I completed my high school wrestling career as a senior in the 130lb weight class as a nearly 6′ tall bundle of knees and elbows. I spent my entire high school athletic career being as tall and skinny as possible — I competed freshman year at 119lbs.
When I stopped wrestling halfway through college at about 155lbs, I focused my attention on gaining weight. In my mind, I thought that if I could only reach 170lbs, I’d no longer be “tall and skinny.” I’d finally “get where I always wanted to be.”
So I started running away from myself. I worked exceptionally hard and in a few months topped the scale at 175lbs.
But the person in the mirror was still the same. Just a little thicker.
I was devastated. I had worked so hard, and when the end result didn’t live up to my expectations it was tough to swallow. But, ever the workhorse, I set a new target: 190lbs, and started running even faster towards that new goal.
Months and months later of intense, hard work and I reached my target weight.
Yet the same thing happened: it was still me in the mirror. Just thicker. Still gangly, still awkward. I was still me.
It wasn’t until I got back into combat sports, and specifically Muay Thai, that my perspective changed.
I was always too short for basketball, too slow for track, too skinny for football, too clumsy for soccer, and on and on and on. So when people would say things like “you are built for Muay Thai” I didn’t know how to respond. I had never been built for anything. I had spent my entire youth trying not to be myself, so hearing that I was just right where I was came as a shock.
Ironically, I spent most of my competitive combat sports career at 145 (MMA) and 147 (Muay Thai) pounds. A weight I never thought I’d see again.
But this time around, I realized that I was who I was. That trying to run away from myself only created discord, and that finally accepting and leveraging my unique attributes led to far greater success than the other approaches I had taken.
Here’s the thing: you are who you are. You can’t outrun yourself. The beauty of combat sports is that anyone can be successful, and any type of person can be “perfect” for it. Yes, being tall in striking has its advantages, but there are plenty of more compact athletes who do extremely well (and who are just as “perfectly built”).
You can’t be successful if you are constantly minimizing who you are.
While we all may start with specific aesthetic or quantitative goals, I truly believe you will best set yourself up for success by exploring and discovering all the different, cool ways you can use what is unique to you. After all, it’s not like you can outrun yourself!