By Patricia Fitzmorris Danflous
It’s almost five o’clock on a Friday in New York City. Everyone has something to do, someplace to go, and they’re anxious to get there. Although she is thinking about lacing up her training shoes for a trek across a bridge or two or through the streets of Manhattan, Robin Arzon takes time to encourage Inspire Health readers to do what she does to stay healthy, look great, and feel like a superwoman. Her advice boils down to four simple words: “Shut up and run.”
There’s a little bit more to it, of course, but Arzon’s succinct mantra and life philosophy transformed her life and has motivated thousands of others to find their pace as urban athletes.
At first glance, you will see Arzon as a sleek, almost intimidatingly fit young woman, dressed to the nines in running gear and reflecting the beauty of her Cuban and Puerto Rican heritage. Listen to her message, and you will be further impressed with a life marked by challenges, unique experiences, dramatic career changes and
a true love for running through life with passion.
I picked up a pair of running shoes as an escape from living through that hell. Running became my liberation from pain, fear, and anger.
“As a running coach, ultra-marathoner, and journalist, I became part of a world of urban athletes who don’t just run – they live to move on their own terms,” she explains in the introduction to her recently published first book, Shut Up and Run: How to Get Up, Lace Up, and Sweat with Swagger (Harper Design; Hardcover; $24.99/$31.00 CAN; 192 pages; ISBN: 978-0- 06-244568- 1). Born from the success of her Shut Up & Run Tumbler blog, she uses inspirational phrases, practical and off-the-cuff advice, and personal stories to help others unlock the power of endorphins to achieve the extraordinary.
With a solid reputation as an accomplished health and fitness specialist, Arzon is also a brand ambassador for Adidas Women, co-founder of the UNDO-Ordinary fitness movement and is the editor-in-chief of UNDO Magazine, a high-fashion fitness publication. She is currently the vice president of fitness programming and head instructor at Peloton Cycle in New York City.
That’s who she is today, but the former non-athlete had another life before a traumatic event forever changed her during her last year of college. At 21, she was held hostage at gunpoint after being randomly selected from a group enjoying a night out at a NYC wine bar. She escaped harm mostly due to her quick thinking, communication skills, and the bravery of others, but her survival was the catalyst for embarking on a life of testing the limits of her potential.
“I picked up a pair of running shoes as an escape from living through that hell. Running became my liberation from pain, fear and anger,” she explains, noting that she did not immediately choose running as the panacea. “I literally saw a flyer for a 10K race and decided on a whim to sign up. I was hooked from that point.”
That dramatic event changed her life, but it did not deter Arzon from achieving her goals.” I don’t believe in living my life extra cautiously and fearfully,“ she emphasizes. The Philadelphia native not only graduated magna cum laude from New York University on schedule but also graduated magna cum laude from Villanova University School of Law. Soon, she was working 80 hours a week as a successful corporate litigator.
Running, however, brought a spark to her life that inspired her to courageously turn away from the corporate world to work as a freelance journalist covering the London Olympics. “I had always been curious about the law,” she reflects. “My father is an attorney and I was exposed to the career from a young age, so I didn’t make a rash decision to leave the law. It was probably a slow, two-year process as I realized I had larger passions to pursue.”
With the energy and determination that continues to fuel her mental, emotional and physical well-being, Arzon says she “re-created” herself with a new career and lifestyle. No longer on the sidelines cheering for someone else, she is in the spotlight leading others to set their own tempo to follow their dreams.
Chasing dreams, however, often calls for multi-tasking with no complaints. “I’m not really sure how I balance everything,” she laughs. “Even though I am often tired, I guess I really have pursued a career that I find exciting and fulfilling. I can’t say it feels like work — that helps. I believe in pushing limits and exploring what my body and my mind can do, so that is just part of the way to undo the ordinary.”
For Arzon, the undoing process is not so much about defining “ordinary,” but rather redefining ordinary moments as extraordinary. “I think that we sometimes are a little bit too automated. Sometimes we need to revisit the everyday moments when we rise above and be better than we were yesterday. Those are the things that should be celebrated more often.”
Arzon celebrates sweat and swagger. “Sweat is magic, swagger is the glisten,” she explains, “I believe that swagger is really living unapologetically. It requires a certain amount of bravery and a willingness to do things to the beat of your own drum.”
“Get uncomfortable with yourself,” she advises others looking to do ultramarathons, or become healthier, leaner or happier. “There is a fear of getting started, but if you don’t try, you will never know what is possible. I understand that fear, but it can be used as a fuel to get moving. You must decide how badly you want something, how badly you want a change. If you do what you always do, or wait for tomorrow, you will continue to do and to be the same.”
Although she is an insulin-dependent diabetic whose mother has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), Arzon uses her situation to focus on the positive. In a drive to raise money for MS, she ran five marathons in five days through the deserts of Utah, and a special section of her book is devoted to advising diabetics on how to run safely.
“My mom is doing remarkably well,” she adds, noting the special relationship she has with her mother, which includes an occasional mother-daughter workout. “I think her fitness regimen definitely helps her manage MS. That gives us hope that she will be able to contain the disease for a long time.”
Finding a sense of peace and balance in today’s world is less of a challenge for the ultra-marathoner these days. “I find my biggest peace in movement,” she says. “Staying fit and running for me is like a moving meditation.”
The best runners run with their heads up and looking ahead. For Arzon, the future holds running thousands of miles across the world, a pending televisions project and a second book. “I am continuing to race, to work with Peloton Cycle and most importantly, build relationships with my followers to make sure they are hitting their goals.”
Ready to get moving? To make a change? To enrich the quality of life?
Do what Robin Arzon does, shut up and run.