Yesterday I was in my hot power yoga class enjoying the heat and the feeling of my muscles stretching. And then, I got a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I zeroed in on my arms. Sigh, they really aren’t looking like the arms I “want” to have. Not as toned and defined as I would like. I immediately went from being in the yoga zone to thinking about my nutrition of late and how I could get the arms I really want. Literally in an instant I went from enjoying my yoga class and feeling like a fit, strong woman to obsessing over the state of my arms.
Yes, pretty silly really. In reality there is absolutely nothing wrong with my arms – but sometimes in the mirror we get glimpse of ourselves that really we aren’t prepared for. We start comparing ourselves to others. When you add being a cyclist to the mix, the body image problems can really start to get intense.
As we get ready for the start of the road season, the scale and our body fat percentages all of sudden can be the deal-breakers in whether we feel fit or not – regardless of the long hours on the trainer, the training camps down south and the improved core strength from time in the gym and yoga studio. Nope, our judgement of our cycling season comes down to how we look in our spandex.
This is a dangerous road. We all know of cyclists who simply don’t eat. They avoid carbs. They won’t have a recovery drink. And goodness, don’t expect to ever see them have a peanut butter bar when stopping at a coffee shop on a long five hour ride. We all know someone like this.
I went through a phase where I was very strict on my nutrition – to the point where I stopped eating carbohydrates. It happened innocently enough – I wanted to lose weight so I started keeping a food journal and tracking my weight. I started eating more protein and reducing my carbohydrate intake. Gradually as I saw I was losing weight and getting lots of compliments from people on how good I looked, I simply stopped eating carbohydrates. No bread. No pasta. No rice. I ate fruit and vegetables and told Marc this was where I was getting my carbohydrates. Well, it took some stern words from Marc and a few other friends for me to realize what I had done. It is so easy to slip into this.
Now, I’m not as thin as I was a few years ago. But I’m healthy. My body is stronger and I have the fuel and resources I need to do back-to-back hard rides. Some days I think about those few summers ago when I was at my lightest. I felt so confident back then. And now, I feel the same (it took some work to get to this point). I feel good about my food. I train hard. And I no longer compare myself to others.
Cycling is a sport where being light helps. But remember most of us are not climbing Alp d’Huez. We’re doing this seriously but we’re not being paid lots of money to do it. Think of why you started cycling in the first place and why as an adult you continue to do it – because you love riding your bike and love the feeling of the wind on your face as you zip along the road. As the spring weather arrives and we all show up for the first races of the season, remember the hard work you did in the winter to be fit and don’t obsess over who is skinnier than you. Get on your bike and talk with your legs. Feel good about yourself. (Yes, this applies to men and women.)