We all carry the burden of feeling not enough.
All of us.
Once we lose connection to our worthiness and sense of enough, the striving for approval and belonging kicks in, and we long to find the reassurance that we are enough as we are, often in all the wrong places.
The experience of feeling different or othered is seared in our memories and held in our bodies and a protective cluster of beliefs and behaviors take root to protect us from experiencing this pain again.
But often the result of these inner protectors–like the inner critic or the imposter–leaves us feeling worse and further entrenched in feeling not enough.
And our bodies are often the default of where this shame is directed.
So often, conversations with others focusing on body critique, the food you eat or comparing to others become the norm, only perpetuating feelings of not enough in a vicious cycle.
While the burdens of shame and feeling not enough are universal, the way it reaches and can impact people is not. And my guest today brings in his experience of being a Black man in a larger body.
Martinus Evans is a proud fat marathon runner, author, certified running coach, and award-winning speaker who helps plus-sized people get active without the pressure of weight loss.
A native of Detroit MI, he’s the host of The 300 Pounds and Running Podcast, co-host of The Long Run with Martinus and Latoya Podcast, and founder of the Slow AF Run Club, an online community connecting slow runners around the globe. Slow AF was built to inspire, motivate, and educate. It celebrates the grit and grind of runners at “the back of the pack.”
Listen to the full episode to hear:
Learn more about Martinus:
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Scroll Down for The Full Episode Transcript:
Martinus Evans: There are so many things that I had to overcome just to be where I’m at right now that, you know, a doctor that I can crush like a can telling me that I’m fat and stupid is not gonna be the thing that’s gonna break me.
[Inspirational Intro Music]
Rebecca Ching: We all carry the burden of feeling not enough, all of us. Unaddressed, this burden of not enough can fester and infect how we see ourselves and the world around us. The burden of not enough impacts how we lead and our capacity for vulnerability. The burden of not enough dictates what we do with our time and our money, and the burden of not enough informs the way we care for our bodies and how we view what it means to be healthy and desirable.
Now, this burden is directly linked to shame which wreaks havoc on your confidence, on your boundaries and your sense of contentment. When you don't feel worthy, you delegate your worthiness outside of you. So you end up chasing your worthiness in all areas of your life, and no matter what you achieve or how much money is in the bank, it never leaves you feeling, well, enough.
I'm Rebecca Ching, and you're listening to The Unburdened Leader, the show that goes deep with leaders whose burdens have inspired their life's work. Our goal is to learn how they’ve addressed these burdens, how they rise from them and become better and more impactful leaders of themselves and others.
I suspect you’ve had a moment early in life when you were rejected for just being you. Now, usually this happens when you’re young, sadly, and most commonly, I should say, in school or in your family through experiences of humiliation, bullying, abuse, or neglect, just to name a few. These experiences rob you of the truth that your worthiness and enoughness is not something to be earned ever.
Fact: you are worthy. Fact: you are enough. Now, okay, I know these statements have been used as hashtags and put on beautiful Pinterest images at nauseum, but, y’all, I kinda get why. Once we lose connection to our worthiness and sense of enough, the striving for approval and belonging kicks in, and we long to find the reassurance that we are enough as we are, but, often, in all the wrong places.
Now, I think it’s important to note this experience varies depending on the identities you hold, and the more intersecting identities you have the deeper the rejection and pain can go. So I know for me as a straight, white, cis-gendered woman, much of the baggage and burdens I carry are connected to these identities I hold. So growing up in Minnesota in the ‘80s on a healthy diet of MTV, politics, and pop-culture riddled with mainstream misogyny, I received the messages early on about what was expected from me as a woman.
Now, my freckles and curly red hair were fodder for jokes and teasing as early as preschool, and as I grew up, my curvy body and five-foot-two frame were in stark contrast and deemed, by me, deeply flawed compared to the usually white, supermodel, svelte, tall, toned, but not too muscular physique me and my friends worshiped that we saw in the movies and music videos which we consumed on repeat. You know, I chastify my worth and enough by trying to change what I saw in the mirror. I bought special creams to try and make my freckles go away, these, like, anti-aging creams, and I’m admitting this to you, yes.
I added blonde highlights to my hair, but this was only after my brief Flock of Seagulls look, and I was doing Buns of Steel on repeat hoping I could flatten my butt which there’s not a lot of logic in that. Here’s a doozy, I willed myself to be 5’7”. I would tell my parents, “I’m gonna be 5’7”,” just because I decided to. My determination -- because being 5’2” just wasn't enough. I was always determined, yes, but I could not fight genetics. [Laughs] The mixed messages on female empowerment also left me seeing the female body as something to be consumed and objectified, feared and policed, instead of seen as enough no matter the reflection and image in the mirror.
Now, growing up and eventually studying the evolution and commodification of beauty and the beauty industrial complex along with the dangers and impacts of eating disorders, rape culture, and purity culture opened my eyes to some deep healing and awareness. Then becoming a parent only locked in my commitment to reject these ideals and speak against them only further, but I’ll be honest with you, they still sneak up and try to chip away at my enoughness even today. The experience of feeling different or othered is seared in our memories and held in our bodies, and a protective cluster of beliefs and behaviors take root to try and keep us from experiencing this pain again. But often, the result of these inner-protectors (like the inner-critic or the imposter experience that we all know too well) usually leave us feeling worse and further entrenched in feeling not enough, and our bodies are often the default of where this shame is directed. I’m hard-pressed to find people who are not struggling with not feeling healthy enough, skinny enough, attractive enough, strong enough, you get the idea.
So often even conversations with others are focusing on body critique or the food you eat or comparing others and it becomes the norm, again, only perpetuating feelings of not enough in a neverending vicious cycle.
Now, while the burdens of shame and feeling enough are universal, the way it reaches and can impact people is not, and my guest today brings in his experience of being Black in a larger body to this conversation. Martinus Evans is a multi-talented leader and entrepreneur. He’s a digital marketer, an author, a podcaster, a brand ambassador, a marathoner who busts stigma and stereotypes at every race he runs. He’s the founder of the blog 300 Pounds and Running, and the running community, Slow AF. Now, 300 Pounds and Running started as a lifestyle blog and has since grown into this amazing online resource for those in larger bodies or those who are slow runners to become their best selves. He’s been featured in magazines like Runner’s World and Shape magazine, in addition to other media outlets. He even has a book coming out soon too while gearing up for another very full marathon season.
Now, I want you to pay attention to the origin story behind why Martinus started the blog and his business 300 Pounds and Running. Listen to how Martinus uses his anger to inspire him but also how he keeps that anger from turning toxic, and notice how Martinus describes the impact of being in a larger body in our culture and what he challenges us to do in all the spaces we are in so we do not perpetuate body shame. Now, please welcome Martinus Evans to The Unburdened Leader podcast.
Martinus Evans: Rebecca, thank you for having me for the show.
Rebecca Ching: So I’d love to jump in and go deep which is what we do here on The Unburdened Leader, and there’s a quote from a Huffington Post article that you wrote, I believe, at the beginning of the year, and you said, “Other people’s perceptions of me damaged my psyche. I believed that being fat meant I was worthless. I felt like my thoughts, feelings, and emotions were invalid. I was fat, and it was my fault.”
I’d love for you to tell me about the first time you remember connecting your personal worth to the size of your body.
Martinus Evans: Oh, man. That’s a great question. You even talking about that quote has brought me back to, like, that day when I first found out I was fat. [Laughs] So for those who don't know, the story is that I was in first grade, and our teacher had us come to class and do this show and tell of things that you care for or that you love, and in first grade, I had this huge crush on this girl. While everybody was going up to the front of the class and talking about their family members, their pet, their favorite toy, I was like I’m going to profess my love to this girl in first grade. So I got up there, like, chest and head held high, and professed my love, in the first grade, to this girl, and her response was, “Ew! You can’t like me because your tittees are bigger than mine.” The whole class erupted, and the smile that I had on my face instantly went on to tears, and the kids used to call me “titty boy” growing up because of that thing, and it was that day when I found out I was fat. It was almost like the day that opened the floodgates to what my worth was and tying that to my body.
Before that day, I went into this world fearlessly, not a care in this world, not a self-consciousness in this world. Just me living life and just doing it to the best of my abilities. Then, after this day, everything changed. Me thinking about the clothes I wear to how I look to how I present myself, and it was all because -- it was like this secret that everyone knew except for me, and then when I found out the secret, I kinda conformed to these preconceived notions that fall in line with, you know, me being a fat guy.
Rebecca Ching: Hmm. How does weight stigma and just the stigma around being in a larger body continue to impact you?
Martinus Evans: Phew! We got longer than an hour?
Rebecca Ching: [Laughs] As long as you want, Martinus, as long as you want.
Martinus Evans: [Laughs] We’ve got three days worth. The way that it really impacts me is that it’s like all encompassing. It’s like the air around you. It’s the thing of when you go into a space -- so, for example, moving here to New York City -- it’s the recognization of, like, the space that you hold up in the subway and trying to minimize yourself as small as possible so you are not encroaching and encompassing on somebody else’s space. It’s the, you know, going to a big box store and buying toilet paper and tissue and toothpaste, and going into the men’s section and thinking hmm, I think I might want to buy something as well. Let me see what they have on the clearance rack and not having anything in my siz, and being told that things have to be special ordered or bought online when they have everybody else’s size, right?
It’s the lining up at the start of a race and, you know, someone sees my size and thinks, “Oh, good for you. You’re trying to lose weight. Good job for running this marathon,” and me looking at them and saying, “This is not my first. I’ve ran over 100 different races and 9 to 10+ marathons, and that look of shock on their face of, like, well, if you’ve ran that many races, why are you not smaller, right? It’s the just being physically active in my body and just trying to incorporate movement in my body and people not respecting it if I’m not doing it under the guise of losing weight.
Rebecca Ching: Mm.
Martinus Evans: That’s how being a plus size individual affects me and affects other individuals who are also plus size.
Rebecca Ching: Thank you for sharing that. I’m curious, you’re an entrepreneur and a business owner, who do you think this is an important issue, really understanding weight stigma and what leaders can do to keep their businesses and communities from colluding with the pervasiveness of weight stigma. Why is this an important issue?
Martinus Evans: Well, from an entrepreneurial side and just business stuff, we just want to talk brass, tax, and dollars, it makes sense to provide clothing for plus size individuals. If the data says that over 75% of The United States is quote unquote deemed “overweight” or “obese,” and stores and products are only catering to the 25%. There’s a whole 75% of The United States that they’re missing out on.
And so, I would say just from an economical standpoint, it makes financial sense for entrepreneurs, companies, and those of alike who are providing services to individuals who are straight sized to provide the same services, clothings and such to individuals who are plus size because, as much as I want to say it, we are the majority when it comes to this. So I would say those are the things that comes to mind.
Rebecca Ching: I want to take it even deeper, though, in terms of businesses and organizations creating cultures that push back on weight stigma instead of collude with it. What would you say to leaders and business owners on how they run their businesses and how they care for their staff, how they do community, what would you want them to keep in mind around this issue of weight stigma so they can cultivate -- they don't want other people to feel like you did in first grade or, at least, continue to perpetuate this sense that oh, there’s something wrong with you because of how you show up in the world.
Martinus Evans: [Sighs] I would say the most simplest thing, but it’s also this hard thing is the same way that individuals are mindful to ask someone about their pronouns, right?
Rebecca Ching: Mm-hmm.
Martinus Evans: It’s the same care and thoughtfulness that you should have to a person of size, period.
Rebecca Ching: That seems so obvious, and yet, we’re in a culture that sets us up to be at war with our bodies and, in fact, just you talked about the economics around clothing, there is billions upon billions of dollar spent every year on weight loss products, services, and supplements every year, enough for the economy of a small country.
Martinus Evans: Mm-hmm.
Rebecca Ching: So there’s still this focus on the messaging of this is wrong, this is bad. So yeah, I think, to even -- we’re recording this at the end of the year, and there’s holiday parties. This is also the pinnacle of everyone talking about their plans to change their bodies, you know, in the new year, and often, there will be, like, group workout weight loss plans, or companies are now charging more for health insurance depending on your BMI. There’s a lot of these things that are really not welcoming and not inclusive. What would you want to say to those who are in a position to push back on some of these things?
Martinus Evans: Um… so… [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: [Laughs]
Martinus Evans: [Laughs] Oh, I had to stop myself, Rebecca.
Rebecca Ching: Why! Don’t stop. Don’t stop! [Laughs]
Martinus Evans: [Laughs] I felt a rant coming on. [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: I want the rant.
Martinus Evans: [Laughs] I felt a rant coming on because especially when you start talking about BMI and how that’s a pain point.
Rebecca Ching: Oh, yeah.
Martinus Evans: How that’s even a made up thing, right?
Rebecca Ching: Yep.
Martinus Evans: And how that was made up for Eugenics, and how that was only made up to have this thing of the perfect human being and so on and so forth, and even how the creator of this said that he did not expect this to even be a standard when it comes to focusing on health, but when you think about a science and how cheap the BMI is, like, you know, how cheaply it is just to get somebody’s height and weight, and then this just becomes the golden standard in science is bullshit. So I think just starting there, right? Then, the next thing is also correlating the thing of health, right?
And how there are factors that we can call comorbidities or other types of factors and weight is just one of those factors, but it’s not the end all be all to --
Rebecca Ching: Exactly.
Martinus Evans: -- to health, right? You know, we don't talk about how physical activity has so many other benefits to your life and your body, right? it reduces anxiety and stress, it helps with your A1Cs, it lowers your blood pressure, but instead, we only focus on weight loss. The thing is, you know, when it comes to modern day marketing, yeah, that stuff is not sexy, but it’s the truth. Like, yeah, exercise to just be healthy overall, if that was the end all be all, I don't think it would be as sexy as, like, lose weight, gain confidence, and change your life, you know, get that significant, and all these other things that are things that, nine times out of ten, won't happen. Then, if you go on this whole other thing about just weight and the whole notion of adiposity rebound, and how most people who go on a diet, at least 99% of them, they gain that weight back if not more.
Rebecca Ching: More too, yeah.
Martinus Evans: So I think the system itself is just all screwed up, and I think, you know, we need to control, alt, delete and throw that bad boy in the trash because it’s a notion that was there and has brung in tons of billions in dollars to industries, and it’s something that’s off our deepest desires. They're preying on us.
Rebecca Ching: Yes.
Martinus Evans: I think that’s the hard part to say. You know, when you say what do you want to say to those individuals, I want to say, like, everything that you heard about weight is false.
[Laughs] For the most part, a larger individual is not lazy, they’re not slobs, they don't eat up everything that’s on the table. It just might be genetics. There are so many other factors when it comes to weight that diet and exercise is only, like -- I wanna say is it, 20%?
Rebecca Ching: Mm-hmm.
Martinus Evans: But we never talk about any of the other factors. I can go on for days, and so, that’s to say I’m trying not to go on a rant because, like, it’s a thing of, like, there are so many fires to happen when it comes to weight, weight bias, body positivity, body acceptance, that, you know, one concise sentence won’t solve it all, but there are so many other issues at play that we really need to think of -- or really take a step back and see what our own insecurities are about weight and weight bias and somebody being plus size. Focus on yourselves first, to really figure out what that is, and then think about the whole notion of what you thought about this, throw it out in the trash, and unlearn it.
That’s why, you know, the whole statement that I made of, like, the notion and the thoughtfulness that we are going and this age of asking people what are their pronouns, how they want to be addressed, it’s the same way we need to think about the thoughtfulness when it comes to, like, weight bias and some of the things that may first come to your mind when you see a plus size person and those preconceived notions, and just saying stop, hold up, like, who is the person actually is? Versus oh, this person’s fat or plus size so they’re lazy, they eat up everything, they're worthless, they're all these other things in comparison to somebody who’s straight sized.
Rebecca Ching: Thank you for that, and I just am grateful for what you shared. You’re right, the BMI is a marketing tool, and, in fact, it’s making us sicker on how it’s used, and it’s weaponized. I really appreciate the message to those listening that we need to do the YOU-turn, a Y-O-U turn, and get clear on our own biases around weight and size and really think about how we’re colluding and supporting, hurting and harming humans, that there is a human there. Then, I guess for me, too, it’s even what are we watching, what are we reading, who are we listening to that’s supporting those biases versus expanding that. Our definition of health, it’s so narrow, and it’s been weaponized, and people have made so much money in a way that really is doing such immense harm, so I really appreciate you adding to that conversation.
Martinus Evans: Yes, and, you know, thinking about that, there was an agent that I met with, I don't know, it’s been about two years ago, and I was telling him about my story and what I’m trying to do because, you know, I was trying to get representation, and he was like, “Yeah, I don't think we’d be a good fit.” I was like why, and he was like, “Because you understand the truth about weight and weight loss, and since you know that, you're not gonna promote the stuff that i can get for you.” The conversation went on like, “Well, if you ever decide to do a weight loss journey again or want to get on a weight loss kick, hit me up because --
Rebecca Ching: Ugh, yeah.
Martinus Evans: -- you’ll be a millionaire. You’ll be a millionaire instantly. But, like, what you’re doing now, that’s not profitable to me.”
Rebecca Ching: Oof. What you're doing now is not profitable. So that’s a good segway to my next question, Martinus. So you have a business called 300 Pounds and Running, and you've talked a lot about this. It can be traced back to feedback you received in a doctor’s office while caring for some recurring pain.
I’d love for you to walk us through what happened during that doctor’s appointment and how the resulting anger and humiliation spurred the beginning of your company.
Martinus Evans: Yeah, so listeners, close your eyes. Listen to this buttery baritone voice.
Rebecca Ching: [Laughs]
Martinus Evans: I want to take you back to 2012, and I’m working at Men’s Warehouse. You know that commercial, “You’re gonna like the way you look, I guarantee it.” That’s where I worked. Working commission sales on my feet, eight to ten, sometimes twelve, hours a day, selling suits to your husband, your brother, your cousins, whoever would come into that store. Me selling suits. So I’m on my feet, like I said, 10 plus, 12 plus hours a day. One day I walked into the threshold of Men’s Warehouse, and I felt this sharp pain in my hip which led me to go to a doctor which led me to go to another doctor who changed my life, and I’m sitting in the doctor’s office, and he comes in and this guy is, you know, maybe 5’5”, 125 pounds soaking wet, very thick accent. He says, “Mr. Evans, I know why you're in pain.” Before that, you know, I was telling him, “Yeah, you know, I play football, I work at Men’s Warehouse. You know, maybe this is an old football injury,” and things of that sort, right? He’s like, “I know why you're in pain.” I’m like, “What, like, we gonna go get an X-ray or an MRI? Do I need a hip replacement? Any of this stuff.” He’s like, “You're fat,” and I was like, “What?” He’s like, “You’re fat,” and then he goes on this whole tangent of, like, “You're fat. You've got two options. You need to lose weight or you're gonna die. You’re a heart attack waiting to happen. You have the belly of a pregnant woman.” Just going on all of these end saws.
Rebecca Ching: Oof.
Martinus Evans: I’m the type of guy, like, you know, I’m fun-loving but you're just not gonna talk to me any type of way. So, you know, sarcastically, I say to him, “Yeah, like, I hear all that stuff you're saying, but, you know, if I’m fit enough to run a marathon, I’m gonna run a marathon,” and he just busts out laughing. He’s like, “You run a marathon?” That was the most stupidest thing I ever heard in my life, and so now you're calling me fat and stupid. What else do you have? We just continued to have this huge argument. We were just going back and forth, to the point where I just stormed out the doctor’s office.
So as I am driving home, you know, I’m ruminating about this conversation and I’m thinking to myself I still haven't figured out what the hell is going on with my hip, but I drive past this running shoe store, and I made a U-turn, and I went into the store and said, “I need running shoes, and I need them now.” Because I’m like, I’m gonna run this marathon today. I don't know what I was thinking, but I was like I’m gonna run through this marathon today!
So I get the running shoes, I go to the little fitness center in my apartment complex, I get on the treadmill, and I’m sandwiched between two people that I like to call gazelles. There’s, like, one person who’s running a ten on the treadmill, and the other person on the other side was running, like, a nine point five. So, you know, if you've ever been on a treadmill, you hear somebody stomping but they're, like, running fast -- I’m sandwiched in between these two individuals. And so, I’m on this treadmill, and I’m straddling the belt, and I’m thinking to myself, I don't know how fast I need to go. So that’s when I looked to the left and I seen the guy was going nine point five, I look to the right and see the guy who’s going ten, and I’m like seven sounds like a good number. Like, if they're doing that, I know I can do a seven. So I get on the treadmill, and I hit seven, and the belt is running in between my legs, and I get on the treadmill, and I instantly lost my breath.
I just felt like the treadmill was rejecting me or my body was rejecting the treadmill. I couldn't figure it out, and as I’m on the treadmill and I’m like all right, I need to beat this, I put my hand out to hit pause or the stop button and I hesitated. In that moment of hesitation, my feet left the treadmill, and my shoulder hit the treadmill belt.
Rebecca Ching: Oh.
Martinus Evans: I fell. So now, I’m trying to get up, I’m trying to not make a scene, and I’m hoping these two gazelles next to me won’t say anything. I grabbed my stuff, the guy was like, “Hey, are you all right?” I’m like, “Yeah, I just lost some balance.” I get my phone out of the little cup holder, and I looked at the screen, and it was only 30 seconds. So I am devastated. As I’m walking home with tears in my eyes, I reached out to the door with my right hand, I have this tattoo on my wrist, and it says, “No struggle, no progress.”
Rebecca Ching: Oh, wow.
Martinus Evans: That’s when it hit me. I was like okay. All right, universe. This is what we doin’. So the next day I went back on the treadmill and tried it again, and again, and again, and eventually, one day I was able to run for a minute straight. I kept going. You know, five minutes straight. Minutes turned to miles, and then 18 months after that whole experience (October 2013) I ran my first marathon in Detroit. I ran The Detroit Marathon.
So that was the culmination of my origin story, and during that whole process, I remember talking to my girlfriend at the time (who’s now my wife) of, like, “I think I’m gonna write a blog. I think that’s what people do these days. I don't know.
I think I’m just gonna write about my experience,” and she was like, “Yeah! You should do that.” I remember being like, “I’m gonna call it 300 Pounds and Running.” I was like, “I like that.”
I started to write this blog, and at first, it was just my mom, my girlfriend, and a couple friends who was reading it, and then as I continued to share my journey and talk about my experiences of running as a 300-pound plus man. I just started to get more attention and notoriety of this thing, and it kind of just grew from there. That was, what, ten years ago?
So what you see now where I’m an Adidas athlete, I’m currently finishing up my first book that’s gonna be published next year. I also am the founder of Slow AF Run Club that has over eight thousand other slow runners. So many things that just came from this one experience of the doctor calling me fat and me taking that spite and that anger and literally turning shit into sugar.
Rebecca Ching: Okay, so you get shamed and humiliated by your provider.
Martinus Evans: Mm-hmm.
Rebecca Ching: And you take that and go buy running shoes that same day?
Martinus Evans: Yes.
Rebecca Ching: And shortly after, you start a blog documenting that, where he thought you running was the stupidest thing ever.
Martinus Evans: Yes.
Rebecca Ching: So is this reflective of your personality of how you approach life’s challenges, or what is out of character?
Martinus Evans: This is my personality. You tell Martinus that he can’t do something, Martinus is gonna find a million ways why he can. It just came from growing up and the adversity I had to take throughout my life, you know? I grew up in Detroit, Michigan, you know, on the eastside of Detroit. Before the age of ten I had two brothers who was already passed.
I had a brother who died by suicide, but I also had a brother who was killed. Next door was a crack house. So, like, there’s so many things that I had to overcome just to be where I am right now that a doctor that I can crush like a can telling me that I’m fat and stupid is not gonna be the thing that’s gonna break me.
Rebecca Ching: I’m curious, too -- social scientist Brené Brown writes and talks about anger as a powerful catalyst but a horrible, even toxic, companion. So the anger was a catalyst for you, I hear that.
Martinus Evans: Mm-hmm.
Rebecca Ching: What’s your relationship with anger today, and how is it serving as a continued catalyst, and where may it still be toxic for you?
Martinus Evans: Oh, that’s an interesting question. Well, I think what years of therapy has helped -- [Laughs] it has helped with the anger, but one of the things that I do use it for these days as a thing of, like, how can I pump myself up. If I’m feeling discouraged, if I’m going through a place where I may not be feeling the most motivated to do something, I do use anger or the notion of, I don't know, fake anger to, like, pump myself up to do the thing I need to do. I think of it like Michael Jordan and the whole last dance and how he had this running list of people who had ever done him wrong. It can be like that person looked at me wrong, and I’m gonna use that as motivation to do what I need to do. it’s the same thing, right? You know, taking some of those inner voices or things that people have said to me and, like, just ruminating just for a second, just so I can get something to click in my head to be like oh, I need to do this.
Like, oh, this is gonna be done. For example, I’m writing a book, 70,000 words from the Penguin Random House as a debut author. It’s been many times, you know, being in undergrad or, like, grad school where people, professors, have told me that I’m a horrible writer and I’ll never make it in grad school and just taking those words and fueling me to write this book to be like, “Hi, you told me I’ll never become nothin’ or amount to anything, and look at me write this book.”
That can be toxic because if you're not able to release that and move on to life, that’s where it can become toxic, and I think that’s where, for me, therapy has come into place to be like all right, yes, I’m doing this and I might be considered high-achieving, but I still need to let that go to be able to live life. For example, I’m currently reading Will Smith’s book, and it resonates to me so much. He was telling a story about how -- I can't remember what the number was -- but it ended with an eight. His movie, let’s just say it ended up being, like, 28 million dollars or whatever at box office release. Him talking to his agents like, “So why do you not think we didn't make 30?” His agent’s like, “Yo, this is the -- we’ve literally made history. This is the most grossing movie ever and you're asking why we didn't get to this even number of 30 million? Like I said, it might be more than that, but that whole notion of that, and I think that’s the same thing when it comes to me and, like, this anger and using that to fuel myself.
Instead of like all right, once I get started to the thing I need to do, I need to realize that it’s not real anymore, and I need to be able to move on from it in order to, like, live a happy and healthy life. [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: Yeah, yeah, and it is a tricky one, right, ‘cause it is such a powerful catalyst, but it can be insidious and also keep us hooked to the people that don’t deserve our time and our energy or even care about our wellbeing.
Martinus Evans: Yes.
Rebecca Ching: And so, it’s such an important thing to keep in check, and I really appreciate that because we all have our lists, right? We all have a list of, like, I’ll show you, but then if we arrive at that place and you're like oh, it was just to prove them wrong, it feels empty. It has to be something more, right? It has to be something more.
Martinus Evans: And that’s the thing, right? ‘Cause a lot of people always ask me, like, “You know, when you ran that marathon, did you go back to that doctor and shove it in his face --
Rebecca Ching: [Laughs]
Martinus Evans: -- And tell him screw you, man,” and, you know, my answer shocks them. “No, at this point, it’s been ten years. Like, yeah, there had been times where I’d think about trying to find this doctor but, like, it’s not what drives me anymore. It’s not what really fuels me, and I just think it would be a zero sum game to come back years later and be like, “Ha! You told me I was fat and dumb. Here’s this race medal and all the race medals.” This guy has moved on with life. I moved on with life. There’s no point to do that, right? I did find some of the emptiness when I ran my first marathon.
From that day when I came into that doctor until the 18 months afterwards when I ran this first marathon, it was all to have something to prove. I’m not fat and I’m not dumb or, like, you know, those things to run that marathon, cross the finish line and instantly become sad.
I was sad. This was to the point where I was like I don't know if I’m even gonna run anymore.
Rebecca Ching: That’s more than sad.
Martinus Evans: Yeah.
Rebecca Ching: What else was going on? Was it grief?
Martinus Evans: Grief, depression, I think all of those things, right? There’s a word coined for it, I think it’s called a post-race blues or marathon blues.
Rebecca Ching: [Laughs] Yes. Yeah, yeah.
Martinus Evans: But, like, I experienced that, and I have never experienced that in my life. Of course, it took me a couple months to get over that or to grieve and go through that process, but after that, I was a year and a half past meeting that doctor. I found other doctors and people who would want to support me that, at that point, I was like this is not sustainable. I need to find a new way.
Rebecca Ching: It’s not sustainable, yeah. It's so interesting when you work so hard to achieve something, but even that -- even races have to be connected to something bigger for you. Well, let me just shift to my other question because I feel like this is part of it because you mentioned the running club you started, Slow AF.
Martinus Evans: Mm-hmm.
Rebecca Ching: I love how you talk about this on your website, right? “It’s for the runners and the walkers in the back.” I’m like, Yes! You celebrated it. Instead of it having to be a thing of shame to shrink from, it’s something to celebrate.
Martinus Evans: Yes.
Rebecca Ching: I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit about some of the biggest challenges in setting up or starting your company 300 Pounds and Running and this community for runners, Slow AF. What are some of the biggest challenges with starting your business in that community?
Martinus Evans: Oh, man. I would say one of the biggest challenges is myself. [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: [Laughs] Tell me more or what do you mean?
Martinus Evans: You can be your own enemy and your best cheerleader ever.
Rebecca Ching: True. [Laughs] Gosh.
Martinus Evans: As I’m writing this blog, right, it’s a thing of writing, and some of those notions that have fueled me like, you know, professors telling me I’m a horrible writer and things of that sort, you know, this is where if you don't keep those voices in check, they can sneak in and start to penetrate your mind, and you start to believe those things. I would say that that’s one of the things like self-sabotage, right? You know, when people think about business or running or, I hate to say even weight loss, everybody’s like well, what’s the quickest way to get to this thing that I need to do so I can be done. What’s the quickest way to get to a million dollars? It’s like oh, all you need to do is buy these products and then sell them. Then, the next thing you know, you look up and you run a multi-level marketing scheme or something. [Laughs] But I think the same thing can be said with starting a business is that we are all trying to get to the destination instead of, you know, going through the processes and the journey to get there. I think when it came to Slow AF and 300 Pounds Running, those are the things that came to mind.
For example, I remember I’ve changed my pricing model, I don't know, at least five, six times in Slow AF. At first, when it first happened, I just beat myself up about it like ah, I’m changing this pricing model. I didn't get it right this time. What am I gonna do? And then, it was the whole thing of, like, to me, being like all right, Martinus, we need to think about this as a marathon. It’s about consistently showing up and knowing that every training practice or every campaign is not gonna be the best campaign, but it’s more about the sum over the course of time, right?
I came up with this notion of thinking about these things or these actions that I’m doing as, like, coins into a jar or cup that help to accumulate to the sum of the whole thing. So all right, I changed my pricing structure. All right, that’s another coin to the jar. I learned that this pricing structure or model wasn't the best. Then I changed it again, then again. [Laughs] But, you know, it’s one of the things now where, at first, when I was a bit shamed about it, it’s more of, now, a thing of something to be proud of. It’s the thing of constantly learning as well as constantly trying to figure out what is the way that suits me in order to get to the end, and truthfully, the members of it really enjoy it on how vulnerable I am with the process and how open I am with the process, whereas I think other people when they make mistakes, they try to move past it as quickly as possible. Like oh, I made that mistake. Let’s just erase this, whereas, when it comes to the members in the Slow AF Run Club, you know, the whole example about the pricing structures, it’s something that has drawn them even more closer to me as the leader of this club because they understand that I’m being vulnerable and that they also get to see the veil pulled back, right? It's almost like The Wizard of Oz. When people get to Oz and there was this whole build up, and then you go back and it’s just like oh, he’s just, like, on a bike and making noises and things of that sort, when you pull those things back and be able to talk to the members like they're actual humans to say, “Hey, I’m human. We’re all learning this together. Let’s think of this as a journey of figuring this all out together to make this the best thing we want to be,” versus me keeping the veil closed and, like, making these decisions and mistakes and then, like, trying to erase them and then feel shame about them silently.
Rebecca Ching: That’s really powerful. So I’m hearing owning the learnings but not having the learnings define you and the power of vulnerability in the process of your learning. I’m wondering if there’s anything else that 300 Pounds and Running and Slow AF, like, running and leading those have taught you about leadership and leading not just a business but, really, a movement.
Martinus Evans: I think one of the things it really taught me that people will -- if you come to correct and you come to them in a way that’s whole-heartedly genuine, they will go here to the moon with you, and, for me, that’s leadership and that’s the way I like to serve my individuals and my followers and fans and whatever they want to call themselves. It’s just being completely genuine with who I am and being genuine to them, right?
So I think about this process of me writing this book, and there was maybe a three week span where I stopped talking about running and just fitness in general, and it was all about my book. Eventually, I pulled a double and said hold up, are y’all enjoying this book writing marathon that I’m talking about, here? Do you want me to continue to talk about this or do you want me just to go back to fitness? I did a poll, and when 95% of the people was like no, this is a part of you and this is a part of the journey, and I enjoy hearing this.
It just gives me more insight to who you are as a person. Keep talking about it.
Rebecca Ching: So what stands out to me there, too, is even being open for feedback and to check things with those that you're leading and supporting and serving and saying, “Is this working for you,” and being open to that, not like, “I have to stay the course and this is me, take it or leave it,” or “I’ve gotta be whoever you want me to be,” it’s almost this co-creation of this space that you're making. I love it.
Martinus Evans: Yes.
Rebecca Ching: I love it. How are you taking care of yourself personally since so much of the work that you do is inspired by the burdens that you’ve carried from your own personal story?
Martinus Evans: Phew, therapy. [Laughs] Therapy is one, and another thing is -- boundaries is another.
Rebecca Ching: Ooh. Tell me more.
Martinus Evans: When I think about that it’s like when you think about most of these influencers or other people who use social media to, like, run their business, it’s all encompassing. You know their wife’s name. You know their kid’s name. You know all about their family. For me, I decided to put out boundaries and cut out a part of my life to say all right, you all will get this part, but there are other parts you won't be able to get. For example, for a very long time [Laughs] people thought I was single. [Laughs] ‘Cause it’s like we’ve never seen your wife and you never talked about her, and occasionally I talk about her. Or we’ve never seen her on social media on your page. It’s like well, that’s just a part of me that you all won’t be able to get, and those boundaries go on into other parts of my life, right? There’s a point in the day when my day starts. There’s a point in my day where my day stops. There’s a point in my day where it’s left to family time -- you know, hanging out with my dog, chillin’ out with my wife, and doing things that fill me up.
For example, massages. I just found an amazing massage therapist, and now every week I’m getting a massage, right? Just doing things that also fills me up. Talking with friends, right? Since I am busy, one of the things that I also have done is, and so I don’t want to lose connection with my friends is okay, let’s make running meetings.
Rebecca Ching: That’s awesome. Thank you for sharing all of that, and I want to circle back to the boundaries piece because it’s something that people talk a lot about, but boundaries are hard to really concretize for you, personally, and also hard to maintain -- I think even harder to maintain. It’s one thing to set a boundary, and it’s harder to maintain.
What supports you setting and maintaining these boundaries of keeping some things -- you’ll share the personal, but there’s some things that are just private. I hear that loud and clear. You're taking care of your relational life and your physical body, your mental well-being. I hear all those things. What helps you respect your own boundaries and maintain those, and what still might get in the way of maybe you betraying your own boundaries?
Martinus Evans: Phew, well, let’s start off with the things that may betray my own boundaries because I think that’s a little bit easier. The thing that may betray my own boundaries is the insatiable desire for success.
Rebecca Ching: Oh, gosh.
Martinus Evans: And what that means. Like, is it the money? Is it the nice cars, the house? Like, whatever that success means. So that’s the first thing that definitely can get in the way because definitely there are times where -- nine times today I was talking to my program manager and me being like, “I feel like I’m just not doing enough.”
The next thing after that was, “I think I’m gonna have to delete email, calendar, and all social media from my phone.” That was the first thing that came to my mind of, like, I don't know if I’m doing enough. Like, should I be doing more?
Rebecca Ching: Mm-hmm.
Martinus Evans: And what would that even look like? Then in the next breath, you know, pause myself to be like oh, I need to get off of social media and email. So that is definitely one thing that can get in the way is that insatiable desire that we all -- or most of us have that insatiable desire of it don't matter what we are doing, it isn't enough.
Rebecca Ching: It’s like the shadow side of that drive that got you where you are today.
Martinus Evans: Yes.
Rebecca Ching: Oh, my gosh. It’s keeping a short list with it.
Martinus Evans: Yes, and it’s that thing of, like, having your -- I like to call them my board, my personal board. having people that I talk to on a consistent basis that I can bounce these ideas off of and have a sanity check. So talking to my program manager and saying that and me being like, “Oh, I’m gonna get off of email,” and her be like, “Yeah, you’re doing what you love. This is enough. Yes, let’s get you off of social media and email and, you know, I’ll take these over for the next couple weeks,” right? Or talking to my wife and, you know, bouncing ideas off of her or, you know, some of my friends to bounce some ideas off of them in order to A, stay grounded and have that sanity check. You’re a dog owner as well, so I think for myself, the most grounding thing that reminds me not to get this stuff to my head is the morning walks or the night walks where I take my dog.
Rebecca Ching: So true.
Martinus Evans: There’s nothing more humbling than picking up dog poop with a plastic bag.
Rebecca Ching: [Laughs] True story. Yes. [Laughs] You’re right, and it’s just the rhythm of those walks too. So you talk about success.
Martinus Evans: Mm-hmm.
Rebecca Ching: How has your definition of success changed for you, then?
Martinus Evans: It’s an ever-evolving thing, right?
Rebecca Ching: Mm-hmm.
Martinus Evans: I think, for me, at first, success when I started this blog was like oh, I need to get into a magazine. I need to get into Runner’s World, and then I got there and I was like okay. I succeeded to that, but that didn't fill me up. That’s where the insatiable thing come in. It really took for me to go to therapy and talk to my therapist and process what is this drive, where does this come from, and what are you trying to serve, and what do you really want to get out of this, right? What we came up with is success is not necessarily a destination; Success is living it. So everyday in life you could be living success versus getting to that thing or that number because we know, by having an insatiable drive, that once we get to that number or close to that number, it would never be enough, but changing that to all right, I’ll live in success every day. The fact that I’m able to do things that I love and enjoy is success to me now.
Rebecca Ching: That’s powerful. Is this what you thought you’d be doing with your life?
Martinus Evans: No, not at all. Before all this, I was literally -- like I said, I was in grad school and I was literally -- I got into a PhD program for public health.
Rebecca Ching: Ah.
Martinus Evans: And I was supposed to start one year, and then I asked for an extension ‘cause, you know, some life things were happening and I asked for an extension. During those life things and during talking through therapy, I remember talking to my therapist and being like, “You know, I thought I wanted a PhD because all my other friends had a PhD and I felt like I needed to live up to that success, but what I really like or enjoy is running marathons. If I could do anything, if I could run races, talk to people, and make a living along the way, I would enjoy that life immensely,” and her be like, “Well what’s stopping you?” And me, that light turning on of well, I thought I needed to get a PhD because, like, that’s what all my other friends were doing. That was an aspiration to be a professor and, like, be a tenure professor and, like, be in academia and pontificate and doing all those other things. Me being like that didn't bring me any joy, I felt like a little piece of me died as I was, like, writing scientific articles.
Rebecca Ching: Wow, that’s some data right there.
Martinus Evans: [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: You mentioned in therapy you were rumbling with what was really driving you as you were differentiating, really, what success was for you. Have you gotten clarity on what some of those drivers were that take you away from your values and honoring your boundaries?
Martinus Evans: Sort of. You know, we’ve come up with, like, a personality for this, this person, this part of me --
Rebecca Ching: Oh, yeah? This part of you? Yeah, yeah.
Martinus Evans: -- that gets in the driver’s seat, right? Knowing that, you know, this part of me was needed to help me get through some of the traumatic experiences that I had to get through growing up in Detroit.
Rebecca Ching: Yeah.
Martinus Evans: And, you know, realizing where I’m at now that part of me doesn't serve me as much as the part of me that I want to be now and the part of me that I’m striving and currently going to and the part of me that I value. And so, it’s a constant battle -- I don't want to say battle, but it’s like a constant reminder of, you know, pulling myself back and having some mindfulness around who’s in the driver’s seat and constantly asking myself who’s in charge.
Rebecca Ching: Mm-hmm. That’s a powerful question, isn't it? It’s such an essential one. Gosh, thank you for naming that. So I’m curious. When you cross the finish line of each race, what is the first thing that you say or do?
Martinus Evans: I’m usually looking for, like, some carrot cake.
Rebecca Ching: [Laughs] Where’s the carrot cake?
Martinus Evans: Where’s the carrot cake? But one of the things that I have started to do is put together this ritual. Like okay, I’m done. Then we take some pictures. Let me stay nearby and cheer on some other people who finished after me, and then I usually go into a recovery routine. A ritual, as I like to call it, where I’m rehydrating, refueling, recovering. So drinking water or electrolytes, eating, it’s usually carrot cake ‘cause, you know, my wife and I have a planned out -- like, all right, here’s the bakery.
We’re getting some carrot cake or we already have carrot cake done.
Rebecca Ching: [Laughs]
Martinus Evans: Then the other part is just resting, just overall resting. So putting on the recovery boots, sitting up, and reflecting about the race, right? I talk to my wife about the race, like, if there was something interesting that happened or a very tough part of the race. Those are the things that we do when we talk about it, right? So for example, I recently just ran Boston Marathon, and it was a tough race, 75 degrees, 88% humidity which is --
Rebecca Ching: Ooh… that’s rough.
Martinus Evans: It was a rough start to the race, and the race was so humid throughout that whole race that I ran out of electrolytes. I ran out of the stuff that I had and I’m using the gatorade and things of that sort, but that wasn't enough. I remember telling my wife I had to go to the medical tents and get, like, bone broth from them because the amount of salt that was alongside of my face.
Rebecca Ching: Oh, my goodness.
Martinus Evans: And, like, telling her this story, it’s like, “Wow, I wouldn't think you’d have to go through that, so what did you do?” I was like, “Well, every medical tent I seen, I stopped and I got some broth.” She was like, “Well, what if they didn't have broth?” I was like, “It’s funny that you asked, because one of the tents didn't have broth, so they gave me a cup of water and two Bouillon cubes and told me to stick a bouillon cube in the back of my jaw and sip on this water. It was the most saltiest thing that I ever had in my life. We laughed about it. We joked about it, but, you know, it’s now the fact of being able to share those tough parts of a race or experience in a journey and be able to -- like, it wasn't funny then, but I can sit back and laugh on it.
Like, who would have thought that, you know, I would need to, like, suck on a bouillon cube to, like, continue this race, but I did.
Rebecca Ching: Is that gonna make it into the book? The bouillon cube story?
Martinus Evans: It might. I’m trying to figure out where I wanna put that now.
Rebecca Ching: [Laughs] That’s a good one. When is your next race?
Martinus Evans: That’s interesting. I just found out I got into The New York City Half, so that’s --
Rebecca Ching: Oof, congratulations!
Martinus Evans: Thank you. So that’s in March, and then back to back I found out I got into The Chicago Marathon. I believe that’s in October.
Rebecca Ching: Wow, and New York really comes out for these races.
Martinus Evans: Yeah.
Rebecca Ching: Okay, I’ve got some quick-fire questions for you, Martinus.
Martinus Evans: Okay, okay.
Rebecca Ching: I know you're writing a book, but what are you reading right now?
Martinus Evans: Will by Will Smith.
Rebecca Ching: What is your favorite quote or a mantra you say a lot?
Martinus Evans: Just keep moving.
Rebecca Ching: [Laughs] What song is on repeat for you these days?
Martinus Evans: Oh, my god, there’s so many of them. I would say “‘Till I Collapse” from Eminem is.
Rebecca Ching: [Laughs] I just love that you have Eminem. What is an unpopular opinion that you hold?
Martinus Evans: Sugar belongs in grits.
Rebecca Ching: Sugar belongs in grits.
Martinus Evans: Yes.
Rebecca Ching: Okay, and who inspires you to be a better leader and human?
Martinus Evans: My future self.
Rebecca Ching: Mm, wow, that’s a word. Martinus, this was a pleasure. Thank you so much for taking time from writing your book to join me on The Unburdened Leader podcast today. I got so much out of it, and I know those that are listening are gonna have a full heart from listening to you share your story and your heart, so thank you so much.
Martinus Evans: Thank you for having me.
Rebecca Ching: We absorb, at an early age, the messages of what it means to be enough from culture, from our family, and we learned early in our school experiences that being different was dangerous and value was based on a set of behaviors and looks that excluded many of us.
It was also a prime space where we learned to perform and fit in, to feel enough, knowing punishment and alienation were the risks of not meeting these standards. Now, these experiences leave us with the burden of shame and then shape how we show up in all aspects of life. The burdens of shame and humiliation also leave us with beliefs that we’re not worthy, that we’re not enough, and they rob us of the truth that our worthiness is never up for negotiation and is never something to be earned. When hooked by these burdens, nothing feels enough no matter how hard you work or what you achieve. And so, when you end up delegating your worth, you end up chasing your enough through relentless hustling and proving. Now, unaddressed, you end up chasing feeling enough and doing enough and having enough, but still never getting the relief you're seeking.
Today, Martinus shared with us how he worked with the burdens of shame and pain so he did not collude with the toxic messages that said his worth was up to others to decide. Just by showing up as he was, a Black man in a larger body, he faced and continues to face stigma and the burdens of diet culture from the doctor’s office to the starting line of a race where people make presumptions of his health, his work ethic, and his motivations. But he knew his worth was not connected to these beliefs and leaned into his mantra of “no struggle, no progress” when things were hard. He also reminded us the importance of ongoing personal therapy, really good boundaries, and a great team to support him and catch the echoes of the burdens of shame and trauma when they start to drive him in search of his enough instead of just informing him and his meaningful work.
So let me ask you, as you reflect on today’s episode, are you looking for your worth and worthiness in your work or what other people think of you?
What experiences in your life impact how you see yourself and connect with your worthiness? Is your relationship with health and your body perpetuating stigma in diet culture or moving you towards true health? Now, this probably goes without saying, but I’m gonna say it anyways: we don't get through this life unscathed. Shame and the burdens of not enough are, therefore, so prevalent along with the many ways we try to protect ourselves from being taken out by this pain, but the challenge is how we respond to these burdens, not really overcome them ‘cause part of living a courageous life, a brave life, an Unburdened Leader life is being all in with love and caring and putting ourselves out there, so making a lifelong commitment to understand these burdens so you can let them inform you instead of lead you is the work of an Unburdened Leader.
[Inspirational Music Interlude]
Leading is hard. Leading is also, often, controversial as you navigate staying aligned to your values, your mission, your boundaries, and your enough. Navigating the inevitable controversy can challenge your confidence, clarity, and calm. Now, I know you don’t mind making the hard decisions, but sometimes the stakes seem higher and can bring up echoes of old doubts and insecurities during times when you need to feel rock solid on your plan and action.
Finding a coach who gets the nuances of your business and leading in our complex and polarized world can help you identify the blocks that keep you playing at safe and small. Leading today is not a fancy title or fluffy bragging rights, it is brave and bold work to stay the course when the future is so unknown and the doubts and pains from the past keep showing up to shake things up. Internal emotional practices and systemic strategies are needed to keep the protector of cynicism at bay and foster a hope that is actionable and aligned.
When the stakes are high and you don't want to lose focus, when you want to navigate inevitable conflict between your ears and with those you lead, when time is of the essence and you want to make hard decisions with confidence and clarity, then Unburdened Leader coaching is for you and where you deepen the capacity to tolerate the vulnerability of change, innovation, and doing things differently than the status quo.
To start your Unburdened Leader coaching process with me go to www.rebeccaching.com and book a free connection call. I cannot wait to hear from you!
Thank you so much for joining this episode of The Unburdened Leader. You can sign up for the weekly Unburdened Leader email, find the show notes and this episode, along with free Unburdened Leader resources and ways to work with me, at www.rebeccaching.com.