by Shane Dixon
If anyone tells you that running will change your life, you should listen, because it’s true. I’m living proof.
Throughout most of my life, the bulk of my time was spent going to the gym, lifting weights, and, like most younger men, trying to become bigger and more muscular. I often neglected the importance of cardio activities, and instead focused mostly on weight training. During this period of my life, I also enjoyed Toronto’s night life, and spent many nights going out to bars and binge-drinking with friends. Partying served as the perfect outlet for me as I was unhappy with parts of my life, miserable with my sales job, and chose to drown my sorrows with alcohol.
At the time, this lifestyle seemed to help me get through rough patches, but I failed to realize that I was actually sinking further and further into a dark state of depression. My weight quickly ballooned out of control, thanks to the combination of excessive alcohol consumption and my love of junk food, chocolate and late-night Chinese food. This continued for years, until one morning during my commute, I realized I was completely winded and out of breath from simply walking up a short flight of stairs. Then it dawned on me: I wasn’t just tired that morning, I was tired literally all the time.
Tired of the way I looked.
Tired of the way I felt.
Tired of the way my clothes fit.
Tired of feeling tired all of the time.
This was the moment I decided to make a change, and do something about it.
I started to cut back on my partying, eliminated junk food, decreased sugar, reduced my alcohol intake—and started to take cardio activities more seriously. Instead of focusing entirely on weights, I shifted my energy to running. I’ve always had an interest in running, which I suspect stems from my family. My dad was a runner during my childhood, and my brother (one of my biggest inspirations for running) had completed several marathons.
To start with, I would head out for a short jog-walk routine, and, over time, I moved up to about a 5K distance. Anyone that says running is easy at the beginning is lying, because it’s not. It was tough, and on many occasions, I thought about giving up. Luckily, all it took was a glimpse of one of my pictures from my party days that I had taped to my fridge, and my motivation was renewed. I stuck with it, and over time, it became easier.
One of the reasons I fell in love with running was the thrill of racing. After I completed my first 5K race, I experienced the feeling of post-race euphoria. Very few things in this world can compare to it, and I wish I could bottle that feeling!
I also discovered the benefits of group runs, particularly with the Running Room’s free weekly Run Club (first in Calgary, then here in Toronto where they were led by some outstanding people, Lisa Steel and Devon Liversidge). I also discovered RunTOBeer, a fun social running crew led by Dan Grant.
I highly recommend finding a running group, as it’s a great way to meet amazing people and help boost your running.
Running has definitely helped me physically (going from 250 pounds to 180), but most importantly, it has had a tremendous impact on my mental health. The more I run, the happier I am. My management role at the Running Room is a great fit for me because I can help new runners, give back to our incredible running community, and ultimately, promote my love of running to the world. If you’re going through difficult times, or you’re unhappy with the way you feel mentally and physically, I encourage you to embrace running. If you stick with it, it really will change your life.