RECHARGE, REFUEL, REFRESH.
Chris Bagg - Professional Triathlete - Portland, Oregon
I walked out on deck earlier this week to swim and one of my co-workers said “Hey, you’ve put on some weight since you got back from Europe—you look good! You look healthy.” I said something vague and grateful like “Yeah, thanks, I’ve been trying to relax a bit about it for a little while” before jumping into the pool to swim, but I don’t know if you could more clearly write a scene that seethes with the ambivalence endurance athletes experience around their body compositions.
First of all, she’s probably right. She’s a fitness professional and a good one, so she’s probably seen her share of bodies that are unhealthfully composed in both directions. I can only surmise by her remark that I look “normal” these days, or at least appear less tired and strung-out, as endurance athletes can look as they approach their “A” races for the year. Normal is good, as long as we’re talking about general health and relative longevity.
On the other hand, I really had to suppress a rush of fear and sadness that threatened to color the rest of my day. She had no way of knowing this, but I’d weighed myself that morning as a way of ceremoniously ending my weeklong, mid-season break, and body composition worries had been trying to hijack my thoughts all morning. After Challenge Penticton, two weeks ago, I took a full seven days away from any kind of training. I flew home to the East Coast to hang out with my parents, my sister and my brother-in-law, my 6 year-old nephew and 3 year-old niece. I ate what I wanted, which included lots of my mom’s excellent baking (a different cake each night!). I tried to set a limit at one serving of dessert.
It was a blissful week, which tells me it was high time for a mid-season break. I took five days completely off, went paddleboarding a couple of times over the weekend, and walked 18 holes of golf with my Dad, but that was it in terms of activity. On the Monday eight days after Penticton, my coach Cliff English eased me back into things with a 3k swim and a 50-minute run. The rest of the week offered similar workouts: light in terms of structure and time. I flew back to Portland (Oregon, this time; sharing a city name with my parents makes for confusing writing at points) and avoided the scale until this past Friday, where my suspicions were confirmed. I’d managed to gain five pounds in the intervening twelve days since the race (well, a little bit longer, actually—my final weigh-in before Penticton had been the Wednesday before the race). So now the game of trying to maintain perspective began: I needed a mid-season break, both physically and mentally, which meant letting go of some of the discipline that had me at my proper race weight (172-173 and 5-6% body fat) for the first time in seasons. Staying super light all the time is also a recipe for sickness and irritability. Still, my obsessive, pessimistic brain kept whispering to me you’ll never get back to race weight…you’ve ruined your season…just give up now!
These are all unhelpful suggestions, and our brains offer them to us all the time. So instead of freaking out, I’m trying to hold on to the long view. My next race is six weeks away (Los Cabos 70.3), and my last real “A” race (Ironman Arizona) is nine weeks from yesterday. At one pound a week, which is a very normal and healthy rate of weight loss, I’ll be right back to race weight by Arizona. Along with the sense of perspective, my mid-season break returned some of my motivation for training to me. Knowing I’ve done a good thing for my body and my brain, the remainder of my season seems manageable and realistic. I’m going to workouts excited, anticipating the benefits in fitness each one will lend.
Even better, I know that after Arizona I get to take a two-week break.
Chris Bagg is one of Wattie Ink’s professional triathletes. He lives, works, writes, trains, coaches, and very rarely (but very happily) plays ping pong in Portland, Oregon. His coaching company, Chris Bagg Coaching Group can be found on the web at chrisbagg.com/coaching or on Facebook here. He is @chrisbagg on Twitter here and @christopherbagg (he knows: confusing) on Instagram here.