Wednesday, August 15, 2012

From fat to fit, the journey of many triathletes

Today I read a post on facebook that said, "I lost my other half.  Has anyone seen it?"  At first, I thought it was going to be a sad post, but then I remembered that last week this person had posted about how close they were to having lost half their body weight during triathlon training.  Kudos to you girl - I really admire how hard you've worked.

Incidentally, during a similar conversation at work, I was discussing diet and excercise with one of my partners.

When I saw that picture that started my journey to the ironman, I was approaching 200 pounds.  Granted I was in the latter months of my first pregnancy, but babies don't come in the 50 pound variety.  We wouldn't want them to!  So at 200 pounds I started trying to get fit again.

Today, I'm dealing with a different sort of problem.  I'm at a healthy weight when I get on the scale, but I (like many other athletes) take advantage of the countless training hours and eat junk, and whatever I happen to be craving at the moment (the guys I work with have endless fun with that one!).  Today my lunch revolved around a certain favorite energy drink and a small container of cookie dough.  Okay, USUALLY it isn't THAT bad.

So I can't stress enough the importance of seeing a quality nutritionist.  One that comes recommended by other athletes in the field, and preferably, doctors and other sports professionals.

Some things to mention about losing weight:
Hair loss - often the first to suffer, your hair and nails frequently take a toll when you lose a lot of weight.  I can mark the major endurance sports events by the horizontal lines in my nails.
BMI is a bullshit metric.  Guess what.  In fall of 2010, my BMI and my body fat percentage were roughly the same.  Today, my body fat percentage is roughly half of my BMI.  In those two years I've lost about ten pounds.
Women - your menstrual cycle may disappear.  YAY!  Hooray for freedom, hooray for the extra space in my purse and tri bag, Hoor... Oh wait a minute.  Doctors say this may actually be a bad sign.  So before you celebrate your freedom, at least get checked out by your doctor. You may need to change your diet, add a supplement or multivitamin, or take some time off for pregnancy. Interesting article here...
And remember - huge calorie deficits may actually cause the body to destroy lean mass.

And speaking of multivitamin...  You should be taking one anyway.  But do me a favor?  Ask your doctor when you go in for your yearly physical with bloodwork.  Endurance sports, weight loss and all the stupid crap athletes do that goes with the territory should be accompanied by a yearly physical.  And something that's starting to be more prevalent across all ages is a physical with a heart checkup. You don't have to search far to hear about athletes dying from heart attacks.

But back to my regularly unscheduled post.  At the athlete dinner for Ironman Texas, they asked people to stand up if they'd lost more than forty pounds training for the race.

More than a quarter of the athletes stood up.

At the half iron race in Galveston in 2011, I met quite a few athletes that race because they love the sport.  A year later at the same venue, the change in each was amazing.  More confident, more fit.  Happy.

And while this post is about the weight loss that accompanies training, there are a few things that go with fat to fit.  A few friends manage their diabetes with/at the same time they do endurance sports.  Diabetes isn't a disease for the overweight, although they often do happen together.  Sports and exercise help the body manage the disease, although I'll have to ask those friends to guest post for me on the subject.

Mental fitness.  (How many of you reading just went, "Yup."?)  Between work and kids and other responsibilities, I'm never alone.  Training is my chance to be by myself without any demands other than the ones I choose right now.  Know that feeling? I know a few parents that do, too.  Training relieves stress for many of us.  I know of one mother with three children with a few more challenges than the rest of us.  She finds peace in her training and sets an amazing example for her children.

So many inspiring athletes - I often feel like a spectator in the stands watching so many friends who are exceptional age group athletes succeed at their fitness goals.  There's no way I could put every athlete in here - everyone has an amazing story of success. Each of them inspiring.  Each of them an example for those around them, often without realizing it.  But one thing I've seen all of them do - practice patience and hard work, whether they realized it or not.  And one day, suddenly, they were successful.

But the true measure of success is that each of these athlete get up every morning and don't give up.  They took the first step on their respective roads and they don't quit.  And I believe that none of us wound up where we expected to. Mentally or physically.  And our views on fitness have been completely overhauled.

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be. - Douglas Adams

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