Wednesday, November 3, 2010

You are what you think you are, and I'm an athlete, damnit

I've been having a lot of problems with my healthy lifestyle lately. I have not been fully committed to working out or eating healthy. I have good days, but more often than not (at least 2 or 3 to 1 right now) I have bad days. I've been feeling tired, I've been sick, I've been in need of a break from the heavy training; a break that I've already been taking basically since the day after Club Nationals. I have told myself that keeping 60+ pounds off for the past few years is an awesome accomplishment, so it's OK if the next 100 take a long time.

I have been making a lot of excuses about what I have been doing and why I have been doing it. I have been jealous of a friend who has made a more dramatic change (100 lbs lost) to his weight (and life) than I have in less than a years time. I have seen folks finish their couch to 5k's with a 30 minute race (sub 10 min/mi pace) and I felt sad, and even depressed when reading about their success. I have been reading triathlon forums of such profoundly talented athletes that I even began to minimize to myself what it meant for me to finish Timberman.

To say my state of mind hasn't been good is stating it mildly. My weight, which has a major impact on what I am going to be able to do in the races this year has been creeping back up. It's really been a struggle lately, and pardon my language but I'm about fucking sick of it (Sorry mom). I am tired of feeling like I can't win this battle, that it's ok to be the weight I am, even one more day. I'm tired of making excuses to myself  that sice Rach married me when I was fat, and saw me, not the fat, that it's ok to still be this size when she works so hard to keep herself in good shape.

I've been feeling pretty down about all this for a while, but sometimes it takes seeing or reading something to really bring it to the surface. When I got home from work tonight I was doing my pre-dinner pass through Facebook, when I saw a couple of postings from earlier today on the Nissan Master the Shift Page that I follow (mostly because of a Lance Armstrong related contest). It sort of just snapped in me that while I'm putting in at least some effort to workout, it's really the mindset around the exercise and the eating control that has been causing me problems.

Paige Dunn, a freelance writer who specializes in sports psychology, wrote this post regarding in essence the power of positive thinking:
What is your cycling identity?  How do you think of yourself as a rider? The way you think about yourself as a rider or athlete can have a direct impact on your ability. What do others say and think about your riding ability?  After a group ride or race when someone pays you a compliment do you deny or accept this information?  Sometimes we are so caught up in the identity that we have created for ourselves in past experiences that we don’t allow ourselves to let our identity evolve. And for most of us, identity evolves with time and life experiences.
You’ve probably heard the phrase “you are what you think you are” and this can certainly apply to your cycling performance. If you think that you are terrible at climbing, then chances are you are limiting you ability when you are climbing.  If you think you are a great sprinter, then chances are you are going to be confident and strong when going in to a sprint.
I had the opportunity to work with a tremendously talented cyclist who grew up overweight and borderline obese.  He transformed himself into an athlete over the years with a lot of hard work and dedication. He realized he had quite a bit of talent and potential as an elite cyclist. However, he limited his performance ability at times when he got caught up in his cycling identity that had not evolved.
He had trouble acknowledging that he was not that fat, slow cyclist anymore. He needed to change his mindset and accept that his current cycling identity was one of strength and talent.  This took a lot of work for this rider but once he came to terms with who he currently was as a rider, his talent was unleashed and he is riding strong.
So ask yourself what your cycling identity is and then ask others what they think of you as a rider.  Sometimes this is a good indication of whether you are being realistic and need to change that outlook at all to make the most of your cycling ability.

Tara Stiles, a yoga instructor with a line of popular videos also posted about a healthy state of mind. The sections that specifically stuck out to me:
We already know what we need to be healthy. Our bodies are incredibly smart. Often our minds get in the way of health.
Diets usually fail because we are holding back, mentally fighting urges, desires. How stressful must it be to count every calorie.  I knew a girl in my ballet days that counted out her allowed almonds. Yoga reminds us of our natural instincts to be healthy. It puts our intuition back in charge. We want to eat wholesome foods when we are hungry, and stop eating when we are full. What is very simple often gets complicated by the mind.
The tricky part of “eat whatever you feel like” doesn’t work if our unresolved psychology gets in the way.  “Oh, I just feel like eating a McDonalds big mac,” isn’t really what your body is asking for.  Listen.  Keep listening and you’ll know what to do.
Talk about reading something just when you really need to. I found a lot of truth in both of these posts. The cravings, especially fast food, are usually a signal for something else, and I just need to fight off the craving long enough to figure out what it is I am actually needing.  I need to stop making excuses for my behavior and start thinking of myself as an athlete for who what I've accomplished is just the beginning of what I can accomplish. I need to be serious in my belief and effort to lose weight and get fit.

I've looked at where I am, took stock of how much time is left this year, and I am determined to weigh no more than 299 on 01/01/11. It will take effort and commitment, but I've had that before, and can again. As I read this post again, I have it now, but I need to manifest that desire, that intense need to continue the change I've been making to myself. There's plenty of time, and we're not going home for Thanksgiving or Christmas, so it's really up to me to make the most of these last two months of the year, and hit this first goal I've been after for quite a while.


  1. Wow, super post, Ben. I think I may need to copy the first quote you have about how we see ourselves and put it somewhere that I can look at it often, just to remember. I, too have been in an autumn-slump/funk with training and eating right that I am having a hard time beating.

    Good luck to you with your new-found motivation, ATHLETE. TRIATHLETE. TIMBERMAN FINISHER! Thanks again for the great post.

  2. Here supporting you through everything! Great post and relevant in so many ways. You have accomplishes so much this year and I am sure you will be happy with your results at the end of the year.