Friday, June 10, 2011

The Verdict…

…is still out.

There are a couple of things that regularly seem to happen in my life: I hear what I want to hear and I don’t hear what I need to hear. Now this doesn’t happen all the time but occasionally and sometimes when it happens it is a royal bummer.

Thursday I had an appointment with a trainer. I was excited to just pick her brain for a minute and I really wanted to talk nutrition and fueling with her. I showed up for the appointment and she was great. She runs, a little. She has a half marathon under her belt but her main thing is weight training and getting people into shape. She asked me what I needed from her. Easy. I need a few things. I need someone to hang out with me all day to hand me healthy snacks at the right time, the perfect snacks to feed my muscles and to keep me from storing calories. I need someone to create a perfect training plan for me that integrates ALL my key (social) races. I need a 24/7 personal assistant/trainer. Can you do that? “What do you mean NO? What kind of business is this?”

In all seriousness I have a few issues.

1) I train. A lot. I work out hard and burn countless calories. On my Dailymile I see that I have burned 50 pounds of fat,  burned over 964 donuts, gone over 1,414 miles (biking, swimming and running), done 286 workouts, gone .06 around the stinking world (I’m on my way people!). So why on earth do I have 24% body fat? How is that possible? Not saying I have anywhere near 50 pounds to lose, I would be gross and sickly, but I do have some extra poundage that is preventing me from performing at my full potential. I am not at my ideal race weight.

2) I don’t know what to eat and when and I feel hungry all the time.

3) I feel like I lack direction with my workouts and training. I need a yearly plan and that is hard considering I love to race. It is my hobby and it makes me happy.

To these issues she told me, “You need to cut back. You’re doing too much. Your body is in shock. Your calories are too low. You are not eating enough of the right calories and you body is breaking down muscle. When you do eat your body stores it. You need to back off.”

I was mad. Hot. Steaming. Seething. Boiling. Angry. I stopped listening. I mean I listened with my ears but I was no longer processing what she said. I did not blog last night because I needed to re-hear what she had told me and I needed to think about it. I needed to sit with it. How can I be doing too much? I feel fine. My body is fine. I’m not injured. I am doing what I love! How is this too much? How is this bad? How is my  exercising making me store fat? What is going on? What does this mean? I work out too much therefore I can’t lose 10 pounds? This is ridiculous! Absurd. Redonkulous! Heart breaking. Sad. Anger-inducing. How do elite athletes do it? There has to be a way. It is some people’s job to work out 8 hours a day. Not mine but they can do it, why can’t I? I didn’t go there to hear that I needed to cut back. I went there to find out how I can eat better so that I can continue to do what I am doing. Is this not hearing what I need to hear? Hearing what I want? Was I taking it wrong? I came home in a rotten mood.

But realistically I know she is right. Kind of. She said I was eating about 1000 calories too few. I need to eat more of what I am already eating. My 6 meals a day is working. I have lost 2 pounds since beginning that. I just need to eat a little bit more and the right mix of protein, fat, and carbs.

Overall, yes.  I need to rest more but really running 4/5 times a week, swimming 2/3 times a week and biking maybe 1/2 times a week is not too much. It just isn’t.  I was crushed to hear that someone is telling me to back off. Can you tell a dog not to fetch a ball? A grandma not to knit? A painter not to paint? A gardener not to weed? This is what I do. This is my hobby. I enjoy it and want to keep doing it. It’s like telling someone to cut back the booze, or cut back smoking…. Only cut back exercise. ????  I am not injured. I don’t really see any immediate risk to my health. Although last night as I sat, with my back to the laundry room door, head on my knees, I cried. How could something that we have always been told is good for us (people as a whole) be not working? I started exercising to lose weight, and then to keep it off. I don’t wont this to come across wrong, I am truly happy with my current healthy weight, BUT with that being said I am only a few pounds under my healthy weight. Even a 10 pound loss would put me a few pounds above my lowest healthy weight. I want be at a healthy, lighter race weight. But as I sat, having my own pity party crying The Hubs pointed out that maybe, just maybe this is how overtraining manifests in me. Maybe I am overstrained and the result is an emotional burst?

It boils down to this: What started out as a means to lose weight is now preventing me from losing weight. I need to eat and fuel better and train smarter. Bottom line.

Now I just need to figure out HOW to manage it. How to safely do it and how to do it in a healthy manner. I take rest days. I took Saturday and Sunday and Thursday off! That is three good, quality rest days. The trainer of course said I needed to implement at least 2 days of strength training. Yeah. How does that fit in with my doing too much? Hm…I know she is right. I do need strength training. Muscle burns fat even when at rest. But how do I fit in yet another TWO workouts when I am already over-taxed?

Here is my answer:

I will seek out the right kind of trainer for me. Someone who can incorporate all my key races into one plan that combines running, biking, swimming and weights AND nutrition. The trainer I met with was great. She just wasn’t what I am needing. I am floundering and I need direction.

Beginning in Jan 2011 (I know, that is far out. but keep in mind these are long term life changes) and now when I can I will plan my race calendar and not race because there is a race, it’s close and I want to. I will put them methodically on my race calendar and train properly for each one,  or use them within training (like race a 10 mile before a half marathon) whether it be a running race or a tri it matters not. As of now I have races all over the place: Half marathon, sprint tri, Olympic tri, full marathons….it is impossible to do all those plans at once and to train properly for any of them.

So I have decided to cut back just a little bit. Today I swam 2600 meters. That is all. No run. No bike. Just swim. Tomorrow is rest. Sunday is an easy 8-10 miles run. And if you know of any online training and nutrition coaches pass the info along…

What are your thoughts on this? Do share. I just felt so defeated and frustrated. So give it to me, the blunt, the truth, and your experience.


  1. oh man I wish I had the answer. I'm still trying to figure out racing/running nutritions. eat to Lose weight?sure. Get to racing weight,fuel properly and strike a balance?not so much

    good luck

  2. Sorry that was such sucky news to hear. One way to look at it is that you have two conflicting goals. One- you love to workout and it makes you happy. If that's goal # 1 then just do what you are doing! Goal two- you want to be as fast as possible, which may mean shedding weight. If this is your number one goal then cutting back may be the way to achieve it! Good luck!

  3. Don't let the opinion of one trainer (who isn't a runner) get you down. Not saying she's wrong, but I think it would be a good idea to talk to a trainer/coach who is more experienced with your particular sports (running/biking/swimming).

  4. 24% body fat is not bad! But you can bike, run, and swim your little heart out but if you don't lift weights you can't expect to have a lot of muscle tone... that's just from my experience and from what I see / read. Do you lift consistently? Maybe working in a consistent weight training program would help but then that on top of everything else you do... yeah I really have no answers. Sometimes I think I run a lot by clocking 150-175 miles a month often and then I see people who run 200+ miles a month plus swim and bike and then I feel like a slacker!

  5. yup yup yup i am feeling every bit of your pain and frustration because I am in teh same darn boat. however having seen a recent pic you posted I can't believe yo uare 24% BF, are you positive that's right??

  6. Eating 1000 too few calories is too few and will keep you from losing any weight. It's important to eat back the calories that you burn during exercise.

  7. Every time I read about working out and weight loss, it always says it's all about calories in and calories out. I think you need to find out how many calories you are burning and how many you need to eat to lose a teeny bit of weight. She is probably right that you aren't eating enough...but I would add that it's not enough calories, so yeah, your body is holding on to the extra pounds because it's afraid of starving.

    The Bodybugg was awesome for this. It showed me how much/little I needed to eat on the days I worked out and the days I did not work out. They are not equal, as it turns out. :)

    Good luck!

  8. Oh I hate it when I hear news that I don't want to and don't think they can be right. i don't have any great insight for you, wish I did, but I would love it to have someone tell me to eat more :)

  9. I don't have any professional advice for ya...but in my OPINION, i always thought losing weight was all about the cardio, but in my experience lifting weights does make a big difference in how my body looks. You work out like crazy...but isn't your body already used to what you're doing? I think if you added weight lifting (which could mean shorter workouts of your other sports? Or taking off a day from 'em?), you might see the results you want. I don't do anything major w/ weights, but i do exercise videos (michelle dozois is my fav - see clips of her videos at and no, no one pays me to say that! ha!) that mix cardio w/ weights and they can be a lot of fun. Almost as much fun as a run...almost. Or keep doing what you're obviously look great and i'm not sure i believe those body fat percentage things anyway! i never like what they say! ha!

  10. I am so with you. Even down to the BF. Apparently I'm 24% too. I have found a balance that keeps me from gaining, but never losing and I'm not sure what to change.

    Like you, I want to race and I want to race strong. I don't want to cut any of my workouts and I want to indulge every now and then.

    UGH! I constantly think, if I'm this size/weight/bf and I work out this much, imagine what I'd be like if I never worked out. It would be scary.

    I have cut my race schedule to be more focused on training for "a" goals and then filling in the holes. From now to Nov - NYC Marathon is the goal. January 2012-May 2012 - 70.3. Maybe she is right and it's too much? I don't want to believe it though ...

  11. I too struggle with how much to eat, what to eat to fuel my body for running, and also I'd like to lose about 10 lbs. I'm a weight watchers leader and I know what I need to eat to lose weight, I lost 50 lbs 5 years ago, but that was before I started running. I do think that rest days are important as well. I always have at least one. Good Luck! I'd love to hear what you figure out to do..

  12. First of all, let me tell you something about personal trainers, because I am one!

    Not sure if you saw an athletic trainer, personal trainer or physical therapist. There are major differences between all three. First of all personal trainers are NOT nutritionists. In fact, we are told to not give nutrition advice because it is outside of our scope.

    Second of all, I work with a bunch of meat head women who have never ran a tri or road race in their lives. I continually hear them give wrong advice to people wanting to do endurance events. I am the only triathlete at work so I know a little more about what I'm talking about when it comes to racing than they do, yet they pretend to know.

    The trainer does have a valid point about calorie conservation by your body, however it may be another added problem. I read a book a few years ago about a woman who was an elite marathoner. Her body fat was 15% and she was trying to get to 13%. As it turns out, she needed to slow down her average long run pace from 7 min miles to 8 min miles and she dropped the body fat in 2 months.

    I would get a second opinion if I were you from a physical therapist, nutritionist or athletic trainer just to be safe. Sounds like you're taking this kind of hard and it always helps to get another opinion.

    Finally, make sure your calories are coming from good sources. I know that I am a HUGE foodie and after a long run, bike, swim I am craving boxes of cereal as opposed to whole wheat english muffins but that right there can be the key also.

    Sorry for the novel, hope this helps, good luck and don't stress!

  13. I don't run nearly as much as you, but I've been handed that diagnosis several times. I believe it to an extent, but I have never been told how to remedy it. Just eating more or training or less or both leaves me feeling like I'm spinning out of control. I'm currently looking into the idea of employing a sports nutritioninst to put this issue to bed once and for all. I hope you find a good solution. I CAN tell you that when I over extend myself physically I get really emotional. when I find myself crying hysterically it usually means I'm not sleeping very much, eating enough, and /or I'm working out more then my body can handle.
    thinking good thoughts for you and hope to hear you're feeling good soon!!

  14. Paleo for Athletes- buy the book, it will change your training and nutrition life! This is NOT the same as paleo diet for regular folks, make sure you get the one specifically for athletes- you need to eat more than the regular plans recommend. And it's not really a plan, just advice on eating more natural stuff, but the right combo of it. Like a big fat sweet potato right after you work out, or avocado slices and almonds as regular snacks, tips like that. It's meant to support that much training and make you feel really good. Good luck!!!

  15. By no means am I an expert but having read your post, I think perhaps maybe you should seek the advice of a nutritionist and not a personal trainer. In my personal not professional at all opinion, it does not sound like you are overtraining because you're not injuring yourself or seem overtired and what not. It seems you are looking for simply weight loss advice and I am not sure my little unprofessional mind agrees with the trainer. I would seek a second opinion. Good luck though! You are an inspiration regardless!

  16. It is sooo frustrating to me that I can train as hard as I do and NOT LOSE WEIGHT, or even gain weight when I'm not looking. It is so hard to figure out how much to eat... sorry that the trainer didn't turn out to be a good fit, but good for you sticking with it and following through on something that is important to you! I like the long term thinking.

  17. I can so feel your pain right now, except I'm on the opposite corner. I've recently started strength training (lifting HEAVY weights) and in doing so, I've cut out nearly all of my endurance training. I want to add the endurance stuff back in, but I don't know how!
    I found this article that I thought you'd find interesting. I know you'll find your answers soon! (PS. I'd recommend the book "New Rules of Lifting for Women"

  18. Obviously I'm not certified to give this advice (YET!), but after reading your recount, some things about her advice to you didn't sit right.

    Our bodies work on a calories in-calories out model. It cannot fabricate weight out of air and water, nor can it lose weight without experiencing a restriction of calories or a boost in metabolism.

    So if you're not losing weight quickly, I doubt you're eating 1000 calories under your daily requirement (because if you were, you'd lose a pound every 4 days.)

    If you're not getting enough protein to rebuild your muscles after they undergo repeated trauma, they will shrink. Its possible that this has happened, but unlikely. You'd know if your body was in ketosis.

    More likely is that you're getting enough calories, but not of the right things on the right days.

    It usually wouldn't make a difference to the average person, but it will for an athlete. After 20 minutes of cardio, your body switches from burning carbs only, to burning carbs AND fat. (This switch to more efficient fueling is why the first 2 miles of a run suck and then suddenly you feel better.)

    On running days, you'll need to be highr carb, but not too high. On non-running days, keep to moderate carbs and boost your protein to help your traumatized muscles rebuild. Its likely you're eating the same things every day regardless of your workout that day - thinking it'll all even out. But it doesn't.
    Your body also "sucks up" carbs like a sponge for an hour after a workout. So stick to protein only during this period, or else you're going to store those carbs in very stubborn places!

    I dont think you're training too much. But maybe you ARE doing too much. Its not so much the time spent exercising, but the other things on your plate that are bringing you down and overwhelming you. You dont seem to be at peace. You have a lot up in the air right now, but it sounds like things will even out in a couple weeks. How you choose to keep balance is up to you and your family. If you dont WANT to cut back on your workouts, then dont. But then something else has to give somewhere.

    Find another trainer - one who runs like you do, and has experience with the needs of a triathlete. Even if that person tells you the same thing this other woman did, at least it'll come from someone you can respect. But I suspect they'll tell you something different than you heard yesterday...

  19. Ask Jill Parker from Run With Jill. She apparently does all the crap you want. All I know is she doesn't like me drinking the night before races ... blah blah blah.

    I wouldn't normally recommend someone but she's cut 5 minutes off my 5k and got me to run 1/2 marathons with my HR in rest mode. Her training plans cover run/bike/swim/weights/nutrition, plus she competes in swimming, biking, and running.

  20. You should check out Racing Weight by Matt Fitzgerald. I've been reading and while I was doing some of the things he suggests he gives a lot of good advice to find your perfect training weight for your sport and how to make sure that your body is balanced.

  21. SO refreshing to read this blog post. I too struggle with the same issues. Always hungry except for 2 hours after a long run which is when I'm supposed to be eating. It is maddening. I've actually gained weight since I've increased my mileage but I don't feel like I'm eating any differently. Glad to know I'm not alone!


You're pretty much awesome!!


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