Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The weight of weight

I weigh myself daily. Why? I am not exactly sure. I have done so for the past 10 years. I remember when my grandmother passed away, my mother asked me what I would like from her house. I immediately said, "Her scale." You can see a) where and from which genes I got my obsession and b) how obsessed I was from an early age with body image. 

Currently I have a pretty high tech scale that spits out my weight, body fat percentage, hydration, muscle mass, and most likely my horoscope and the odds on the Redskins' game (that last one is easy since they always lose). At this point in my recovery it's a force of habit rather than an actual need. 
It fluctuates more than the stock market 

What is different now from when I was struggling with my ED is that while I still weigh myself, I make sure that the numbers do not affect my mood, actions, or thoughts.  After all, they are just numbers and, in reality, how your body is interacting with gravity on that day.

People, doctors, health care "professionals," and insurance companies obsess about weight and the number on the scale, and for understandable reasons. There is a strong correlation between health and weight, but honestly, one's weight is just one piece of the health jigsaw puzzle. The number leaves a lot out. It does not show body fat percentage, which is a better indicator of health, gut health, mental well being, muscle mass, or, most importantly, psychological peace. 

What I am currently struggling with is what weight is the best for me? While I am heavier now than I have ever been, I am also healthier and happier, which are definitely important. I am not sure though whether I am faster now than I was. Moreover, will I be faster at an even heavier weight? (I have no idea honestly but would love to hear your thoughts)

The best weight is the weight that optimizes your well being both mentally and physically. The same applies to race weight--the weight at which you perform best. If you are too light, you will fade too quickly and if you do finish then you cannot recover as quickly to race again. If you weigh too much (both fat and muscle), though, the extra pounds will slow you down. 

Weight also affects psychological health. If your weight is too low OR too high (interestingly both sides of the bell curve have similar symptoms), you will feel miserable, tired, cranky, etc. 
The number can be approximated by matching it with power to weight ratio numbers and body composition numbers. However, the only way to know your race weight is to experiment with different weights and find the one at which you race the fastest and recover equally well.

All of the numbers though mean NOTHING if you do not have the psyche to back it up. I could be at my "ideal" weight with ideal power numbers and ideal body composition, but if my mind, drive and motivation are not there, then it is meaningless. Those things out weigh any numbers from the scale....but that's just my two watts...

Monday, November 25, 2013

My Jewish Grandma

I think I have either Catholic or Jewish genes somewhere in my genome because I have a huge guilt complex especially when it comes to food and training.

If I eat a food I "should not" indulge in or skip a workout that I know I "should do," then I feel guilty. It does not stop there though. I continue to beat myself up sometimes for hours (maybe even days) after.

"Why the Hell did you eat that, Chris? Now you are going to get fat and slow..."

"You know, Chris. You should have really done that workout. Now you going to get fat and slow..."

Sound familiar? That little Jewish grandmother in my head has quite a critical eye.

I have to admit that my Bubbe is a pretty good inhibitor. Whenever I feel like I should reach for that doughnut in the teachers' lounge or that diet coke, my sweet little Bubbe will say "Now Christopher, you know what that will do your swim times. Oy!" So I remove my hand as if it had been slapped.

Honestly though, I do not like my Bubbe. I feel like food regardless of health should never make you feel guilty. Food is not inherently guilty or virtuous. It is we who assign these labels--labels that are completely subjective and arbitrary. As a side note, foods labeled as guilt free are already guilt free (ironically, it are these food that are labeled that we should be most careful of).

As we head into the Thanksgiving Holiday, I am trying to silence my Bubbe even though she is "family." If I eat something(s) that I know are not the greatest for me then that will be alright. I should not ruminate upon them but rather savor them. If I decide to refrain from eating something it will not be because my Bubbe told me not to or because of guilt but rather because it does not make me feel optimal. And on Thanksgiving, I want to be optimal since that feeling is something to be thankful for...but that's just my two watts.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

We are going to pump you up!

As I mentioned before in a previous post, this pre-season (a better name than off season), I am focusing a lot of time and energy on strength. Whether it is doing butterfly in the pool (I look more like I am twerking), doing hill repeats on the bike, or starting to trail run, my schedule emphasizes gaining muscle and making body and mind strong (insert: like bull).
Got a little too wild and crazy at a party...

This focus is essential for a good season next year. With my runner's build, it is hard for me to keep up with the big boys on the bike and my races suffer because of it. While I can put out a 4.0 watt/kg HIM race output, it is only a 240 watts compared to everyone else who can do much much more. Consequently, I have been proverbially hitting the weights to improve this deficit.

Going to the weight room is a little intimidating to be honest. At my gym in "Snottsdale," there are athlete whose biceps are the size of my waist. I walked past one person yesterday who had my body weight just on one side of bar. There are women whose diamond rings may weigh more than the dumbbell. Some are made of more plastic than the Barbie Doll that they are trying to look like. There are the high school athletes with full beards. Then there is little pipe arm me feeling like a mix between Spongebob:


And Homer Simpson: 

I have always enjoyed weight lifting in the past. I find it an awesome switch up from my normal swim/bike/run routine. It has also been a struggle for me mentally to do because of a deep dark, still ingrained fear that I am going to gain weight. 

Then I had one of those "Duoh! What have I been thinking? Of course!" moments this past week. As I stepped on the scale, it occurred to me that I actually want my weight to go up. Say WHAT?! Yep you read correctly: up. 

My "Health" score compliments of my gym

If the number on the scale goes down then that means my body is
sacrificing muscle. I am so lean right now at 3% body fat that any significant decrease on the scale most likely is a canniblization of muscle, the exact opposite of what I want. I have hit rock bottom or to paraphrase Drake, I am starting from the bottom and hopefully will get there.  

Talk about a 180 degree reversal of thinking! 

I am still struggling with my fear that if the number does go up then my run will suffer. My run has always been my strength  but will it continue to be, if I gain 10 more muscle mass like I am supposed to?

Since September of last year I have gained 10 lbs of muscle going from 125 to 135, and while I have not really improved per se in my races, I would say I am healthier and happier overall. I am recovering better from workouts, am sick less often, and most likely have better thyroid function.  

The only way to know though is to take the leap and hope for the best. Looking at the "data" out in the real world, there are plenty of triathletes who have raced 2:50 Ironman marathon splits while being 140-160 lbs but not many that are 135 except some select women.

Just because I am weight lifting does not mean that I am going to look like the 'roided up guys around me. Strength is not about size it is about how many neurons connected to your muscles can be recruited and utilized multiple times with the same force over the course of (hopefully in my case next year) 9 hours and 30 minutes or less. It is also about holding your form over the course of training without breaking down and keeping you injury free all season long...but that is just my two watts.

What are your thoughts? Do you follow a specific lifting/strength program? Has it helped? If so how? Leave your thoughts and comments bellow, I would love to hear them.