Weight gain is *not* actually the end of the world? Weird.

Me and my bestie Erica after rocking our St. Patrick’s Day races.
She ran the Lucky Leprechaun with ease and I finished 2nd AG at the Luck O’ The Irish.

Well, Spring is here, in spirit if not in temperature. We’ve survived quite an *interesting* winter…and interesting is a euphemism for a bunch of words that I would only use if I swore like a sailor (which, let’s face it, I do, but not here). It’s been interesting from a fitness training standpoint, too. I’ve learned a LOT working with my new triathlon coach, Jenny. It hasn’t always been pretty; in fact, it mostly hasn’t been pretty (she’s a strong, tolerant woman). But now that I’ve gone through it and had my little “a-ha moment” it seems worth passing on.

If you know me, you know that I think about my weight occasionally (*cough. cough*). I struggled with being overweight for most of my life. Over the course of the past almost-two-years during which I’ve lost 35-ish pounds and gotten in rather good shape, I’ve generally counted every. little. calorie. And…it worked for me. Until it didn’t.

When I started working with Jenny in December, she pointed out that I was always putting in my daily workout logs how tired I was, how I didn’t feel energetic during my workouts. It’s so obvious in hindsight, but it hadn’t occurred to me that perhaps I wasn’t fueling adequately. She questioned whether I was eating enough (how could this be possible?! I am not the kind of girl to undereat) and strongly recommended that I stop obsessing about calories and just…eat.

*incredulous pause*

Talk about having your safety net pulled away…that loss of tight control was a scary, scary place to go. But I went. My workouts IMMEDIATELY felt better. Go figure.

Very gradually, I started gaining weight, and FREAKING. THE HELL. OUT.

I can laugh about it now. At the time I was not amused…I was a mess. Even though I’ve read repeatedly in my Racing Weight “bible” that it is perfectly normal, even HEALTHY, for athletes to gain up to 8% over their “ideal” racing weight during the off season…”healthy weight gain” was such a foreign concept to me personally that I just could NOT get my head around it. But I was determined to give this crazy concept a chance.

I did solid, consistent base training all winter – mostly biking and running (and rehabbing a pulled tricep, so no swimming). I added new leg/core strength workouts and weekly Pilates. I feel more “solid” in my “powerhouse” (a Pilates term for basically everything between your mid-thighs and your midsection) by far than I ever have before.

I ate before workouts and drank protein shakes after workouts. I ate good food, and, yes, a *few* too many baked goods (a weakness of mine…I do love me a good ginger cookie.) I was very far from perfect. As of March, I’ve gained – *GASP* – FIVE WHOLE POUNDS. Maybe even seven, if I go by the low end of my “normal” range.

Shameful, right? Mortifying. Hideous. I’m Jabba the Hutt over here.

Except yesterday, I ran my first race of the year, a hilly 5K. I had NO idea what to expect. It seemed possible that, since I’ve been doing base training, not speedwork, and since I’ve gained FIVE WHOLE POUNDS that my performance would be…abysmal. Yet, somehow, it seemed equally possible that, since I’ve been training very consistently, and have thighs like freaking tree trunks and a firmer core, that my performance would be fine. Maybe even better than fine.

Well guess what? I ran my my ass off and finished SECOND in my age group (out of 33) whereas in my 5Ks before this uncomfortable experiment I was sixth and seventh.

So, I gained five pounds. AND IT IS FINE. *mind completely blown* I’d still like to see them go, and they will over the course of Spring training. But right now, today, I am completely 100% OK with them. They DON’T MATTER. Not a whit.

Thank you, Jenny. You were right. All that time I spent being pissed because you told me to stop counting calories was wasted. :)

I frequently see people recommend ‘throwing away the scale.’ I don’t necessarily agree with that, at least not for everyone; research does support that ongoing tracking creates accountability that helps those who lose weight to regain less than those who don’t weigh themselves regularly. Not all of us are skilled at holding ourselves accountable without the numbers. Instead, I think it should be about learning to create a healthier relationship with the scale. And sometimes it takes trying something wild and crazy like this to learn.

What do you think?