I’m writing this as a milestone post, to look back at where I was 139 days ago, when I impulsively signed up for a triathlon because my friend goaded me JUST A LITTLE. It was the kick I needed.
First, a Caveat
It’s difficult to talk about bodies and numbers without a nod to the many amazing humans in my life who struggle, as I do, with body image. We live in a society that values us less because of our weight. I seek not to offend, proselytize, or take an over-abundance of pride in my accomplishments. Please be aware, if you are sensitive to such discussions, that I’m putting up some numbers and talking about eating and exercise and their benefits, as they relate to MY life. Also, it probably goes without saying, but…any fat-shaming comments will be deleted.
At the start of my journey, walking up one flight of stairs left me winded. A short run chasing my son left me panting for breath. My knee hurt if I walked a certain way up a hill. My back ached almost daily. However, I’ve always maintained a level of activity that meant swimming for long periods of time comes easily to me. I was a highly competitive swimmer when I was a child, regularly winning my age group when I swam for the Marblehead YMCA back in the 70s. I’ve always liked biking, and I can head out for a 20-mile bike ride with little preparation and survive the experience as long as there aren’t too many hills. I can walk miles on end without wearing out. This was my basic level of fitness, and it’s the reason I knew I could build from there to finish a triathlon.
On April 14, I signed up for the Max Performance Title 9 Women’s Only Triathlon, which takes place Sept 11 in Hopkinson State Park. I knew I could do it from day one. Even if I were the last person to cross the finish line. But I’m a stubborn, competitive cuss*. And I knew that I wanted to TRY. To push myself. So I began the 2-3 days per week workout regimen right away.
I joined an AMAZING, WONDERFUL, PASSIONATE, BODY-POSITIVE group of women — Arlington Moms Tri — and found people who were striving to do the same thing. Commit. Set a goal. Push ourselves. And have fun doing it. And that’s what I’ve done. Participating in sports with other women of similar age is humbling and entertaining and positive. I love my group, and I look forward to smiling and sweating my way through this event in 12 days!
Soon after I began training, I enlisted the help of Mt. Auburn Weight Management Center for support and guidance to help me with my goals. I’m working with Dr. Chuanyun Gao, who specializes in bariatrics and endocrinology, and a staff that includes nutritionists and exercise physiologists. My path toward my health goals is through behavior modification — I am eating regular food, the same food I buy and prepare for my family. I keep my calories within a range and try to get enough protein for my training (it’s HARD). I track my meals and exercise using MyFitnessPal app on my iPhone. Data mining is fun. 🙂
Now for some number-crunching:
- On day 6 of my training, April 24, I recorded a 3 mile “brisk” walk in 55 minutes. I was walking 3.0 mph then, with intervals of faster walking at 3.3mph.
- Day 11, May 9, I wrote that my heart rate was around 150-160 BPM for the walk at 3.5mph. I remember being out of breath.
- Day 19, May 29, my BPM didn’t go over 144, during my 3.5mph walk.
- Day 27, June 16, was the first day I “ran” on the treadmill.
- Day 32, June 28, I did 3.09 mile run in 45 minutes
- Day 42, July 27, I did a 5K in under 44 minutes
I don’t see those numbers moving much for running in the foreseeable future. I’m no runner. I can continue to increase my run times and decrease my rest intervals, but I’m likely staying in the 40+ minute range for 5Ks for awhile. I’m only running to work on my cardio, and to make the run part of my triathlon faster. It is not my favorite exercise. After the event, I will likely switch to getting my cardio via alternate ways. Running wears out joints, and I come from a long line of people with bad knees.
- On day 50, I swam 1/2 mile and then biked 14 miles home from Walden Pond. (Swim/bike brick)
- Four days later, on Workout Day 51, I biked 10 miles and ran 3 miles, for a total time of a little over an hour and a half. (bike/run brick)
What I’ve Learned So Far
- I’ve learned what “hitting a wall” feels like, when I didn’t think I could go any farther. And then I went farther.
- I learned the importance of electrolytes and the elixir that is Gatorade.
- I’ve learned how to fuel this body so it can do what I want it to do.
- I’ve learned what to eat, and when to eat it, so that I can go the distance.
- I’ve learned that my innate competitiveness isn’t against OTHER people. It’s against myself.*
- I’ve learned how to do long-distance swimming (it’s different than sprinting! Who knew?!)
- I’ve learned that walking the big hills is SO OK.
- I’ve learned how to run with low impact, at intervals, to make the best use of my pace and endurance.
- I’ve learned that I LOVE long-distance swimming, and I want to do more/longer swims in the future.
The Results So Far
Mindful eating and 50+ workouts have resulted in some changes to my stamina and strength, as well as to my body’s shape and size. I have more endurance, and stairs don’t slow me down anymore. My knee hurts less. My back seldom has pain, unless I sit down at a desk for too long. Activity agrees with my mood. Being more active is helping me with depression. Weight is a tricky data point for me, so I try not to focus on it, but rather on how clothes fit, and how I feel. I’m trying to use weight loss numbers only as a way to measure progress and look for trends. I’m down 21 pounds, from size 18 pants to size 14. My clothes fit me differently. The severe body dysmorphia that I have means I have trouble SEEING change, but other cautious and beloved beings in my life have told me that the work I’m doing is showing in my appearance.
50 workouts in, I feel stronger. I AM STRONGER. I’m learning to appreciate this body and what it’s capable of. And I’m not just a wannabe triathlon. I’m a triathlon in training.
I’m doing this thing in 12 days. I plan to finish it. And then I’m planning to scale back the intensity of my workouts, while still doing some kind of activity for an hour at a time, three days a week. That said, I’m going to look for future sport competitions to sign up for, and continue this body-positive, life-affirming work I’ve started. Thank you for reading, and for cheering from the sidelines!