Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Evolution Of An Age Group Athlete

Athlete 1.0   
It all started with kids.  I gained weight, and my husband did too.  Those endless sleep-deprived nights,  drive-thru Happy Meals, sitting in the car for hours, all resulted in not enough mommy time and limited work-on-ourselves-time.  At the mercy of hectic schedules and too much indulgence on the weekends -- I'm talking full leaded soda with Junior Mints and a large popcorn at the movies -- we became soft around the middle and rounder in the cheeks. ;)

Then one day fitness sounded fun.  With a desire to "get back in shape" and compete in the local Turkey Trot, running and step aerobics became the exercise de jour.   My husband instantly slimmed down and could hold his own in the marathon pack.  But I never quite put together that after an hour at the gym with my kids in the daycare, that Pink Cookie and Dr. Pepper reward did nothing for weight loss.

Athlete 2.0  
Big changes came along once the kids were in school and we bought our first road bikes.  Instantly the weight dropped and we started having staggering fitness improvement.  We entered races and almost always finished in the top percentages of the field.  We finished century rides and charity rides and tour de whatevers!  It was fun.  We were thin again.  We were doing it!

I started competing in triathlons and drank the Kool-aid.  Before one Ironman was done, I had signed up for another, times four.  Over and over and over again - marathons, 200-mile rides, and open water swims -- if it sounded like a challenge, we were up for it.  Interestingly, after those initial huge gains, though, things leveled off.  It was like our bodies said "Ha! A four hour bike ride, no big deal!   You got this. Why dip into those fat stores?"  Some might call it a plateau.  But speed/pace/weight loss all came to a crashing halt.

So what now?  With a little more money to spend and more time on my hands with kids on their own, how would we make the best use of our new situation?  Well, how about a lighter bike, a more expensive pair of shoes, a professional coach? All good choices.  But gadgetry and those pricey bikes only get one as far as the engine that is propelling it forward: aka, me.  I'm a sucker for the latest, greatest nutrition supplement, wetsuit and electronic shifters, you name it!   But I was not improving leaps and bounds like I thought I would.

Athlete 3.0  
Recently, I have found the secret to a new, better Me.  And it all has to do with nutrition.  It seems like all those years, hubby and I  were working very hard to reward ourselves with a pint of Haagen Dazs on the daily, or homemade cookies after dinner, and then half the bowl of cookie dough in the fridge ready to snack on throughout the day.  We went heavy on food for the weekend date nights because, hey, we deserved it!  We rode 75 miles today!

I'm not saying rewards should be abolished.   I still LOVE my Vanilla Swiss Almond.  But I started working with Katie, my Licensed Dietician with Sigma Human Performance, and she has given me a new perspective on portion size and what my body really needed before, during and after a workout.  She trained my body to be more efficient at burning fat by (crazy enough) incorporating more healthy fats into my diet.  I now buy the bulk of my food from the outer edges of the grocery store:  tons of veggies,  fresh meats, high quality cheese, less bread and dairy.  I stock up on natural almond butter and avocados.  My cutting board is on the kitchen counter every evening chopping and dicing fresh veggies.  I feel less bloated and more lean.   My fitness is improving and I am running faster than I have in years.

This fitness evolution took me awhile to figure out.  But if you've ever seen the photo of the iceberg that shows 30 percent of it above the water and 70 percent below -- my new perspective is that diet is that hidden 70 percent.  If we can put premium fuel into our tanks, our bodies will thank us by becoming fat burning machines.  It's not about a high protein/low fat diet.  It's about a healthy balance, using fat to satiate the hunger and allowing us to use that fat to become a fuel source when we exercise.

The test comes at the end of the month.  Ironman 70.3 in Kona, Hawaii awaits.  I'm working against age and a "challenging" race course.  But if I can see any gains in my times and how I feel while racing,  I will credit diet for those results.  Stay tuned, blogger world.  I'll be baaack.... hopefully with great new and results!  And if you've gone down a similar path, leave a comment.  I'd love to hear about your fitness journey, too!

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