By Shane MacLeod
Three years ago the thought of doing a triathlon, even a super sprint, would have been laughable. Although I had been in decent shape as an adolescent, seven years of university and two years of employment has taken their toll. I was tipping the scales at over 240lbs and my physical activity was limited to playing intramural sports against students at my school. I was terribly out of shape but not yet willing to admit to myself, or to others, how much I had let my physical fitness decline.
Around Christmas 2002 I went home and since Thanksgiving my father had lost close to 40lbs. For the first time in my life my father was under 200lbs and was looking great. Also, my future wife had gotten a digital camera for Christmas and I saw a picture of myself - suddenly it was very obvious to me that I had gotten fat. That knowledge combined with the fact that my 53 year-old father had recently made a commitment to his health, was all I needed to start my own fitness plan.
So in January 2003, I started to reinvent myself. I started slowly, walking a 3km loop every weekday morning and changed my diet to include high fibre carbs. I also greatly reduced my intake of simple sugars and all but eliminated fast food from my diet. Additionally, I started eating breakfast and lunch regularly, moving away from my university habit of one meal a day. For the first couple months I did not notice much of a change except that I was eating a lot more than I had since high school. Then around March I noticed that my weight had started to drop – within a couple of months I was down to about 210lbs and suddenly my old clothes started to hang off me. With this progress, I started to do even more. I picked up my old mountain bike and started biking three or four nights a week. I bought some rock shoes and started bouldering a couple times a week. I started hiking on the weekends – always trying to go a little farther than last time.
However, much like the time between January and March, in June I hit a new plateau. Even though I was doing more, I seemed to be stuck at 210lbs, regardless of how I increased my level of exercising or reduced my calories. Bolstered by the success of the period after my last plateau, I tried to maintain my motivation while seeing little or no change. Ultimately it paid off because between October and December of 2003, I dropped to 180lbs and was able to maintain this quite easily with my new diet and fitness plan.
During 2004, I added more activities (kayaking, rope climbing, swimming, some trail running, snowshoeing) and was really happy with where I was at, mentally and physically.
In the summer of 2004 a friend of mine, who had also lost close to 60lbs, were talking about strategies to maintain our newly rediscovered fitness for life. He is planning to train for ultramarathons – something I could not even fathom since I have never enjoyed running. For some reason, during our discussion I flashed back to an article I had read about long course triathletes in the local paper a few months previous, I said that would be something that I would be interested in.
As I investigated triathlons, I realized how interested I was and started to think about how having a goal beyond just staying fit would probably help me in the long run. With a couple of sprint distance events being possibilities for the summer of 2005, I started writing down my plan and talked to my wife about my new goal. She was very supportive and encouraging and with her behind me, on August 23rd, 2004, I officially started my training program – the first steps towards becoming a triathlete.
Stay tuned, next week I will write about the first month of training – all the trials and tribulations that come with trying to balance training with an incredibly busy schedule.