My interest in triathlon was first sparked from my love of swimming and a want to really challenge and set new goals for myself. I am hardly the die-hard, Iron-woman-type competitor whom most would consider a fan of the sport; the triathlons in which I compete are mostly inter-university, or regional races whose distances are much easier to handle and train for than the full-on Iron Man event. My initial fear was that I wasn't "sporty" enough or athletic enough to even be INVOLVED in triathlon, let alone, COMPETE in one. The first big hurdle for me, as a person with an ED, was getting back into swimming, as a sport. I was so terrified of revealing my swim-suited self to anyone, that I gave up my beloved swimming for years before I gathered up enough courage to just "take the plunge," if you will. I had really missed being in the water. I love the free, weightless feeling of my body in fluid motion. The catharsis of swimming, for me, is in the freedom of bodily movement--one can be as swift and sleek as a dolphin, as effortless and graceful as a diver, or as messy and wild as a cannonball-thrashing child.

After I took that first step, I realized that I wasn't being stared or pointed at . . . I didn't make the water level rise in the pool . . . I wasn't the focus of everyone's attention and the butt of everyone's snickering remarks; in fact, no one even noticed me, which was the nicest feeling I'd ever felt, while in a swimsuit!

Training for triathlon, involves knowing both HOW to eat for intense activity, and WHAT to eat in order to fuel that activity. Having an ED and training for triathlon were two things that clashed horribly when I tried to mesh the two together. My first competitive experience involved many hours of doing consecutive bouts of training in the pool, weight-lifting, distance running, and stationary cycling--all on an empty stomach. The chills, dizziness, nausea, muscle fatigue and overall weakness in training are only superficial factors to deter most people from doing this, and they prompted me to seek help from a nutritionist at the university I was attending.

I learned about such basics of metabolism and nutrition for endurance activities as carb-loading, electrolyte balance, and glycogen depletion. I knew that I wasn't eating properly for the kind of training I wanted to do, and I was hoping that I could still compete, despite my unwillingness to feed myself what my body needed.

My first inter-university triathlon proved to be a combination of triumph and disappointment. I succeeded in completing the events as fast as I possibly could, but I found myself constantly judging my body shape against those of the other female competitors. Granted, not everyone who competed were thin and lean, but I rationalized for the sizes of the larger female participants by noting how much faster and better they were at the sport than me.

I have reached a point where I train and compete for myself; where participation and completion of the race itself are my only goals. It may sound utterly idiotic, but I had to realize there are multiple reasons why there are so many people who are much BETTER at triathlon than I am: they eat appropriately for the sport, they train appropriately for the sport, and some people are just naturally more physically, mentally, and spiritually suited for the sport.

Triathlon will continue to be a fascination for me, but until I can feel comfortable with proper nutrition and treat my body as well as it ought to be treated, I won't be as active a participant as I would want.

FWD >> Sports Physiology and Nutrition


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