Huff! Puff! Gasp! Wheeze!
That’s me, climbing up the last hill before I finally get home on my cycling route. I have a couple of loops I ride; they all end with that damn hill. I have mental tricks I play with myself to get up hills: mantras (“this hill can’t even handle me right now!” sung to the tune of “The Club Can’t Even Handle Me Right Now”), counting to 30 (I can do anything for 30 seconds), and on and on. But be clear, they’re all done while huffing, puffing, gasping and wheezing.
I’m training for my first triathlon this summer. I spend a lot of time on my bike, which is great because I love to ride. Though I do other workouts, my current favorite is to ride to my Y, run on the treadmill, swim laps, then ride home. If I’m lucky, a protein smoothie and a nap follow that. It’s tough, but I absolutely love it!
Though I consider myself an athlete now, I came into middle age an inveterate couch potato. I started walking while I was losing weight. Over many months, walking morphed into running which then became something much more than just exercise. It became training. I found I didn’t want to just become smaller; I wanted to find out how far I could push myself. I wanted to know what I was capable of.
Turns out, I am capable of a whole lot more than I gave myself credit for when I was sitting on the couch.
This summer I’m going to put that to the test.
Putting myself to the test has become rather addictive now. I like to learn new things, face new physical challenges and see if I’m any good at them.
Certain activities I tried because I’d always wanted to (ballroom dancing) while others I was dragged to, kicking and screaming (hot yoga, swimming). This is essentially what cross-training is (not the kicking and screaming part). It means alternating your exercise routines so that you work all your muscles in a variety of ways. So you not only work your upper body some days and your lower body other days, but you work on all forms of fitness: strength, endurance, flexibility and balance. You hit the small ancillary muscles as well as your quads and biceps. You do crunches for your abs, but you also tone your lower back (that’s tough to get to but so important).
Cross-training is invaluable because it enhances overall fitness and performance, but also because it helps prevent injuries from overuse. Plus – hello?!?! – it’s way more fun to do a variety of workouts as compared to doing the same thing over and over again.
But back to the triathlon; what I’ve noticed since becoming an athlete is that I spend considerably less time thinking about what I look like – being “thin” or anybody else’s definition of physically attractive – and much more time concentrating on how well I can perform. How fast can I run? How far can I swim? How much can I deadlift? (Ahem, a lot.) Pursuing the answers to those questions is powerfully motivating to me.
I now have a vision of myself as an athlete. I have specific goals I want to achieve: currently, to compete in my first triathlon. That is some kickass motivation, let me tell you.
Yes, the number on the scale is still important to me. If it wasn’t I wouldn’t be doing the “10-Week, 10-Pound Challenge.” And yes, I like fitting into my favorite pair of jeans. But I find the motivation to make good food choices and stick to my workout schedule is driven by the desire to find my peak performance.
Losing weight is hard, but it gets easier when you put yourself to the test and find out what you’re really made of. Cause guess what? You’re so damn worth it!
Let’s go get it!