This is written as part of a series of posts for Fit Fueling that outlines how and why Heather Caplan, RD and I decided to create a virtual Intuitive Eating and Sports Nutrition course for active women. Read Heather’s most recent post here.
If I were to survey every active person reading my blog, attending seminars that I give, or sitting in classes that I teach, I’d bet that the majority would never check off that they are an athlete. However, a large percentage of them likely are. Technically, an athlete is “anyone who participates in a sport” (according to Nutrition for Exercise and Sport by Dunford & Doyle). However, what if you’re someone who is doing an hour of group personal training followed by a spin class and then you attend yoga that night? You may be exercising more and putting your body under more stress than someone who is an archer (archery in case you’re wondering), and would consider themselves an athlete.
I used the word “obsessed” intentionally in the title of this post, because during both work and play at the Newtown Athletic Club (a 12,000 member fitness facility) I often encounter women (and Men) who pride themselves in working out multiple times a day, even without a particular competition or fitness goal. They also do this without a sufficient breakfast and fear of snacks over 100 calories. Not only do I see it there, but I see it with clients who reach out to me specifically because they are sick of dieting, but still think that prioritizing 2-3 hours of exercise each day is normal (as a busy, working mom, for example) and despite their desire to change, can’t fathom enjoying any ice cream other than Halo Top.
I don’t advocate for using HR monitors to count calories, but all the red zones in here are proof that group ex classes can be just as, if not more, intense than an hour long run.
Similar to what I mentioned above, several recent clients of mine had a hard time accepting that I considered them to be an “athlete”. Each of these individuals were referred to me because of athletic injuries (a couple recurring muscle strains, a couple of stress fractures). Still, despite their high level of activity and need to see a sports medicine doc for their injury, their initial reactions were “Athlete? Oh no, you must have me mixed up with another client. I don’t race.” Well, if you have a sports injury due to your high level of activity and lack of nutrient intake to support it, I’m 100% sure you need to start fueling your body like an athlete.
Often, individuals are done with a competitive athletic period of their life and don’t know how to adjust their training to a normal level, or are anxious about weight gain. Their exercise remains high, but because they aren’t competing, their food intake drops. They often think they’re just “being healthy“.
Others are seeking out so much exercise specifically in an effort to manipulate their body, because media, social media, and the gym environment itself, equate achieving a certain body with achieving good health. People around them, or maybe they themselves, are proud of extreme exercise and dietary restriction. They think they’re healthy for being mentally strong or having willpower on days they keep their calorie intake below the My Fitness Pal rec when not accounting for exercise. They don’t understand how dangerous and unhealthy this is, or maybe, they mentally just don’t want to admit it.
But let me tell you something about health…
Health is patient, health is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is self-care, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of intake of “fun foods”. Health does not delight in restriction, but rejoices with obtaining energy from food. It always protects (you from injury), always trusts (your intuition), always hopes (others will find food peace, too), always perseveres (your mental health). Intuitive Eating Never Fails.
I hope you found some humor in my new version of the popular Corinthians verse, but also can take it seriously. As a former collegiate athlete who currently loves competing in road races (and tri’s when I have time to train), I have found a sincere love for group exercise classes and team personal training myself. Some days, after a heavy lifting sesh with some other fabulous ladies, I do come back at night for an intense zumba class. Not due to obsession or a need to burn calories, but because it’s fun and relieves stress! Because of my frequency of and variety in exercise, I continue to fuel my body like an athlete.
It hasn’t always been this way. I was one of those people who had a hard time exercising just for enjoyment and would never skip a scheduled run or bike ride to do something that sounded better in the moment. I’d get anxiety on vacation if I didn’t do something intense enough. I also spent a lot of time restricting essential nutrients as a student athlete.
Heather and I didn’t just gain essential knowledge from our dietetics education, internship, careers and desire to keep learning. We gained the knowledge of the healthy way to eat to support activity by screwing up ourselves. Big time.
My favorite piece of feedback from our Fit Fueling virtual course was this:
“I am the type of person that really needs to trust a person in order to take what they’re saying as fact, and am almost always googling things I hear to make sure it’s accurate. Not the case with you guys. You backed up your answers with science AND personal experience, which was a winning combo.”
If you love exercise, but are sick of obsessing over it and food, join us this September (don’t worry, it’s after labor day)! Tell your best friend from spin class, too, cause chances are, she feels the same way you do. We’re accepting up to 40 participants for this session and rates go up September 1.
Questions? Email us! FitFueling@gmail.com