Friday, July 27, 2012

Bariatric Betty embraces "athlete" - new pic

OK, so that was a bit of a tease.  The "athlete" I am embracing is the title, and getting used to using it for myself. 

It should come as no shock that I've never been very athletic before.  How many morbidly obese people are?  When I was on a swim team in elementary school I was quickly labled slow and used to fill slots at meets where we didn't have enough "good" swimmers to compete.  Let me tell you, being told to compete in the 100m butterfly when I couldn't even really DO the butterfly was humiliating.  Heaven forbid they just let the lane be empty.  I was OK on diving team - not great, but at least I could place occasionally.   I played defense on the community league soccer in junior high.  I enjoyed biking to school a lot through high school, and became a lifeguard.  As an overweight adult I spent a year doing Master's Swimming (without going to meets, just working out with the team) and became a pretty good endurance swimmer (1-2 miles).   As an obese mom I spent hours biking to earn points for Weight Watchers. As a morbidly obese mom I finally gave in to encouragement and started doing Tai Kwon Do at the school my sons attended.  That was REALLY fun.  In fact, after about 4 months I competed at a tournament and won the only gold medal/ first place in an athletic event I have ever received.  *Full disclosure - it was only me and a grandfather competing in that round, but I was still proud I beat him, and so were my kids!

I have been walking 1-2.3 miles a day with my dog for the past 3 years.  Most days 2.3 miles since surgery.  In the winter before surgery I picked up an elliptical on Craig's List and used it religously.  Starting at 6 weeks post-op in April through June I was walking an additional 5000 steps a day M-F as a school monitor, and that boosted my average daily steps up to at least 14,000.  When school ended for the summer break I knew I needed a plan, so I started Couch-to-5-K training with my two boys. 

I've talked about that in previous posts, so for those who want to learn more about the awesome program check out for details. 

A few months ago I purchased a body fat percentage monitor to help keep track of progress when it isn't showing up on the scale (I also measure my waist, chest, biceps, and thighs occasionally).  In the user's manual it instructed you to choose between the "normal" and "athlete" setting.  There was a calculation in the manual where you multiplied a factor for the intensity of your workout, times the factor for the frequency of your workout, times the factor for the length of your workout.  If the answer was 60 or higher, you should choose the setting "athlete".  If it was below 60 you should choose the setting "normal".  I was befuddled.  Some days I walked for an hour (medium intensity, long time), some days I did Couch-2-5-k training and walked 30 or 45 or 60 minutes in addition (some medium, some high intensity, variable time).  I worked out everyday, and the frequency maxed out at 5 times a week.  Most ways I calculated it, I came out to 60 or more.  So, I could choose "athlete".  But, I didn't feel right doing that.  When I started using it I was still obese - and while I was working out frequently, how do you reconcile that with "athlete"?

The idea of the "athlete" setting is to indicate that your muscle mass may be higher than that of the average person.  When I started measuring I was obese (no longer "morbidly obese", but still obese).  Regardless of the amount I was exercising that week, or the last few weeks, I didn't think I had the muscle mass they were talking about.  So I decided to watch for an indicator that made me think I could justify the "athlete" setting.

About a month ago I found out that my lower half no longer floats in the swimming pool - weird.  Of all things, floating has always been something that overweight people are generally good at.  I was no longer obese, just overweight, but only my top half liked to float.  If I was vertical in the water I had to really actively tread water to keep my head up.  Huh.  OK, maybe I was getting closer - but I felt that I would find a better indicator.  About a week ago during a stall I realized that I had lost another inch around my chest in the last 6 weeks.  And my body fat percentage on the normal setting has gone from 36 to 33% in the past 3 months.  Good progress!  A little algebra and I figured out that at my heaviest I probably had 54% body fat.  Painful to note, but good inspiration.

Today was V-Day.  I had been looking forward to/ dreading todays couch-2-5-k training all week - instead of alternating jogging for a period with walking for a period, today I was going to jog for 20 minutes straight.  I prepared my family that it was going to be tough, that I was going to be exhausted, but I thought I could do it.  The last training session of week 5.

My first nice surprise was that my almost-12 year old (who was recently struggling with motivation, see prior posts) decided he was going to run the 20 minute jog with me.  The last workout he did a 180 degree turnaround and stuck out jogging for both the 8 minute jogs instead of complaining and wimping out after 1 minute like previously.  This morning he said "I'm doing it, too, Mom."  I was so happy.  So we started the 20 and he chimed in "I think I'm gonna do that 5 k with you, too" (having previously announced for the last couple weeks that he would cheer me on, but he wasn't gonna run it with me).  More grins.  My 9 year old was responding well to his brand new inhaler - so it looks like part of his difficulty was that he has exercise-induced asthma (it kicks in just after 3 minutes of jogging).  More grins.  I passed the 10 minute mark (having already lapped my almost-12 year old once - hah!) and realized I felt good.  Came up on the 15 minute mark and realized I was not feeling like I was dying.   I should trust this program by now - each time I've dreaded something and thought I might not be able to handle it, it hasn't been bad!  As we finished our last lap I was getting ready to lap my almost 12-year old for the third time when he saw me coming and picked up the pace.  Oh-no-he-d'int!?!  So I extended my legs and RAN for the last 1/2 lap,  And passed him by a TINY bit.  Sorry sweetie - but now your Momma has got game.   

So I have decided to proudly switch to the "athlete" setting.  It feels right today.  And on that setting, I was happy to see that I now have 29.9% body fat.  That is considered "normal"!  I'm not going to get hung up on reaching the BMI "normal" - so it is welcome news that some calculation out there already has me at "normal" when I'm not done yet.  I imagine that even if I don't lose a lot more weight, I will lose more fat/ gain more muscle.  In my head I heard Olympic Theme this morning, 8 hours before it will be broadcast from London.  I acknowledge proudly, as of today, I am an athlete.


  1. Thanks for your are an inspiration to me!!!

  2. You and I are taking parallel paths in this journey! I have completed the C25k recently and am now running 3-4 times a week (a 5k) and loving it. Congrats to you! Don't you just love that new and capable body?

    1. So cool! I do - I love my healthy body! Have you done a race, or just using it for fitness?