A big week for me with my training volume getting bigger and bigger. But also huge as I have been very lucky to introduce two special new bicycles to my life. My new Propel who I dubbed 'Nightwing' and my new Trinity TT bike who I picked up yesterday. I am extremely grateful to be partnering with Giant Sydney for all of my bike needs. My weight loss journey started on the back of a Giant bike. They are the only bike that I will ride. So the ability to work with a brand I love is a real honour for me. But for this week I want to talk about something which some people may think is a little deep. I am not meaning to offend anyone and I am not pretending to be the expert in this matter. In fact I may be completely wrong.
This week I was listening to a podcast interview with a very good professional triathlete where they mentioned that they took some time off the sport and 'got fat'. I was thinking to myself that their idea of fat and my idea of fat are probably very different things. I then started to realise that this is an expression used by many athletes, especially triathletes, when they talk about any rest period they take. How often have you heard someone say "I have been injured for a month and man I got fat" or "I'm in my off-season, just trying not to get fat". I know at the start of this that I am also guilty of this. After a particularly large and delicious meal I have been known to complain to my wife that I think I am fat. The more I think about this I realise that this could be a serious issue. Something that we all should try and stop doing. Why? Well imagine if you are someone who is lean and in good shape. You put on a few extra kilograms and start referring to yourself as fat. Now imagine you are someone who is overweight. Who struggles to lose weight. This may be because you have health issues or struggle with diet or a whole list of reasons which are unique to every individual. If they hear someone who society would define as healthy and in good shape referring to themselves as fat, how will they feel?
I am not waving the flag as the voice of the overweight here! Don't imagine some scene from Le Miserables with me carrying the flag and leading the overweight people of the world to revolution (all while singing a catchy tune). I have never even had an overweight person complain to me about this issue. It is just something that happened when I was listening to the podcast. When I heard this person talk about how fat they got I commented to myself 'yeah right'. I may even be accused here of being overly sensitive and a little too obsessed with being politically correct (two things which I have never been guilty of). It is however an issue which I feel should be discussed.
I go on about this all the time but triathlon, and most endurance sport is inclusive. People want to bring others to the sport and grow it. We often cheer each other on and offer encouragement to other competitors on course. This tendency to refer to ourselves as fat however is terrible. Some hard truth is that a large percentage of any triathlon field is overweight. Like society there are people of all shapes and sizes who compete. I know, As I have gone through my own weight-loss I have completed many different races at a whole range of different weights and sizes. Currently I am very lean and this is because I am careful with what I eat and I train very hard. But this does not give me the right to start declaring myself as fat when I put on a few kgs. It is actually a form of indirect bullying. You may not be calling other people fat or overweight. But by saying that you are fat, what are you saying about those people that are bigger than you? You are indirectly suggesting that they are also fat. I understand that there is probably zero malice or ill-intent meant by this. In fact self-deprecation is particularly common in Australian culture. The whole idea of 'tall poppy syndrome' means that many Australian's and I am sure other cultures around the world are incredibly uncomfortable with being praised or celebrating their success. So to shift the focus from our positives we choose to highlight our negatives.
There is also the strong possibility that I am completely wrong. I am not offended when pro athletes complain about having a shit day and they are still significantly faster than I am. I do not take that personally because I know that they have worked hard to be where they are. But I think weight is something different. I have learned the hard way that it is an extremely sensitive topic which in many ways is actually becoming taboo. People do not like to talk about weight. The perfect example of this is my family. I never had anyone comment on my weight when I weighed over 120kgs. But the other day I jumped on a scale and was 69kgs. All of a sudden my wife, my mother, my father and my granddad all start asking if I am ok or telling me that I need to be careful. I have said this before but it is almost like it is ok to tell someone they are too skinny but not ok to tell them they are too big? So if that is the case, maybe we all need to be a little proactive in which words we use to describe ourselves. I think this is extremely important for the professional athletes out there. You might be a little heavier than your ideal race weight but to the vast majority of age group athletes you are still lean and ripped and ready to go.
If like me, you want to grow the sport of triathlon I think it is important that we remain as inclusive as we possibly can. I also feel the need to explain, I am not the most politically correct person on the planet and I know that while I am writing this I need to work on it myself. One of my jobs is weight loss coaching. Obviously I work with people who are bigger than me. I am mortified to think that I may have referred to myself as fat in front of them. But the reality is I may have. Not because I am making a comment on their weight but instead because I am too focused on myself. I also think that weight is something that we all need to talk about more. Sometimes I am worried that I may be developing some seriously unhealthy issues around body image. I think for me personally, it is slowly becoming better. I am no longer so focused on the negative aspects of my body that I am unable to see the positives. I also think that I may finally be adjusting to my new size. For years, I have still felt like I was in an overweight body. If you have never been overweight you may not understand what I mean but I feel like you are so used to being a certain way that your mind can't compute the changes. But I am now coming up on 5 years since I lost the majority of my weight and it is finally (yes after 5 years!) starting to sink in that this is how I am now. So I will make a promise to stop referring to myself as fat even though there are days when I know I am going to feel it. I also hope that other people, whatever your size or shape, will stop doing it too. You know what? You may be overweight or you may feel fat. But by putting yourself down and focusing on the negative you are doing nothing other than hurting yourself (or others). Focus on the positive. Come try a sport that is inclusive where the top athletes will share the course with the slower athletes and everyone is out there to chase their own goals.
The reality of triathlon is that the skinnier you are the more likely you are to go fast. We all know that the lighter you are the faster you are able to run. We all know that if you can get your weight down, your watts per kg will go up meaning that you should ride faster too. In many ways, triathlon is a sport obsessed with being skinny. This may be the reason that there are so many other athletes in the sport who like me, have lost weight through the sport. The more people I meet and the more of their stories I hear, the more I love triathlon. But just be aware that while some people are obsessed with going faster and faster (I will put my hand up here), all this talk about needing to slow down, get to race weight and getting fat in the off season may create a barrier to entry for many other potential future triathletes. Let's be encouraging to other people but lets start by being encouraging with ourselves. Lets stop talking about being fat. Lets talk about being active.
I hope you understand where I am coming from this week. I want to start a conversation that I feel we may not even be aware we need to start. But I would love to get your opinion. Are you someone who who is guilty of saying this? Or are you someone who has felt put off a sport by this sort of thing? Let me know in the comments.
Anyway, have a great week, make the most of the warm weather while it lasts and remember to TRI!