I was never one of those twiggy kids whose knees were bigger than her thighs, nor was I overweight. I was always athletic. I played club soccer year-round and still managed to be an all-sport kid (softball, basketball, cross-country, track.. even did lacrosse for a year). In middle school, I ran a 6:35 mile, which isn't a blazing time that will take you to State-- but fast enough to say I was an in-shape lil' kid.
Enter high school soccer. We had a very competitive women's soccer team that had been winning State recently in a school division larger than our school actually was. I made Junior Varsity my freshman year and rumor was that I'd be moved up to the Varsity team to warm the bench at State. Then I blew my knee out. POP!
Long story short-- I tore my ACL, meniscus and sprained my MCL, the "unhappy triad." Though I didn't figure that out until I had surgery on it right before college. Yeah, long story short.
Unfortunately, I wasn't one of those people who could mentally get over their injury and play just as well in a knee brace. My brain guarded my knee all the time and I wasn't the same soccer player anymore. So I tried everything else.
Cross country, lacrosse, fast-pitch softball, I ran a half marathon and even tried some triathlons on my Mongoose after spotting the idea in a YMCA catalog.
And I gained weight.
Yup. I went from a lean 135 (I'm about 5'4") to 150+. Size 6 pant to 14.
How was this happening? How could I continue to be SO active and GAIN weight?
Theory? Stress and a deeper unhappiness. No soccer = unhappy RJ.
I went to college with my NEW Specialized Allez road bike (thanks mom and dad!) and discovered that Whitman had a blossoming cycling team. I was HOOKED. Cycling was FUN! Walla Walla was the most addictive place to ride and my teammates (both men and WOMEN) were awesome. The sport was a brilliant blend of endurance fitness and teamwork. Most every race I would get dropped (fall behind, away from the group) and struggle to catch up-- until the Conference Championship Criterium, where I did keep up!
I never focused on losing weight-- only on riding, having fun and my athletic performance. But fall it did-- by sophomore spring, I was lean and on the Nationals team, winning the Team Time Trial with my teammates. I was 135 in a size 6 pant again.
So yes, when subjecting your body to a new sport and riding lots and lots of hours and racing lots and lots of hours-- science says that losing weight and leaning up makes sense. But how come that half marathon or all those sprint triathlons or cross country season did nothing for my figure?
My answer? Happiness. Cycling replaced soccer for me and once again, I had a physical playground in which I felt euphoria and teammates that I would bust my ass for.
For all those people out there, struggling to get in shape-- you try and eat well, you sign up for a 5k run, you hit the gym, but you just. can't. lose. the. weight..
I think that stress, unhappiness, dissatisfaction, lack of a team environment, lack of focus-- these are the things holding your weight on. You may THINK that you're fairly happy-- surely I enjoyed myself on the cross-country team. But are you really, truly, deeply INSPIRED by the weights at the gym? Does that elliptical trainer make you feel ALIVE? Does plodding down the pavement during your morning run just feel RIGHT, like your body was made to move that way?
If you are struggling with your weight-- for health reasons (physical, mental, spiritual) and not for vanity-- then this is my advice to you:
- find a physical endeavor that you can fall in LOVE with.
- do it with people whom you can love and respect.
- get addicted to it.
- and share it with others.
- never think about the fact that you are trying to lose weight.
- treat yourself like an "important athlete."
- and have fun.