THE UGLY DUCKLING SYNDROME
I recently returned to my running roots and while out on my morning run today I was struck by the thought of the time and effort I have expended in my life in a quest to be something I was not genetically programmed to be. We all know the story of the “Ugly Duckling” who struggled with being what he thought to be an ugly duck when in fact he was a beautiful swan trying to be something he could never be – a duck.
I have always had an obsession with strength and muscular size and from the time of ordering a Charles Atlas bodybuilding course as a pre-teen through to the present, I have spent endless hours in the gym in a quest to build a large, muscular body. As a boy, I carried the surname of my stepfather – Sadowsky. I remember how disappointed I was when the football coach said to me, “Sadowsky, you have the name for football – you just don’t have the body.” I guess a 6-foot tall kid weighing 115 pounds probably does not meet the physical requirements of any of the playing positions on a football team.
I knew that I could build myself up and worked out diligently with the weight set in my bedroom. I read all the muscle magazines and longed for the day that I would look like those depicted in the magazine. It just didn’t happen. Years later, as an adult, I used to workout for hours a day, but somehow I never achieved a fraction of what I saw in those with whom I worked out such as Jim Morris who went on to become the first black AAU Mr. America and ultimately Mr. Universe.
But let me back up to my younger days. I saw the advertisement for a track meet being held locally to discover new talent for the school track team. I happened to posses a beautiful track medal that my father had won as a boy and I thought I would give it a go. I ran very short mileage – probably a mile or so a day – for two weeks and entered the mile run basically with no training. I ran a 5:36 mile that day, and I discovered what I was genetically programmed to be – a runner! I went on to win three national running championships in three different events later in life.
I believe in dreaming big. I have achieved dreams that others scoffed at when I revealed them, but they were always dreams for which I was genetically equipped for success, mentally, physically and emotionally.
The lesson here is don’t try to be what you cannot be. Well, try if you must, but realize that you will never be a standout in that endeavor unless you are genetically programmed for success in that particular activity. You will never be a chess grandmaster if you do not have an innate ability for spacial reasoning, you will never be a 4 minute miler if you do not have the genetics to develop a high VO2max (the ability to consume oxygen), and as I found out, you will never be massively muscled and a strength athlete with an ectomorphic body equipped with 6 ½ inch wrists!
Find what you were meant to be and pursue it with all of your vigor! I, by the way, I have my sites set on breaking the 10 year old Florida state record in my age group (75-79) for the 1500 meter run at the state championship meet this year. I have the equipment to do it!