past her. What a tough life she must have… never finding clothes that fit right, always thinking about food, barely even able to take her dog on a walk.
Seeing that woman on her fruitless attempt to exercise her dog made me thankful for my own body.
Sure, there are times when I wish I was a little thinner, a little buffer, that my willpower was a little stronger and my sweet tooth didn’t exist.
But that same day as I took my dog up to the hill, I had already taken her on another 25-minute walk, done 15 pull ups and 40 air squats, gone to a brutal hour-long Krav Maga class, and walked all around San Francisco’s Marina neighborhood. Despite all that, I didn’t feel the least bit tired.
And that’s when it really hit me.
Being fit isn’t just about looking good.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s incredibly important to feel confident about who you are, and feeling like you look good is a big part of that. But it’s about more than that.
Fitness is about being able to walk up a flight of stairs without feeling like you’re going to die. About having the energy to throw a ball for your dog or play catch with your kid at the end of a long day. It’s about feeling like you can do the things you want to do without feeling like your body is holding you back.
I feel lucky to have a strong, healthy body that can carry me through the activities that I love to do. To not have to worry about diabetes or heart disease or any other terrible disease that’s brought on by excess weight.
I know that I have a chance at living a long life full of fun, happy memories and I owe it all to my body—and to my love of health and fitness.
I hope that woman gets a wake up call before it’s too late. And I hope you do too, if you’re in her shoes. Because it’s time to give yourself a chance.
So embrace fitness. Get healthy. Get motivated.
You owe it to yourself.