Ironfood. Food…man. Foodfood.
I remember when I was training for my first Ironman, I complained about wanting to lose weight to a friend I hadn’t seen in a few years. They said that was ridiculous, they were sure that I must be super thin and buff if I was training for an Ironman!
When I finished my first Ironman, I was elated. I was so proud. I had accomplished something I didn’t know I could do. I had blown my time goal out of the water. I was so very happy! And then I saw the pictures.
I was still happy, but I was horrified that I was in shape enough to do an Ironman, and do it better than thought I could.. but was so much heavier than I wanted to be.
I formulated time goals for my second Ironman a year later, but my primary goal was to be able to look at the pictures and be proud, not horrified. And I was even more proud after Ironman #2, because not only did I finish and finish faster than I had for my first, but I was proud of my pictures. I was proud of how I looked. I wanted to show off my pictures rather than hide them.
Why do I mention this? When I was writing my race report for Ironman New Zealand, I was re-reading my other race reports, and I noticed that I had two very similar pictures from the two times I did Ironman Coeur d’Alene. Same sport (running), same venue (CdA), same shirt (actually different shirt, but same size), but a significant weight difference.
I had trained for six months prior to each of these events, swimming, biking and running my little heart out. I was fit and capable of doing an Ironman both times. So what changed?
Diet. Entirely diet. I met with a dietician, who told me exactly what I was doing right (not a whole lot) and what I was doing wrong (quite a bit), and how to make some pretty significant, but doable, changes.
Turns out, just because you’re training for an Ironman doesn’t mean you can eat whatever you want in whatever amount whenever you want. I know a lot of people learn this during their first marathon training, too. Hey, I did! And yet when it came time to apply that to Ironman, it didn’t translate.
Once I started eating more appropriately, less calories, smaller but more frequent meals, healthier foods, less processed foods, more breakfast and less dinner, I was able to see results almost immediately. Within months my weight loss was noticeable, and this is WHILE I CONTINUED TO TRAIN. I wasn’t ridiculously hungry, I didn’t have to cut my training volume at all, and my speed and endurance actually increased! In fact, between those two Ironmans above (2007 and 2010), I dropped almost 2.25 hours off my total time. And training and racing at a lighter weight is SO much easier on my body.
I haven’t got it all figured out. I learn something new about fitness and diet every day, and how I can incorporate it into my life. But the journey so far has been so very worthwhile, and I hope to continue learning and improving (and struggling to achieve balance, because Sometimes There’s Pizza) for the rest of my life.
These are just my experiences, of course, but if you feel you’re struggling to lose weight through exercise, I strongly recommend you look into changing your diet. And if, like me, you have clue zero where to begin, or what you’ve tried on your own isn’t working, I can’t stress enough how much consulting with an experienced dietitian helped me. I won’t say I couldn’t have done it without her, but I wouldn’t have known WHAT to do.
I would imagine any local gym or triathlon/running store would have contact information for sports dietitians in your area, and being able to talk face to face does wonders for both comfort and for accountability. If you can’t find anyone in your area, I can strongly recommend the dietitian who helped change my life, who does online and phone consultations, as well (who doesn’t know I’m mentioning her here.. hi, Meredith! Please ignore that thing about pizza!)