WHAT’S EAT­ING YOU? YOU AREN’T HOW YOU EAT

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - FEATURES -

It’s a hard ask for ath­letes to stop eat­ing what they think will get them to what they feel is a “cor­rect” weight for com­pe­ti­tion. Help­ing ac­cept your­self as you are does not mean you have to give up am­bi­tion to com­pete. If, how­ever, you find you have be­come ad­dicted to the gym at the cost of a bal­anced in­sight into how you see your­self in the mir­ror, it may be time to ask for help from your net­work. Are you ad­dicted to ex­er­cise? You may see it in your­self or your train­ing part­ner – the fine line be­tween ex­celling at triathlon and hav­ing it be­come your fix for all things. Does the sport pro­vide your en­dor­phin needs, has it be­come your psy­cho­log­i­cal best friend, is it sup­plant­ing your work and per­sonal life? Triathlon train­ing can be­come an ad­dic­tion. If you train to the point where you re­peat­edly in­jure your­self, you miss your child’s birth­day to do one more brick work­out, or you train at the ex­pense of all else, you should think of mak­ing a change. Af­ter all, you still need your orig­i­nal joints when you are older, your child’s smile to brighten the day and the per­spec­tive that comes from the other aspects of your life.

Cana­dian pro Lionel San­ders has shared his story of hav­ing ad­dic­tion chal­lenges to il­licit drugs be­fore be­com­ing a sport­ing in­spi­ra­tion. Cog­nizant that he shouldn’t swap his hy­per-fo­cus from drugs to sport, San­ders is aware that there can be an over­do­ing of train­ing that puts you in a hole.

“I think the big­gest thing that I had to ac­knowl­edge is that in or­der to push your­self to the ab­so­lute limit, you need bal­ance in your life,” he says. “You can’t train hard all the time [as] this will burn you out phys­i­cally and men­tally. You need to re­cover, you need to have other in­ter­ests so that when you do train hard you have men­tal and phys­i­cal strength, mo­ti­va­tion and de­sire.”

The way out of ex­er­cise de­pen­dence is of­ten through ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the neg­a­tive con­se­quences of over-ex­er­cise and the gen­eros­ity of oth­ers who can point it out. There ac­tu­ally is a zone where fo­cus and mo­ti­va­tion can lead to ath­letic achieve­ments with­out lead­ing to a crash in per­for­mance, scut­tling of en­joy­ment, or loss of health. You can em­brace ex­er­cise with mod­er­a­tion that still con­fers tremen­dous value. As you pre­pare for the up­com­ing tri sea­son, take a look in the mir­ror and see who it is that looks back. Be­ing aware al­lows you to ask for help if you want it. There is joy in striv­ing for ex­cel­lence in how your body func­tions and looks. There is re­ward in set­ting a goal and ac­com­plish­ing it. Real sat­is­fac­tion can come from be­ing con­sis­tent with ac­tiv­ity and so­cial en­gage­ment through train­ing. The var­ied ages, back­grounds and body types of triath­letes con­tin­ues to be a boon to the pos­i­tive di­ver­sity in our sport and the ac­knowl­edg­ment that fu­elling with food re­mains not only a vi­tal as­pect of triathlon, but of over­all well­ness. Re­mem­ber you aren’t how you eat and, while your eat­ing or train­ing pat­terns may re­late in part to self-iden­tity, you are far more im­por­tant to your­self and oth­ers than what or how you fuel with food or rest.

Dr. Chris Willer is a psy­chi­a­trist at St. Michael’s Hos­pi­tal in Toronto and an avid triath­lete for the past 18 years. He is also a nine-time Iron­man finisher, and has com­peted at the Marathon Des Sables, New­ton 24 Hours of Triathlon and Ul­tra­man Canada. Olympic Gold Medal Coach, Head Coach Olympic Team, Top Age Group Coach

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