beyond the scale

We arrived in St. George last night around midnight, the dry southwestern air welcoming us to our latest race venue. From hole-in-the-wall burritos and family-style road trip games, BethKeith, and Mark were great road-trip partners.

I weighed myself the other day, after a solid months of sorta-kinda-not-really caring about food and diet, and sorta-kinda-not-really caring about training specifics. Guess what? Barely a pound over what I was before Ironman Los Cabos. (And we all know our weight can fluctuate depending on the time of day, etc.)

I guess our bodies have a way of working things out in the end. Sometimes even when we’re looking the other way.

St_George_Utah_city_limits_1

Photo courtesty of Wikimedia Commons

Last week, I published my first piece on Greatist.com, one of my new favorite resources for health, food, and fitness. The piece is about how putting performance before weight loss helped me see my body differently. Instead of trying to look like a cover girl, triathlon helped me focus on what my body was capable of.

Lest the article lead you to believe that I’ve somehow figured it all out, have no fear. In a sport like triathlon, the vicious cycle is always waiting to suck you back in. This time around, the danger comes in the form of veiny, lean bodies and 10 percent body fat. Sure I’ve made great strides towards a healthier body image, but as Buffy so wisely taught us, the next demon waits just around the corner.

Here’s an excerpt from my piece. (Read the whole article at Greatist.com).

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For a tall, medium-build teenager living in a Kate Moss world, I always had weight to lose. As I got older, running, skipping, and jumping — those playful activities of childhood — had suddenly taken on a new purpose: Get down to 155 pounds. Be skinnier than the men I dated. Look hot.

And then I found triathlon.

Thankfully, by the time I attended college, the fitness craze was gaining traction and my more muscular build started to become acceptable — even fashionable. Through my late 20’s, I cultivated a healthy relationship with the gym. I danced around in an aerobics class with my mom. I started attending spin classes. After a particularly bad breakup, I joined a half-marathon clinic and ran my way back to happiness.

But all that time in the gym, as healthy as it was, was still more a means to an end. Every time I walked through that door, the subliminal messages accosted me: Lose weight. Get smaller. Look better. To me, they were all just different ways of saying “be happier.” Finally, I realized that my pursuit of an ever-shifting number (on the scale or the jean tag) just wasn’t any fun. I was missing something.

After a summer spent climbing mountains and taking on a solo cycle tour around Vancouver Island, I learned that I was happiest when physical activity aligned with something other than weight loss. Then, at 27, I joined a spin class taught by a spunky blonde who just happened to do Ironman triathlons (single-day events consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run — yep, that’s a marathon). Somewhere along the way, my lifelong dabbles in swimming, cycling, and running combined, and completing a triathlon — the combination of all three — landed squarely on my bucket list. Lisa’s spin class had given me the kick I needed, and I became a triathlete that summer.

Five years later, I have numerous triathlons — with varying distances of swimming, biking, and running — and two full Ironmans behind me.

Triathlon changed my focus to how my body performed rather than how it looked. It was like enrolling in body image marriage counseling. It fixed my relationship with my body — one that wasn’t necessarily broken, but needed some work. Eighteen races later, and I’m finally beginning to stop caring whether I’m 138 or 143 or 150 pounds, and more about whether those pounds are serving my goals or not. Sure, swimming, biking, and running every day has kept me leaner than I ever was before, but now, how I’m progressing as a bona-fide athlete matters so much more.

Read more, including my tips for shifting the focus from weight loss to performance…

4 thoughts on “beyond the scale

  1. May 4, 2013 at 10:07 am

    Hah … isn’t it funny that I follow your blog (think I linked from Ann Brennan), and also love The Greatist and had read your article without making the connection! Great stuff!

  2. Jen
    May 18, 2013 at 3:19 am

    Would love to hear more about the solo Vancouver Island bike route! Living in Victoria & would be an awesome way to explore the “back yard”. Thanks!

    1. Jen
      May 19, 2013 at 10:14 pm

      Hi Jen! Thanks for writing. I actually kept a (pretty terrible) blog about my trip. You can see it preserved for all time at http://www.aturnofthewheel.blogspot.com if you’d like to read more about my route! If you have any questions feel free to email me.

  3. May 18, 2013 at 10:48 am

    Love this! I can so relate… I’ve focused on the numbers for most of my life, but thanks first to CrossFit and now triathlon (which is way more fun!), the focus has shifted to what my body can do. It feels good :)