I started taking my strength and conditioning more seriously in 2012. I first began working with a personal trainer in 2008 because I was sore or injured quite often. My husband thought it was because I was getting older, and I wanted to prove him wrong. So I started working with a trainer which led to strength training and running, which led to road races and trail races and eating better, which led to weight loss and muscle gain, which led to heavier weights and longer races, and so on and so forth.
At first as the weight started coming off I was obsessed with what I put into my mouth. I stepped on the scale every morning for the first year. I noticed when my weight would go up a few pounds and when it would drop. But I noticed after a year or so my new “normal” weight was within a 3-4 pound range. At the time I recall thinking:
What if I start eating cookies and chips again? I know my weight will start to creep right back up there and before you know it-30 pounds later I am right back where I started. It has not happened. I eat pretty much what I want now and my weight has remained constant for about 3 years. The difference between then and now is now I know better. I want to eat vegetables and protein. If choose to eat chips occasionally, but I do not eat cheese, I do not eat pasta, I do not eat peanut butter. I choose not to eat foods that make me feel like crap.
But what if all of a sudden one day I stop running? That will be the end of my running days. That did not happen either. In the 4 years I have been running I have run over 100 road races, 7 half marathons, and a 25K trail race on an injured ankle. I have had to take time off from running twice due to injury, and most recently I cut back on my mileage significantly to focus more on power and speed-and I am still running. I still love to run, and I plan to continue racing. My expectations have shifted and I am not so hyper focused on time and pace, but I love to compete and challenge myself and continue to do so to the extent I am able.
What if I no longer work with a personal trainer? How will I know what to do? After 3 years with one trainer, and a year and a half with a different trainer, I know what to do. I like having a professional to seek advice and to watch my form-especially when learning something new-but I know what to do. I also like having someone push me just a little bit, but I know what my body needs and I know how to get there.
As I ran my first 5k race in four months yesterday and I pushed my way up a couple hills and then had to take a few walking breaks to get through the course I thought to myself, “Here we go, time to get back into racing shape.” My breathing felt pretty good, but I was only able to maintain my pace for a mile or so. My legs felt tired and I realized I have been running on a treadmill and choosing flatter routes. And I have not been doing speed work. It felt good to pick up the pace and I was pleased with my first race effort of the season, now having a plan to move forward.
Keeping a training journal has helped. What I perceived to be a great year and a half with my last trainer was actually a year filled with sickness, soreness, extreme tiredness, most likely due to being over worked. I was strength training 3x week and doing 4-5 x 8-10 reps of squats, bench presses, push presses, deadlifts, in addition to single leg knee and hip dominant work and body weight work. My thousands of kettlebell swings and lunges with trainer number one became thousands of pushups, pullups and presses with trainer number two. Did I get stronger? I did indeed, but not without beating myself up.
Yesterday I realized all of my worst fears have not come true. I have not gained weight, I have not lost significant strength (I am getting back to my pre-injury strength from a year ago), I may have lost some conditioning and speed but I will work to see if I can gain some of that back. The end result? I have learned how to eat, how to train, and how to work with my body. I don’t need to work out to lose weight or get fit. I don’t need to learn how to lift or how to run. I am in training. What I choose to work on will help me accomplish my goals this year. In between those workouts I will work on mastering my form and keeping my joints and tissues moving.