From TV to Triathlon’s – My Discovery of a Healthy Lifestyle – Part One


I struggled with my weight throughout my entire childhood.  I went from being a fit short distance sprinter in years 1 – 3 of primary school to obese-overweight, lacking energy in years 4 – 6.  At the end of year 6 my mother changed our family doctor, it was then discovered I hadn’t been sneaking food or a lazy child.  A simple blood test showed I had an under-active (hypothyroidism) thyroid gland.

Within day’s of taking a daily dose of thyroid medication (which I continue to take daily), I was an entirely new child.  I remember my mother asking me “will you ever shut up?”, I had become a loud mouth chatter box, I had too much energy and no idea how to use it.  Since I had been picked on for my weight for a few years at this stage of my life, my confidence was low and I had a tendency to stay inside watching episodes of my favourite Disney cartoons on weekday afternoons, (Ducktales and Gummie Bears) or playing video games on my NES or Gameboy, instead of joining my younger brother and his friends outside playing.  I never had the energy to last more than 10 minutes without huffing and puffing, and I didn’t want to get picked on by my brother in front of his friends either.  Staying inside the house was the ‘safer’ choice.

Suddenly I had all this energy, I was more talkative with family, and made some new friends at school while the weight quickly dropped off me.  But I didn’t have enough confidence to go outside and play until a visit to the doctor, he said to me, “You’re in a healthy weight range for a 12-year-old, your over all health is great”.  For years I had been called a fat and lazy girl, I asked my mum if now that I’m normal again can I do some sports.  I joined the running team at school, taken up tennis lessons, archery, and physical culture dancing and joined a Scouts group.

I had widened my group of friends to include boys in year 7 now, my confidence was at an all time high.  I spent my weekends riding my BMX Bike around the suburbs, sneaking into the woods with friends to perform jumps.  Being a kid was finally fun.  I entered high school worried about the change of friends, mainly keeping only 2 girlfriends from primary school.  I joined my high schools cross-country team, continued tennis lessons, Scouts and road my BMX bike to and from school daily and did weekend rides to Redcliffe or Nudgee Beach.

High School proved very distracting, even while attending an all girls school.  I would meet new school boys on my ride home all the time, many school social’s to attend, and as I grew up through the high school teenage years many fashions and personalities to try out and discover.

At age 14 I stopped growing at 158 cm tall, weighing 55 kg for most of high school.  Petite and cute, simply put.  I felt like nothing could stop me from being social, popular, partaking in sports, and kissing many, many boys.

The year I turned 15 I had a turn of events after crashing my bike in the rain and my right knee hit the gutter breaking it.  After months of rehab I could walking normally again, but to scared to run, or play tennis again, I didn’t want to re-injure myself.  Having missed a lot of school my confidence was hurt, my parents separated and were divorced in this time also.  I was hurt physically and emotionally, I spent much of the next decade rebelling against my mother, lost some friends and learned to survived on my own.  Over those 10 years my weight fluctuated between 60 kg and 65 kg.  The largest dress size I have been as an adult is a size 12.  The exercise I would do was mainly light running or walking on treadmills and weights 4-5 days a week, not watching my diet so much, I still use to eat fast food, drink Fanta, eat muffins and treats, and complain I could never break below 60 kg.

Finally, just over year ago, I got a spark of inspiration that ultimately led to a whole new lifestyle while, dropping weight, counting calories and being happier. Here’s how I did it:-

The Motivation:

The motivation came from watching my boyfriend at the time compete in the Gold Coast Marathon in 2011, a spectator and a supporter for him, leaning on the railings at the 31 km mark, thinking to myself “I could never do this, my knee wouldn’t cope”.  Browsing through the event guide I saw that they also hold a 5km and 10km runs, distances I thought if given some pointers, I maybe able to run.   The Bridge to Brisbane was about 2 months away, would this be enough time to learn to run again and compete in the 5km?

I waited until the afternoon for my partner to recover from his marathon event before asking him some questions about running a 5 km.  He showed me a 5 km training guide the Gold Coast Marathon had on their website.  He then took me out for runs on weekends leading up to the event, and during the week I trained on my own using the training plan.  2 months later I completed the Bridge to Brisbane 5km race in 31 minutes, 56 seconds and he was my support.  I had set a time of 45 minutes to complete, which he’d laughed at, but I wasn’t going to aim to high for my first 5km run.

Strategies:

Over the From TV to Triathlon’s (FTtT) series, I’m going to talk about a few of the strategies, exercise, diets, lifestyle changes, training plans, gear and other random things that I have trial and tested that have worked for me in my endeavor to become fitter and healthier person.

Exercise:

– Running

My first piece of advise is to grab a 5km training plan, whether it be a Couch to 5km, or the iPhone App Ease into 5km.  These programs will take about 30-45 minutes to complete each day if you include a warm ups, stretching before and after and a warm down.  While training for the Gold Coast 10 km I was running on average 3 times a week, between 5 – 9 km a session, and doing about an hours training (which includes: Warm up: 1 km slow jog/Stretch/Main Set/Stretch/Warm Down: 1 km slow jog/walk).  I would also do 2 x weight/strength sessions a week to build lean muscles.

For 10km, Half-Marathon and Marathon distances The Gold Coast Marathon Site has fantastic training plans. To obtain a free plan you sign up to a newsletter first, then can choose from either beginner, intermediate and advanced levels for each distance.  These have been essential training tools for both my 5km and 10km races.

My current running PB’s are:

5 km, PB is 00:28:37 (Off the bike, sprint distance triathlon)

10km PB of 00:55:45 (Gold Coast 10km)

– Triathlon

When I tell people I participate in triathlons, replies are, “I could never do that, I can’t ,” or ” isn’t my strong point”.  I decided to give triathlon a try after I had achieved my goal of running 5km, afterwards I was lost for what to do next.  Spending a week umming about whether or not I could overcome my fears of swimming, I finally decided to give it a go, and complete an Enticer Triathlon.  This my story:

– Swimming: I began learning to swim at age 27…. It’s the sad truth, I only knew doggy paddle and barely kept afloat.  September 2011 I began learning to swim, taught by my boyfriend at the time.  There were many, many tears, nerves, moments of hesitation, and I still deal with these when I go to the pool for a session.

I eased into swimming at first by being taught the basic fundamentals of breaststroke, freestyle, breathing, head positioning and kicking.  Once I felt confident enough to do this by myself I started my swimming sessions with 100m – 200m breaststroke warm up. A 15 – 20 minute of freestyle set, with a 30 second breather between each 100m. A warm down off 100m breaststroke.

As I become more confident I increase the main set to 30 minutes and slowly reduced rests between 100m,200m laps.

– Cycling: Cycling for fitness can be one of the most beneficial and easiest ways to lose weight.  Cycling is has a low impact nature and the ability to cycle more frequently with more volume (and intensity when appropriate) than you can with running. Although swimming is a great sport that’s low impact during a weight loss period, it’s not as convenient as getting on your bike and riding. If your bike is set up inside this time of year on a wind-trainer, it’s even more accessible and easier than driving to the pool and getting into a cold pool on a cold winter morning.  Most people grow up learning to ride a bike, so building speed, form and endurance is what you will be train hard at to succeed.

In November 2011, I completed my first enticer triathlon on a mountain bike, I have since upgraded to a road bike. MapMyRide is a great app to map your routes and track your activity while on a ride.

Training with a road bike I can either use a wind-trainer at home, or be out on the streets and pathways of Brisbane.  I generally incorporate a cycling session with a run off the bike most weekends.

– Running: I’ve already covered the basics of becoming a runner, but if there’s anything that truly defines a triathlon it’s the feeling of running off the bike.  Whether you’ve just ridden to the shops or an Ironman going from the bike and onto your legs to run feels dead and heavy, and certainly not primed for running, let alone fast running. What contributes to running well off the bike? The main components are your fitness on the bike and run legs, your running form and psychology.  Fitness is the biggest determinant of your ability to run off the bike. Obviously, if you haven’t done any run training then you can’t expect to run well, full stop.  As said above I incorporate a run off the bike session once a week when in training for a triathlon.

Psychology during the run leg – as well as the whole triathlon – can make a huge difference to your performance, and how well you deal with situations that arise during a race. For running off the bike, a positive mindset is key to running well.

Triathlon Training Plans: Click here for Triathlon Training Sprint Distance Program – 5 Weeks

Part One – Conclusion:

Exercising three times a week is the bare minimum. Four or Five times a week is better. People who are fit look better, feel better, work better, and are sick less often.  For proper physical fitness, a balanced diet is essential.  I will be covering healthy eating habits in Part Two of FTtT.

Mars.

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