Operation Six-Pack

Yesterday I was able to run relatively pain-free for 4 miles. Those 4 miles were painstakingly slow, but I was able to run and I am happy. I needed those 4 miles. More than anyone realizes…

I hope that I can start building some miles up in the next few weeks. I’m still on the fence about the Maine Half next weekend. I might run a few miles, but it depends how I feel. I don’t want to jinx my poor little feeties now! If I can, I might register for another half marathon in November. But we’ll see…

In the mean time, I am going to begin Operation 6-pack. What is that you may ask? Well, I need to make some body composition changes before Ironman Lake Placid next year. I’m still carrying too much extra weight.

This week I plan to join the gym again. Mostly, I need to join the gym to have access to equipment I don’t have at home. My goal is three days a week. Monday, Wednesday, Friday. I think I can do that. I was hoping to recruit someone to help set up a good strength training plan, but those plans fell through. I’m on my own, but it will be good practice for me to do it, since I’m studying to be a personal trainer too (okay, maybe I have done all the studying. I just need to man up and actually take the test). Got to practice what I preach I suppose! 🙂

The only disappointing part is I won’t be able to bring my TRX in with me and there is not one available to use at the gym. Something about liability, blah blah blah… Oh well. I still plan on doing classes at my new favorite fitness studio, Zuja Wellness. The KB/TRX and Tabata classes are top-notch and I love the challenge. I’m embarrassed how weak I have gotten over the past few months. My first class two weeks ago at Zuja left me sore for days! But that’s the feeling I so miss and love… it makes me feel alive…

I’ve decided to call this project “Operation 6-pack.” The goal is not necessarily to develop a 6-pack, although it would be pretty awesome if it happened. Who doesn’t want an amazing set of strong and defined ab muscles? Isn’t it what our society strives for? The goal really is to lose excess body fat and build strength that will make it perform faster and more efficiently next year in triathlon.

As of today, I weigh 125 lbs and have between 19-20% body fat, depending on method of measurement (scale and body fat calipers). My goal is to be about 16-17% body fat by Lake Placid next year. As far as the number on the scale, I have an ideal number, but honestly that isn’t as important.

I’ve decided that if I reach my goal by the end of December then I will buy myself the Garmin 910xt. I’m very much motivated by a goal so I know that having a treat for myself at the end will encourage me to keep moving forward to the ultimate goal. I know it will take some blood, sweat, tears, and early mornings, but I need something to focus on right now (other than school and work).

Here are some of my smaller goals to will help me get to the larger one:

+ To hold a plank for 3 minutes

+ To do 30 “real” push-ups in a row without any rest

+ To do at least 5 clap push-ups

+ To do at least 5 handstand push-ups

+ To do 10 pull-ups in a row without any rest

+ To do 10 chin-ups in a row without any rest

+ To do at least one yoga class a week

+ To keep a positive attitude and believe in myself

I plan to post some of my workouts and my progression here and also under the section entitled “Operation 6-pack.” And if I fail, I’m going to strive for this 6-pack below….

Reflections on the 2012 Season and 2013 Goals

Now that my triathlon season is done for 2012 I have been reflecting on my goals that I set back in November 2011 for the 2012 season. This season was truly a breakthrough season for me and I am very proud of my accomplishments. The previous two years were spent learning the sport and having fun. Last year after Pumpkinman I decided that I wanted to become more competitive and thus I needed to crack down and become more serious about training. I won my AG at Pumpkinman, but honestly I don’t consider it to be a true win. There was only myself and two other girls in my AG. We were not a very competitive AG. If you look at the overall female results, I finished in the bottom of the pack. I want to be towards the top. I knew my strengths and I knew my weaknesses. My biggest weakness was running. I hated running and I was slow. I don’t think anyone truly understands how frustrated I was with my lack of running prowess and thus I made it my number one goal to improve on in 2012.

When I began working with Mary, she had me write out five goals for the 2012 season. Here are my goals and my reflections on them.

2012 Goals:

1. Improve on my running – Running has always been my worst nemesis. I hated it. I was slow and I was making some improvements, but not as much as I thought I should be. My father openly joked in front of friends and family that he walked faster than I could run. I knew if I ever wanted to reach my goals and dreams then I needed to make some serious improvements in my running. My coach helped me turn into a runner this year and it is by far my proudest accomplishment this year! I had some pretty frustrating runs earlier in the year. The Cape 10-miler went horribly, mostly because I was running while sick (again). I’d complain and she told me that I WILL find my inner running goddess and I just had to put in the hard work, be patient, and believe in myself. Much of my problem with running was all mental. Running hurt so mentally I would just give up. After taking Mary’s advice I did have that breakthrough run the end of March where I found my inner running goddess and really fell in love with running. Since then I have really enjoyed running. Sure, I still have days when I don’t want to lace up my shoes and get out the door, but after I start I am happy. I’ve learned how to push myself into that uncomfortable pace and stay there. Beach to Beacon was a huge race for me this year. I had never done a 10k before and when Mary gave me my plan for the day I thought she was crazy. I thought for sure I could never hold the pace that she gave me. However, I totally nailed it! There are a lot of motivational sayings going around the Facebook world that state things like “It doesn’t matter how fast you run a mile, but that you still ran that mile” or “You’re lapping everyone that is still on the couch.” I guess I have always been a runner, but I never let myself believe I was until now. I believed that I wasn’t a true runner unless I could run x amount of speed. This year I overcame my own mental hurdles of hating runner to really becoming a runner and it is a huge accomplishment for me.

2. Work on my endurance so I finish every race strong – Going into this season I knew I wanted to do an Ironman in 2013. I knew in order to successfully complete an Ironman in a time that I view respectable for myself I needed to build a really good endurance base. I had big races this past season that I really wanted to perform well in, but I was very much looking forward into 2013. I feel that I do have a very strong base and I will continue to build an even stronger base going into 2013.

3. Finish the bike (56 miles) under 3 hours – I missed this goal by about 2 minutes at Rev3 and I’m definitely disappointed in it. However, I did have a good bike leg. I kept a pretty steady pace and stayed consistently within my HIM power zones so I really can’t complain. My VI wasn’t perfect, but it’s slowly improving. I definitely feel that my bike fitness is lacking. I have always felt that it was my strongest leg, but this year has proved that it is not. However, this year was a big year for me in terms of developing cycling technique. My coach has really taught me how to ride a bike. It sounds kind of funny to say because how hard is it really to ride a bike? You just hop on and pedal! Not true. There is actually a lot of technique and skills required to successfully ride a good bike leg. The best investment I have made (other than hiring a coach) has been my powermeter. Not only does it help me pace myself smartly throughout a race, but also tells my coach how I am riding. She can see my cadence (which has historically been low, but is now improving) and when I push too much power and ultimately “light a match.” Too many lit matches in a long course tri and you’ll be a goner on the run. I definitely have made some huge improvements on the bike, but I have much more hard work to do over the winter months. It’s going to be one long winter on the trainer….

4. Build core strength and flexibility to remain injury free – I spent A LOT of time last fall/winter working with a trainer once a week and attending a boot camp at least once a week. Early spring I did a core class twice a week. I also tried to get to a yoga class at least once a week over the late fall/early winter months. I made HUGE improvments in my body composition and strength in general. I have lost close to 25 pounds and 6% body fat. My range of motion has improved and I really think focusing on strength training helped with fixing the “pause” in my swim stroke and also improved my running biomechanics. I have also been working with a really awesome chiropractor that helps keep my body functioning in top notch condition. I stayed injury free until late July when my right hip locked up. It is still bothering me a bit and now I have a lingering right foot pain. Hopefully, both will be fixed soon!

5. Improve my nutrition – I spent a lot of time reading and researching about nutrition. Last fall I weighed about 145 pounds and at my height of 5’4″ I was borderline overweight even though I was very active. I decided that I needed to make a change. I always thought I ate a pretty healthy diet and I pretty much did. The biggest thing I did in my nutrition was to change the way I think about food. Food was no longer a treat after a workout. Food was fuel for my next workout. I also learned a lot about nutrient timing and what to eat and when. I also made the focus to eat more plant-strong with small quanities of dairy (i.e. Greek yogurt) and meat. As I mentioned above, I lost a lot of weight. I believe much of it was due to my training load, the extra lean body tissue that I had built through strength training, and also diet.

Some goals for 2013:

  1. Learn to pee on my bike! – This one is mostly for you all because I’m sure you are all tired of hearing me talk about it!
  2. Finish my first Ironman – Obviously, Lake Placid is my “A” race of the season. I kind of have an estimated time that I would like to finish under, but I know that I shouldn’t put very high expectations on myself for such a big race. Anything can happen at an Ironman and the goal is certainly to finish!
  3. Build bike fitness and strength – As I mentioned above I feel that my bike fitness is lacking. Lake Placid is a tough and hilly course so I want to be strong and ready to conquer that course in a decent time. Plus, I still want that sub-3 hour bike split in a HIM!
  4. Improve body composition – I made HUGE improvements in my body this past year and much of the fall will be spend improving my body composition more. I have a goal race weight for Lake Placid. I know I can carry some extra weight over the winter months and I should be able to drop it quite quickly once IM training kicks in, but I really want to focus on losing some body fat and building lean tissue. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to work with a trainer again this fall/winter because it’s just not in my budget, but I’ll work my tushy off again at the gym and take some bootcamp and yoga classes again.
  5. Continue to improve my running – I made enormous gains in my running fitness this past year and I want to continue gaining in 2013 and the future. Much of this fall will be spent running, as long as my right foot stops hurting. I had considered running a fall marathon back in July, but decided against it because I wasn’t sure I could manage the training with working two jobs and my last semester of graduate school. Instead, I’ll run at least one half-marathon this fall and some more in 2013.
  6. Continue to improve on my nutrition – I still have much to learn about nutrition, especially for my upcoming Ironman training and also race day plan. I plan to work with a sports dietitian during the winter month to develop a good nutrition plan for training and racing.

Future/Lifetime Goals:

  1. I would like to qualify and compete at the 70.3 World Championships in the next five years. I definitely have a ton of work to do to qualify, but I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility.
  2. Okay, please don’t laugh at me for this one because this is the first time ever really telling anyone this but… I want to qualify and compete at Kona. I know it is totally a long stretch for me, but I hope to make it happen. But I guess I should probably do my first Ironman first…
  3. Compete at Nationals. I actually qualified last year at Pumpkinman for Nationals, but didn’t race due to the fact it was the weekend before Rev3. Plus, I really don’t think I deserved the qualification and probably would have finished at the bottom of my age group.
  4. Become a triathlon coach. I’m hoping to get my certification next year but it depends on affordibility too since I would have to fly somewhere to get it.

~ Happy Training!

Weight Lost, Race Weight, and Body Image

So… I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a long time, but I’ve kind of been living in denial.

I was fat.

Since November-ish I have lost 20 pounds. I’m 5’4″. I have weighed 145-ish pretty steadily since middle of college and have always kind of considered it to be my “happy weight” since I could never really lose any pounds. According to my height’s BMI, I should weigh between 108-145 pounds. Anything over 145 pounds was getting into the overweight zone. I did not want to be there. Of course, BMI isn’t the best tool to measure one’s body weight and health especially if your an athlete. I’ve always been pretty muscular. My junior year of high school I weighed 130 pounds and had 17% body fat. I skied, played lacrosse almost year around and rode horses competitively. My horses were boarded a half mile down the street from us so most nights I would walk down there to take care of them. I was lucky that my mom did all the morning chores, but I still did my fair share of mucking stalls, throwing hale bales, carrying 50 pound grain bags up a hill to the barn. It was work. I had muscles from all that work and sports. However, I’ve always had issues with body image. I have two younger sisters that are both tall, long legged, and naturally thin. I’m built more like my mother. Short with very short legs and a long torso. Because I am not tall and skinny like mys sisters, my father use to tell me I was fat and I shouldn’t eat something almost on a daily basis. It sucked! I mostly ignored his comments, but secretly they hurt. No one wants to be told they are fat, especially from one of their parents. In retrospect, I realized that it was bullying. A couple years ago I completely blew up at him about it and told him in not so many nice words that it wasn’t cool. No parents (or anyone for that matter) should tell their child that they are fat on a daily basis, especially if they really weren’t at the time. If your child does have some weight issues then it’s best to address them in more appropriate way.

Fast forward to my college years. I actually lost some weight my first year of college because I wasn’t eating as much as I should have been. Then sophomore year was when I started making some good friends and we did some partying. I always ate fairly healthy (or what I thought was healthy at the time) at the cafe, mostly sandwiches, salads and soups. And, of course, cookies. I have yet to meet a cookie I didn’t like (well, that’s not completely true since I don’t like caramel or butterscotch). I would go to the gym, but my workouts would consist of the stationary bike and the elliptical. I always read too during my workouts since I had a ton of homework as a science major. I hardly ever did any strength work and sometimes I would go to a yoga class once a week. I gained a few pounds in college, but I was pretty consistent around 135-ish. Then I graduated in December 2008 and my mother my diagnosed with a very rare and fatal neurological disease that killed her within 10 weeks of diagnosis. Obviously, when your body is under an immense amount of stress, you gain weight. Stress coupled with the constant flow of delicious food friends and family kept dropping off for us, I gained a few pounds. Later that fall I did a 4 week long bootcamp class that had 3 sessions a week at 5:30am. It was a ton of fun and I got into good shape, but I never really lost any weight. Then I started competing in triathlons in 2010 and trained (and won my AG) in my first half-ironman last year. Again, with all the training I was doing I never really lost any weight.

I never considered myself overweight, but I could tell that my body wanted to lose weight. Last fall I ordered a scale with body fat percentage. I honestly could care less what my actual weight in pounds is, but I do care about my body fat percentage since that is a better indicator of a healthy weight. My body fat percentage was around 25%. Not overweight, but leaning towards that. Last year I got a taste of podium finishes and I decided that I wanted to become more of a competitive athlete vs. a recreational one. I also decided that I prefer long course triathlons and I knew that an Ironman would be in my near future very soon. I decided to hire a triathlon coach and also a personal trainer to help me reach my goals. Both were the best decisions I have made in a very long time and I have both of them to thank for helping me get where I am today! So, thanks Mary and Kelsey! You ladies rock!

Anyway, last week I weighed myself and my scale read 125 lbs and 19.9% body fat! That is about 20 pounds since December-ish. I’m still not at my goal, but I’m very happy. Many people have been noticing lately too, probably because none of my clothes fit and I look a bit like a hot mess since I hate buying new clothes. The two new pairs of jeans I purchased at the end of April are now getting too big again too. Grr… I know I shouldn’t complain since most women would kill to have this problem.

But all this weight loss has got me to really thinking about the issue of weight and health. I have three prospectives on the issue:

  1. As a Woman – I think we’re all aware of the constant bombardment society, especially young girls, get from the media about being stick thin. It’s rather sad that our society focuses so much time and money to look like models and celebrities. The British Association of Model Agents looks for female models to be at least 5’8″ tall with the measurements of 34-24-24(1). The average BMI for top fashion models is 16.3. The healthy range is between 18 and 25. Fifty years ago the average woman was 5’3-4″ with a waist of 24-25″, and weighed about 120 lbs and wore a size 8(2). Today, the typical American woman is 5’4″, has a waist of 34-35″, weighs between 140-150 pounds and wears a size 12-14(2). Back when Marilyn Monroe was hott stuff, she wore a size 8. Today’s models generally wear a size 0. For most modelling agencies around the world, size 6 is now considered plus-size(3). Interestingly enough too, in order to cater women’s vanity, fashion designers have manipulated clothing sizes so truly larger sizes are marked small. A size 8 in the 1950s is now marketed as a size 4, although clothing sizes and fit vary according to designer(2). Then we have the issue of magazines and tv advertisements that air brush models to make them look more “beautiful.” We currently live in a society that strives for perfection. But what is perfection? In the United States, more than 10 million women and 1 million men are fighting a battle with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia(4). In the recent years I believe we have witnessed a push towards accepting and educating ourselves and young girls (and boys) that it’s okay (and healthy) to not look like Kim Kardashian or Jennifer Aniston. Our bodies do amazing things on a daily basis and we should love our bodies no matter what size, shape or color. 
  2. As a Public Health Student/Professional – There is no question that our country is on the verge of a major epidemic of obesity. Obesity is a common, serious, and expensive condition. More than one-third of American adults are currently obese in the United States(5). Between 2009-2010, almost 17% of US children ages 2-19 years old were obese(6). Obesity can lead to the development of other serious health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer(5). In 2008 the associated medical costs of obesity were estimated to be over $147 billion dollars(5). Current predictions for obesity trends, predict that more than 42% of American will be obese by 2030 if nothing is done to prevent it(7). It is also estimated that another third of Americans are overweight(8). Overweight is defined as having a BMI of 25-29.9 and obese is defined as having a BMI greater than 30. As most of us can decipher, the United States is in a serious health and economic crisis with the ever rising number of overweight and obese population. As individuals, we need to focus of keeping ourselves and our families (especially our children) active and healthy. As individuals, we can work towards creating a healthy community environment that will hopefully encourage more people to strive to live a healthy lifestyle. We must act now to change our future.
  3. As an Endurance Athlete – As an endurance athlete we are taught that being lean leads to better sports performance. We all work hard to reduce our body fat percentage, increase our lean body mass, and strive to achieve our optimal race weight. This past week I watched a USAT webinar on Body Composition Management presented by QT2 Systems founder and head coach, Jesse Kropelnicki. Kropelnicki is a very well respected coach in the sport and coaches some of the most elite athletes in the sport. I found this seminar interesting. Some things I agreed with him about and a few things I did not. On thing that I completely agreed with him about was the fact that athletes should eat to support their training and racing and not the other way around. The one thing that I didn’t really agree on was the body fat percentage of athletes for optimal performance. He believes that the optimal body fat should be between 5-18% depending on length of goal race, age, gender, race level and a few other factors. Now, various coaches, sports nutritionists and registered dietitians will give you different body fat measurements. Every person needs a certain percentage of essential body fat to our bodies can survive on a daily basis. According to Nancy Clark, men need about 3-5% essential fat whereas women need 11-14%(9). Very low fat range for men is between 7-10% and for women is between 14-17%. Anything below 15% for women become dangerous due to hormonal changes and lost of menstruation among other possible health risks. Personally, I believe that as athletes we should not necessarily chase the optimal number on the scale or percentage of body fat, but strive to achieve a healthy and “happy” weight for our bodies and remain injury free. 
I think that as we all travel through our own weight loss and/or fitness goals, that we remember that it isn’t necessarily the number on the scale that we should strive for, but a healthy and fit body that allows us to do the things we love. 
So, what do you think about the issue of weight, race weight, body fat, and body image?

1. http://www.associationofmodelagents.org/become-a-model/getting-started-as-a-model.html
2. http://blogs.webmd.com/pamela-peeke-md/2010/01/just-what-is-an-average-womans-size-anymore.html
3. http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/01/most-models-meet-criteria-for-anorexia-size-6-is-plus-size-magazine/
4. http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/information-resources/general-information.php
5. http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html
6. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db82.pdf
7. http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/story/2012-05-07/obesity-projections-adults/54791430/1
8. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/overwt.htm
9. Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, 4th Ed. 
~ Happy Training!