This Is Fitness.

fat runner taking a selfie on a track under a clear blue sky

For the past three weeks, the running world has started questioning what we think a runner looks like. What does it take to identify a runner in motion, or a runner not running?

This internal dialogue is particularly painful, since the image in our head doesn’t include ourselves, either.

So many of my runners feel insecure about belonging in the running world for this very reason: despite logging 40+ miles weeks, running races all over the world and spending more time on their hobby each week than they did credit hours in their worst semesters in college, they aren’t sure they can label themselves a runner because they aren’t sure the rest of the world would look at them and agree.

(Maybe we have more in common than we think)

Fact is, we don’t know what a runner looks like. We can identify a person who is running right now, but a #runnernotrunning could be anyone.

Which is my defense when I don’t recognize my running buddies in public, smelling like soap and wearing uncomfortable shoes that gleam and click softly when they walk over to say hello.

That’s why ‘strong’ was never the new ‘skinny’. We can identify skinny. We cannot identify “strong” much less “healthy” or “fit” at first glance.

(Spoiler alert: Size has nothing to do with it. There are skinny people in the front and the back of every single pack.)

We aren’t quite sure why weight matters, but….it does, right? There may be skinny people in the back but there aren’t fat people in the front...right? The fittest people are the fastest!

It is hard to believe that fitness has nothing to do with weight. In recent years, “getting fit” has become a euphemism for ‘losing weight’.

Fitness has nothing to do with weight, you guys.

When my father had his first heart attack, he was 33 years old. After his surgery, and every day for the next 37 years, he would wake up, take his resting heart rate before rising, then sit down at the kitchen table to take his blood pressure. These were the metrics his doctor told him to track, the metrics of fitness that mattered most, the metrics of fitness that directly correlate to long-term cardiovascular health.

You wouldn’t know by looking at him today that he had 6 more heart attacks after that, then a transplant.

You wouldn’t know that his body was so strong from 28 years of jogging that the person who was once declared a terrible candidate for surgery and sent home to die (true story- he was told to come back after he lost 100 pounds) became an ideal candidate for a donor heart.

You wouldn’t know that he is healthy AF. (we don’t know what healthy looks like)

We don’t know what fitness IS, you guys.

The things my father was told to do in order to get his cardiovascular system in order and set himself up for lifelong health are not the same things runners are told to do today.

“Jog every day, slow and easy, slower than you want to go, so slow it hurts your feelings (better your feelings than your heart), so easy your body is using ONLY oxygen for fuel, NO MATTER WHAT.”

Fitness is the opposite of performance, you guys.

First we train for fitness, then we hone for speed.

Fitness should always come first.

(Whatever that is).

In an industry that would have you chasing smaller bodies and faster times, I’m proud that you are here thinking of the long run. Pun intended.

Your kids will thank you.

Your grandkids will, too.

They won’t remember your race times. They won’t care about your weight. They’ll know you were a runner, you were fit AF and that you lived a long, healthy life.


Forward this post to anyone who tells you they don’t look like a runner and remind them that no one knows what a runner looks like. If someone tells you that you don’t look like a runner, send them to me. I will correct them with glee.

Coach MK Fleming is the founder of Fitness Protection, LLC. Click HERE to download her most popular training plan, Tenacious AF, free!

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