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