Criss-cross applesauce everyone, it’s story time!
It’s the summer of 2010, and I’m a new vegetarian training for my second marathon. Obsessed with protein and iron levels, I stumble upon a (then) small oasis in a sea of meat-eaters … a blog called No Meat Athlete.
Fast forward a few months and I’m walking through my first DC VegFest. After being physically pushed by my girlfriend (now wife), I awkwardly approach a guy in a running carrot shirt and ask if he’s Matt Frazier. Here, picture this:
Me: “Umm, hello. Are you, uhh, Matt Frazier?”
Me: “The Matt Frazier?!”
Erin (Matt’s wife): *eye-roll*
Matt’s confirmation and the conversation that follows is as awkward as my approach, making it clear he’s not quite used to the fanfare he’s known to receive today (picture Justin Beiber level attention, and divide that by roughly 1,000,000).
But it’s that clumsy encounter that leads me to help organize the first No Meat Athlete Marathon Training Group in 2011, and ultimately alter the direction my life takes. Since 2011, I’ve played varying roles in this company, growing right along with the brand.
I’ve learned a lot in those four years. Practical information like:
- How to use Photoshop and edit a podcast,
- The difference between vegan and plant-based,
- Why I should never use phrases like “the meat of the story is…” in an email newsletter,
- And that Matt is only human like the rest of us.
But beyond that, my work with No Meat Athlete and the people I’ve gotten to know through it, have taught me a lot about healthy living, acceptance, community, and fear.
Allow me to explain …
What I’ve Learned from No Meat Athlete
Over the past several years, I’ve worn many hats in this company. Hats that have required me to spend time in the NMA email inbox each morning, interact with readers and listeners of the podcast throughout the day, and assist in interviewing some of the biggest names in health and fitness. I’m not going to lie, it has been a lot of fun.
And starting this week I’ll have the privilege of writing more frequently on this blog, and working directly with readers to shape the content — but more on that later.
As I transition into a new role at No Meat Athlete, I find myself reflecting back on my time here, and focusing in on three major lessons which I’d like to share with you today.
Let’s start with the first:
1. Extreme is relative
When I first go vegetarian while training for my second marathon, I’m certain it’s the most intense thing anyone has ever done. Marathons are extreme, vegetarianism is extreme. A vegetarian marathoner? Surely no one has ever survived such a feat.
Then, of course, I get to know other vegetarian distance runners, then vegan distance runners, then vegan triathletes, then vegan super athletes, and all of a sudden, my four-hour marathon fueled by cheesy pasta seems like no big deal.
With every “extreme” step I take — vegan, ultrarunner, and so forth — I discover new pockets of this amazing community who have already taken it to the next level before me. They’re a constant source of inspiration and knowledge, and more importantly, they provide a level of comfort that nothing I do is that extreme.
If someone else can do it, why can’t I?
I’ve learned that when something feels extreme now, through small steps and support it will almost certainly become just another change over time.
A 50K ultramarathon felt impossible until I ran a few marathons. Going vegan felt like climbing Everest, until I put a system in place and went for it.
Perception changes right along with you.
2. Comfort kills progress
There’s a secondary message behind No Meat Athlete that many new readers probably don’t realize. It has nothing to do with fitness or nutrition, but slides its way into as many posts and podcast episodes as not.
The whole foundation of No Meat Athlete as a blog and brand is built on this idea of trying something new to challenge yourself, better yourself, and achieve goals, and Matt still lives and breathes it today. I was never much into goal-setting, motivational speakers, or this idea of stepping out of your box until that spark was lit through working here.
Matt, not to embarrass you, buddy, but I owe many of my leaps of faith (quitting a secure job to be an entrepreneur, starting Rock Creek Runner, running my first ultramarathon, moving) to your inspiration. So thank you.
Ok, maybe I do want to embarrass him a little bit.
The people I’ve come in contact with through this job — the people within the vegan community, the people sharing their stories every day through comments and emails, and of course Matt — have proven to me that progress dies within the comfort zone.
That in order to be your best self and discover what you’re capable of, you have to be vulnerable, and sometimes push ‘too far.’
And when you do, you might not always be successful, but each try will bring you one step closer.
3. The community is here (and waiting for you)
Back when I thought I might be the first-ever vegetarian runner, it was lonely. It felt like I’d never get invited to another potluck and always be the weirdo in the running group.
When I discovered No Meat Athlete, it was as if I had just got invited to the party of the century. One I didn’t even know existed.
Every day since then I’m constantly surprised and overwhelmed by the scope of this welcoming community. We’re everywhere, folks, and the numbers are growing by the minute.
And the best part? We’re diverse.
We understand that different interests and approaches work for different people, and that we can unite behind our common principals, challenging each other to grow and understand the variations.
Like I mentioned above, one of my earlier hats involved monitoring the inbox for certain questions or issues. We receive countless emails from new vegetarians who, for the first time, find their place in this community and no longer feel alone.
I remember that feeling like it was yesterday, and I’m so grateful for the welcoming I still receive.
No Employment Necessary
I credit these lessons to my time working for No Meat Athlete, but here’s the thing:
NMA employment isn’t necessary.
What really happened is that this job forced me to open up and expose myself to this community, new challenges, and new ideas.
And you can do that on your own.
It all comes back to you, and when you open that door, there’s no telling what kind of crazy lessons you’ll learn.
Exciting Updates Within No Meat Athlete
As I hinted to earlier, things at NMA are changing right along with the seasons.
For starters, Esther has joined the team, who you may have met if you’ve sent us an email recently. And as Matt continues to grow the brand in other ways, I’m taking on a more active role in the blog itself, posting a monthly column and acting as Editor for more frequent posts from new contributors.
We’re also revamping the blog, first with new content, and soon with a beautiful new design. New blog and podcast posts will be published each week, and we’ll start incorporating more voices and topics than NMA ever has before.
To continue to make this site great, we’re looking to you. If you have content ideas or topics you’d like us to cover on No Meat Athlete, let us know anytime, either in the comments below or through email — [email protected]
This community will continue to shine as we adapt, push ourselves, and open up to new ideas, and Matt, I, and the team couldn’t be more excited about these new changes.
Here’s to the next of many more lessons.