Mark Brown was always in good shape. A former college football player turned pastor, the Canton, Ohio, native pumped iron and ran miles on his treadmill.
In 2003, on the way to a funeral, his SUV was rear-ended, and his back was badly injured. Unable to exercise, Brown ballooned from 193 pounds to more than 230. The accident, he later realized, was God giving him “a spanking in the backside with a 2000-pound paddle.”
He decided that he not only had to get fit again, but also needed to share his story and inspiration with the world. Brown, down to 190 and calling himself “the grandfather of six with the six-pack abs,” has penned a book, “Coming Alive at 55.” He recently talked by phone.
Q: How old do people think you are when they meet you?
A: I’ve had people say that I’m 25.
Q: How are fitness and spirituality linked?
A: The big thing we have to understand is that if the body gets in trouble, the spirit and the soul are in trouble, as well. … You are the steward of your body. You’re the one God entrusted with it. The only thing you have total control of in this world is that physical body you have.
Q: What was going through your mind when you gained all that weight?
A: One thing I didn’t realize is the depression you get when you’re overweight and injured. You know, they always tell you that people who are a little bigger are jolly and happy. I never got any jollies. I went deep into a hole.
Q: What do you tell someone in his 50s who wants to be fit like you?
A: I want them to understand, first of all, that they are important and valuable. I was born in 1952. If you were a 1952 Cadillac, you would have cost about $6,000 back in 1952. Now if it were well-preserved and had been taken care of, that same Cadillac would cost you almost $150,000. Why? Because it was taken care of. Why not treat your body the same way you’d treat that Cadillac?
Q: What’s the secret to working out?
A: Consistency and continuity. You want to make sure that you do stuff so that you can come back tomorrow.
Q: What time do you wake up on a typical day?
A: I get up about 5:30. And then I normally read the Bible for about an hour or so. After that, I hit the treadmill for about 50 minutes.
Q: What do you do while on the treadmill?
A: I read the Bible. On my Web site, I have what I call the “Word and the Workout” where I read and run at the same time to try to help people understand that you can get the Word in while you work out.
Q: Bible print is small; how do you read while running?
A: I’ve never had a problem with focus. But I do have a large-print Bible, and I do use reading glasses. I’m 55. (laughing)
Q: What’s your favorite Bible verse?
A: 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. “Know you not your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own? For you are bought with a price. Therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
Q: If Jesus were on Earth right now, how many times a week would he exercise?
A: If you remember now, he was a carpenter. Every day he used his body physically.
Q: What would Jesus bench?
A: You know what, if you think about it, he ran all the money-changers out of the Temple, so he could probably bench about whatever he wanted to.
(John Campanelli is a reporter for The Plain Dealer of Cleveland.)