I had grand ideas of what it would be like to be in shape….fit, energy for ever, super strength, etc. While I’ve never really been super unhealthy, there were times that I weighted in at the higher end of the healthy range, didn’t move enough and indulged a little too much (leading to the weight thing). But, two years into cycling and I’m the fittest I’ve ever been. What’s even better is that I’m much smarter about it too!
But there are some things that surprised me. Things that you don’t really think of when thinking about being an athlete or at a healthy weight and activity level. I’ve listed a few things that caught me off-guard and what I do to balance it out!
My list is in no particular order, just how my brain presents it!
- Flexibility: It’s super hard to stay flexible! This is why stretching is SO important! Your muscles get tight as they recover and repair after workouts, so post-exercise stretching is a good way to keep everything limber (and aligned correctly) and even reduce the soreness you feel the day after. At the other end of the spectrum is soreness from inactivity! Stretching can help here as well, but nothing beats regular active movement.
- Pain: Being fit can hurt! This ties in with post-exercise soreness, as well as the pain during a workout. But it is so worth it! I’ve really found that the right mental attitude or perspective helps here. When I feel like crap during the climb, I know it’s good and that next time, I’ll be going a little bit faster! A saying that gets thrown around on the team a lot is: “It never get’s easier, you just go faster.”
- Immune System: Healthy people never get sick, right? Maybe so, but as an athlete I’m in the constant process of building up to the most fit I can be, recovering, rebuilding, recovering and on and on. This means pushing myself and my body to those peaks. The strain often means my immune system is right on the edge between resisting illness and succumbing to whatever cold is floating around. I combat by trying to get enough rest, trying to limit my sugar intake (I really like sweet things!), and eating foods that meet my nutritional needs so my body has what it needs to recover and resist. Don’t get scared though…moderate exercise actually improves immunity! So don’t stop just because you’re afraid of getting sick. That only happens with over-training and not allowing for proper recover or when you’re not giving your body the right fuel.
- Food: I can eat just about anything! It’s great! As long as I’m training, it doesn’t matter that I have pizza for lunch 4 days out of the week (granted it’s Kyle’s awesome homemade pizza, but there’s still a lot of cheese on those babies!), eat ice cream when I want (not every day of course), enjoy whatever dessert is being served, and not worry about drinking a beer with dinner. Sure, if I was more careful I might weigh less, but I value the enjoyment that comes not having to worry about watching every calorie. But really, be smart with what you eat! You’ll feel better, be healthier, and your body will be nourished!
It’s amazing to me to look at the past two years and where I’ve been and where I am now. I’ve found an activity that I am excited about, good at, challenged by and that has amazing benefits! I used to be jealous of people I knew who had that thing that they did and were so excited about. But now I have a thing that I am good at and excited about! This has changed my goals, my passions, my body, my mind, me.
So, all that to say….find something that gets you excited. Explore it. Be surprised! Work out the challenges and dig deeper. You’ll find yourself improved and strengthen. Isn’t that what we all want?