Purposeful Training: A Wake-Up Call on ‘Body Image’

*Images courtesy of Taylor Oakes for BodyRock.tv

As previously mentioned in last week’s blog (‘Know When It’s Time to Walk Away’) I have began training for my first-ever, full triathlon. How might a former figure competitor, gym rat, circuit-training queen come to will this upon herself?? A good girlfriend of mine messaged me and asked if I’d be up for the challenge: and like the yes-girl I am, I said ‘hell yes!!’ I actually even one-upped myself (because I’m such an arrogant brat; please note the sarcasm) and thought that a sprint distance would be too ‘easy’, and decided to go for the full distance. I am admittedly a strong runner, and since I have 16 weeks total to prepare I would just train harder at the swimming and biking. Right?!?

For those of you that don’t know, a sprint-distance triathlon is as follows: a 500 m swim; 13 km bike; 4 km run. A standard distance is double that. I am in the midst of preparing for a 1 km swim; 26 km bike; 8 km run. And it is humbling as hell.

I will share with you all my experience the first day I went for swim practice. I met with up with a friend (different friend from the one who challenged me, but also does triathlons) at the Sports Centre she trains out of, as she wanted to introduce me to her coach. She had mentioned something about having second thoughts meeting up with me, the former fitness competitor, and wearing our swimsuits: barefaced in front of each other. I laughed it off and assured her I was by no means in ‘shredded’ condition to make her feel in such a way. Come to think of it, the old-Lindsay would be far more self-conscious being in a bathing suit anything less than shoot shape herself. Weird. That didn’t happen this time.

In the women’s change room I made quick glances at noting the varied ages in the women getting ready for practice. I was most likely the youngest, if not second-youngest there. Some women were old enough to be my mother, but most were within 5-15 years my senior. Not once did I catch a glimpse of their bodies- again, weird. Women- we check each other out. It’s biological. Not in a sexual kind of way, but it’s in our nature to sort of size each other up. It’s not meant to be negative. We’re just scoping out the healthy competition!

As I walked out on to the pool deck I saw some of the others already starting their swim. They were all very well seasoned I’d say: everyone doing turnover turns (a fast way of turning around underwater while lane swimming) and swimming at rather brisk paces. The lanes were set up for 25 m-length lanes. I got in that pool water and went for it. There and back, not so bad… except I was gasping for air! The coach had noticed my efforts and stopped to chat with me. He asked me how my breathing felt; I said “it’s pretty hard.” He said it would take me approximately 6 weeks of going at least 2-3 times/week to normalize my breathing. He also said that since I have more muscle mass than average, I would have a harder time getting adequate oxygen to my tissues. Man-this is going to be MUCH more challenging than I thought! I admitted to him that I hadn’t swam like this in 20 years- a whole lifetime ago. It was very apparent I had my work cut out for me. All the other men and women in the pool were blowing me away. It was incredible watch: individuals of all ages exploding with raw athleticism. I felt a fire light inside.

 

Lindsay-Feb2015 (51 of 69)

Exiting the pool, it was only then that I became aware of the varied body types we all had. I was by far the tallest and most muscular- and I was also one of the slowest. I felt a pit in my stomach: my aesthetics did not serve me here. They mean nothing now. It doesn’t matter how ‘jacked’ my shoulders are: women that are half my size/stature are LAPPING me! As I showered, I thought “how am I going to adjust to this new training? Swim, 2-3 TIMES a week?? Plus biking… plus running..” I then realized that I am no longer in the business to volume-train or train for hypertrophy (muscle growth). I am strictly to prepare for the task at hand: the Coronation Triathlon, May 29th. If there is any sort of strength I am bringing to the table, it is my work ethic.

It has now been about 2.5 weeks since I fully committed to this new conquest, and so much has had to change: my training, my nutrition (I’ll get to those topics in future blogs) and most importantly my outlook. Training with a purpose gives me such a greater respect for the human body- and MY body in particular. Sure, I am a little ‘softer’ now than I would normally like. But I am the strongest I’ve been in years. I want to nourish my body as best I can. It’s about performing to my full capacity, and improving upon that. I can tell the other women in the swim group aren’t scoffing at their flaws: they’re complimenting one another on their swim, when is there next meet, oh and the new banana bread recipe they tried last night- without guilt. It’s a new culture, a positive one.

It has been said many times that it’s good to get out of your comfort zone, and I can tell you I have done just that. I have already said to myself a couple times: “what have I gotten myself into?” But I also know that’s exactly why I should be doing it. Being uncomfortable gets you to grow as person, I have found. I have a new focus, a new purpose, and a much healthier view of my own body, just the way it is. Stay tuned 🙂

Lindsay-Feb2015 (53 of 69)

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