Too Fat to Tri?

Me at said 5k This is a personal post. I want to share my thoughts and experiences, as others may relate or benefit from them.

At a 5k a couple of weeks ago, I had a good race and came in 11th overall. After catching my breath, and staving off the dry heaving, I found my family. My wife said to me, “It looks like you had a good race, you were the fastest bigger guy out there.” My heart sunk, and I was not happy with my performance anymore. She said it to be encouraging, and I wasn’t upset with her, but it struck a nerve. I am a bigger endurance athlete, and I struggle with that. Don’t get me wrong as I am big for an endurance athlete, but otherwise very active and healthy.

I train really hard, keep my diet mostly clean, but I can’t achieve the body type of an elite endurance athlete. My issue is most likely a combo of appetite and genetics. Everyone on my father’s side of the family is large framed, and quick to put on weight. I can have a perfectly clean diet for a month and lose three pounds. If I slip and have a bad week I will gain four pounds back. It’s frankly frustrating and pisses me off. It is completely frustrating to watch every calorie, train your ass off, and not see any result.

I should probably choose a different sport that better suits my body type, but I love endurance sports. I train everyday, not out of a sense of obligation, but because I love it. My workouts are my favorite parts of my day. I don’t feel well physically or mentally, if I go too many days without working out. My accomplishments in running and triathlon are some of my proudest moments. I am most alive when I am pushing myself to the limit, and pushing past what I thought was possible.

My size isn’t going to keep me from competing, because racing is what I really enjoy. There is always this nagging voice in my head telling my size is holding me back. I guess it’s insecurity, but when I am racing and all of the other athletes around me are 40-50 pounds lighter, I feel like a cargo ship in a pack of speed boats. I’ve shown up to group workouts, and been the biggest person there by 30 pounds. At that point I feel like, I’m fat Albert, and the rest are the gang. Am I just an impostor in a world of ectomorphs?

My results have steadily improved over the past few years, even though I have stayed the same size. This is a result of consistency and experience, of which I am very proud. Every so often my frustration with my weight and progress makes me want to quit. Or least go and train in solitude, where I am my only frame of reference. These thoughts of quitting only last a couple of days. I’ll find a race I want to do, sign up, and be motivated again.

I’m sharing my thoughts, not just to have a pity party, but because I’m sure others feel the same way. Society already has a bias against larger people. That pressure is even more magnified in the endurance community filled with super fit competitive people. In endurance sports your standing is determined by speed. When light = fast, this can be a losing battle.

I will continue to race and train for triathlon, because I love it. I want to help and encourage others who want to start in triathlon, no matter his/her size. I’m just as inspired to see the elite athletes fly through the course, as I am the person who had to make a major lifestyle change to finish. These athletes may not race at the same speed, but they both had to put in the same dedication and effort.

Will I ever find a diet/training plan that will yield the results I want? Will my body type keep me from reaching my true potential? I’m not sure, but I continue to train hard and work with the cards I am dealt.

Have you had a similar experience? If so, please share your story in the comments.

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10 thoughts on “Too Fat to Tri?”

  1. I am a 52 year old woman who started running 4 years ago and I am doing Ironman next year. I am by no means obese but I am larger than most women I race with. During my first 10k, a twenty-something guy ran by at roughly 3 times my speed and mooed at me as he did. He came in first and I came in last. He was a rude and arrogant jerk. But we both finished the race, even if I was last and looked a little cow-like. I prefer to think that Karma will return the favor to him someday. I thank you did great! Keep going!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thx for the comment. That dude doesn’t get it. You’re an athlete no matter the size or speed. I respect anyone who is putting in the work. Best of luck on your ironman journey. Finishing that race is a feeling like no other. If you need any help along the way. Just reach out.

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  2. I hear ya buddy. 6’3, 100+kg most of my adult life. For the last year, I’ve been hovering at 102kg. I only have to look at a bottle of water and I put on 5kg. Sucks ass.

    Bottom line is though, what we do is hard. Real hard. The fact we get out there day after day should be testament to our commitment.

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  3. The fact that us larger folks get out there and train just as hard as the little guys should make us even more proud! I am a tall girl (5’10) and I remember running track and cross country in high school against these short, stick-thin girls, but that didn’t stop me. I was actually really successful in cross country and could beat out a lot of the smaller girls. I don’t think you should let size stop you. If anything, it makes you a tougher athlete. I get so tired of hearing people say they aren’t built to be a runner. No one’s body is specifically “built” to perform a certain task. Sure, someone’s height might come in handy for say, basketball or volleyball, and a short person might have an advantage when it comes to legroom on an airplane. But every person goes through their own struggles, no matter their size.

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  4. I had to work to accept that I’m only healthy above a certain weight, but being on a triathlon team has been so encouraging. These people (compared to an elite running team or something similar) understand that it’s important to work hard pushing and fueling your body for the best performance. Triathletes are strong people and come in all shapes and sizes. Thank you for your words and let’s go kick some butt!

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  5. keep at it! the reason why I love tri’s i am not competeing against others but mostly myself. For example my first Olympic distance was 03:32 and last year it was 03:11. i may weigh over 210 both times but my body is changing for the better. keep up the great work and happy triing!

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  6. Preaching to the choir on this one my friend. I am also a bigger guy (and I HATE being called “big guy”). I write about it a lot over at fatslowtriathlete.com and talk about it on the two podcasts I have (Back of Pack Endurance and Fat Slow Triathlete). The hardest part is accepting you’ll probably never be the slim guy out there, but that should never stop you from going out there. I only take on coaching clients that are large or newbies for that reason … I want to show people, them and others around us, that being the perfect size has nothing to do with desie and ability. Keep preaching the good word!

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