I love the Olympics, particularly the summer Olympics. I obsessed over Mary Lou Retton and gymnastics as a kid – even tried my hand at it, with mortifying results. Me – I’m not the most graceful or coordinated person on the planet. (understatement of the century). I marveled over divers, but never managed much of an impersonation. Turns out, while I’m not afraid of heights, I’m not the biggest fan of jumping from them.
More recently, I’ve turned my attention toward the track events. I was up early, glued to the TV to cheer on Kara Goucher and Shalane Flannigan in the women’s Olympic marathon. I’ve grown to love their stories and appreciate their efforts and applaud their accomplishments. Of all the sports I’ve tried, the one I’ve had some success with is running – not by winning races (though I did place 2nd in my age group in a 5K last summer!), but by simply managing to run and enjoy it and not break any bones.
The first two years I spent running (2010 and 2011), I was running to lose weight. It worked. I lost 107 pounds, but burned myself out. 2012 did not start off well, and this past spring, as I laced up my running shoes again, I was doing so with an extra 25 pounds on me. I signed up for a fall half marathon, figuring the training would get me back into shape.
But this time around, I’m not dieting as much as I had intended to. I’m eating clean, but not necessarily cutting calories. The scale isn’t moving, but I feel stronger. Still, I’ve been beating myself up a little bit, as if I’m wasting my training efforts by not dieting.
There’s something wrong with that mentality. If exercise is inextricably tied to weight loss, it will never stick as a healthy, permanent habit – even after years of cranking out the miles every week.
There’s an Olympic ad campaign from Nike that encourages everyday people to find their greatness. When I saw the one with the overweight kid running down a farm road, it struck me.
Part of me was proud of that kid for getting out there and doing it. Of course, the part of me that fights self consciousness and low self esteem thought, “I wonder if he’s embarrassed, with the world watching him,” because that’s how I feel these days when I go for a run. This extra weight, while still at least 80 pounds lighter than my heaviest, weighs me down. I’m not comfortable in my skin right now. Living in the same town where I work only compounds my fears of running into someone I know. It’s ridiculous, I know.
Then, I came across this blog post: I Am Not a Skinny Triathlete. It’s a post by a woman who had previously trained for races to lose weight, and as the new year started, decided to stop chasing skinny, buy bigger clothes, and keep racing triathlons anyway. 10 weeks or so into my own not-skinny race training, I’ve come to some of the same realizations as the author. Because I’m not cutting calories, I feel better fueled and stronger in my workouts. I still have power in my legs, and as I’m growing more experienced, I know how to use it.
I haven’t accomplished the complete shift in mindset required to fully appreciate training and racing for the fun of it, without the weight loss strings attached. But now that I recognize the difference, I might just be a step closer to finding my own greatness.