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.