Saturday, 17 August 2013

Personal Transformation from Exercising to Training

It has occurred to me a number of times recently that I have made a very slight but important change in my approach to triathlon. I am no longer exercising, I am training. It may seem odd but I think the reason for it boils down to self esteem.

When I first began my journey into fitness I was happy just being out of the house and moving. To be honest, that was all I could expect at that weight. That has continued for about five years. I would get a program from my coaches and if it said "run for 30 minutes" I would go and run for 30 minutes. I wouldn't look for a tough course or push myself particularly hard, to be honest I would look for the flattest course possible, and I would get results because I'd come from so far down.

But after Ironman Coeur d'Alene this year something clicked. It was not a conscious decision but all of a sudden I started looking for hills and pushing my body to where I wan't sure I could take it. Looking back I really think this can be linked to low self esteem and depression. Until recently I think I've been doing the bulk of my athletic endeavors to prove to other people that I'm not as fat and lazy as I appear to be. That was honestly how I saw myself, fat and lazy. Granted, I was right... at the start. Lately, however, I'm starting to see that I'm an athlete again and am putting more pressure on myself to perform, not just participate.

My Mom has battled her weight for my entire life, in fact my entire family has. On one of my dad's tours in Afghanistan Mom decided that she would lose weight. Now if you don't know my mom, she is a stubborn and determined broad. She put her mind to weight loss and lost over 100 pounds within the year. And after that 100 pound weight loss she still said that she didn't see it when she looked at herself in the mirror. I thought she was absolutely nuts, she was almost half the size she had been. But that's the wonderfully awful thing about the human mind. We can convince ourselves of things that aren't really there. If you've got a bad self image you will still see a fat person in the mirror even after you've lost the weight. But, on the positive side, if you've got a good self image you will see a stud when you've got your car's seat reclined all the way, have a pencil thin beard and a hat with a flat brim even though you look ridiculous.
One quick google search got me this. Knew I was right.
Aware of what my mom had told me about weight loss I've been taking photos of myself from day 1 of my weight loss journey. These photos serve as indisputable proof of my progress and even my flawed brain can't convince me that I'm not succeeding. 


Feb 21, 2008
Aug 9, 2013

324 lbs

262 lbs

Despite my obvious progress, I have a very tough time seeing the positive parts of the photos, especially the front view. My love handles SCREAM at me when I see this photo and the thought of putting it online makes my stomach queasy (yours too I'm sure). That being said, this series of photos is something I would encourage everyone who is starting a training program to do. That, and take measurements from time to time. The problem with using just a weight scale when you're getting in shape is that you will put on a bunch of muscle if you're going from fat to fit like I did. This will mean that some weeks you may lose body fat and gain a pound. It's enough to make you crazy if you don't track other indicators of fitness. Another great indicator is just how your clothing fits. You will start to have room where you didn't before and you'll need new holes in your belt.

I know I have some work to do before I'm where I'd like to be physically but keeping these pics handy means that when I'm having doubts and not really liking who I am I can look back and actually see my progress. Aside from my love handles I really am happy with how far I've come and this has led, I believe, to my change in training. I'm at a point now where I have achieved so much that I believe in myself. I'm very sentimental and I find meanings in a great number of things. While running in Great Falls, Montana the song My Inner Ninja came on (click for video). This is a corny poppy song that's fun to run to and just bop along. But this time I actually listened to the lyrics and they struck a major chord with me:

                            I've had bad habits but I dropped em, I dropped em
                                 I've had opponents but I knocked them out
                                        I climbed the highest mountains
                                              I swum the coldest seas
                        There ain't a thing I've faced that's been too much for me

I started thinking that this was actually about me! I had terrible habits that I've had to change.  One of the first adventures Alli and John, our friends and trainers, took us on was up a mountain. At Escape from Alcatraz I swam in water so cold my face froze almost instantly. As for challenges, Ironman is about as tough as they come and I've knocked out four of them so far. Glad I've been an inspiration for a song :)

Kim (front), Alli (middle) and Me
Swimming from Alcatraz to shore. I'm in the black wetsuit.
I know that I'm not done my adventure but I'm certainly well on my way and am so happy I have documented my journey.


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