GETTING HEALTHY(ISH) WITH CLAIRE: My Husband Tricked Me Into Doing a Triathlon

Only recently have I started to see exercise as something other than punishment for not having a “perfect” body.
Publish date:
September 17, 2014
exercise, physical fitness, triathlons

Nobody freak out.

I’m still the same celebrated Oreo journalist that you know and love; that will never change. Pizza cake tutorials and the like will continue.

My goal for this series is to approach health in the most relaxed and fun way possible. The goal here is not to have a six pack or cleanse my body of toxins. The goal is to feel better than I currently feel. I don’t feel terrible, but I could feel better. (Seriously though: If I ever claim that I am "cleansing my body of toxins" in a matter that is sincere, please send help. I have either been drugged or someone has stolen my Internet identity.)

We’re really going to ease into this.

Given the nature of my writing and my personality, I’m not a good candidate for one of those large, entire lifestyle overhauls. I’m never going to consider a glass of wine and small square of dark chocolate a “treat.” I promise you, no matter what happens, I will never give you a recipe for chia seed pudding. There will be recipes, sure, but none of them will be black bean brownies that I claim are "as good as the real thing!" because I'm not a liar.

It's just going to be a series about things that are healthy-ish. We'll start with the little triathlon my husband somehow tricked me into doing; this is mostly his fault anyway.

My husband is much more health-conscious than I am, which is kind of like saying someone is more faithful than Mick Jagger, but the dude does triathlons and marathons and actually drinks the full daily recommended amount of water. He still drinks as much beer as I do and will be the first to suggest a McDonald’s run, but all of that moving around offsets it much better than what I do. (Currently, “what I do” mostly consists of binge-watching "Doctor Who." I’m on season five though, so that will be over soon.)

Anyway. His enthusiasm for running around in circles and race medals that double as bottle openers is starting to have an effect on me. Watching him transform from a dude who did his first race in basketball shorts into a guy who owns triathlon kits and those little clippy shoes has been pretty fascinating and actually quite inspiring.

Really, the whole clippy shoe thing is more terrifying than inspiring; having to unclip my feet from anything with wheels could only end in tears. But besides clippy shoes, things that once seemed super intimidating and insane now seem like worthwhile goals. Attending these events to take pictures of Sean made me realize that these things have less to do with how your body looks and everything to do with what your body can do. It can be intimidating to be around super-toned athletes in very little clothing, but the bodies are more varied than you think and –- most startlingly -– no one seems to give a damn about what anybody looks like.

This is great, because I really hate working out for the sake of looking good. I have slowly come to realize that being conventionally “hot” is not a strong motivation for me. For one thing, it’s a losing battle. No matter how hard I hit the gym and how low the number on the scale goes, I will always be focused on making that number lower. I know this because when I look at pictures from my 21st birthday, I get sad. Not because I’m not as skinny as I was when I was 21 (I’m not, but it’s okay) but because I was such a world-class dick to myself.

I was working so hard to get rid of my body; I was actively trying to make myself less.

None of these thoughts and feels are particularly original or groundbreaking, but I’ve finally realized that my health and fitness goals need to be additive, not subtractive. Being able to run a certain number of miles or eating five plant-based meals a week are goals that let me focus on doing new things rather than cutting out “bad” behaviors. Given that any sort of deprivation seems to send me into a strange depression, I think additive goals are the way to go.

I feel a lot better about running a 5k than I do about burning 375 calories. Making it a matter of calories or atonement for doughnuts is a game I quit playing a long time ago, but only recently have I started to see exercise as something other than punishment for not having a “perfect” body (a goal that is doomed for failure from its onset).

In short: I don’t want the “body of a triathlete.” I want to be able to complete a triathlon.

I did, sort of.

It all began when Sean bought me a really sweet bike for my birthday. I’ve mostly been using it to ride around to various bars, but I’ve also been doing some bike rides “just for fun” because it turns out that the youth are really onto something. (I didn’t do a lot of outdoorsy stuff as a child or teen.)

Anyway, one day Sean mentions that there’s a “turtle triathlon” that is supposedly more fun and easier than most other triathlons and though I am full of doubts, I inquire further.

“How long is the run?” I ask, voice full of suspicion. “Two miles,” I am informed.

“Will people make fun of me if I don’t run the whole thing?”

“What? No.”

“How long is the bike ride?”

“Five miles.”

“Oh, that’s how far it is to House of Beer. I could do that.”

Then I was informed that participants were encouraged to used floaties or boogie boards on the 200-yard swim and the deal was sealed. I signed up for the Life’s a Beach Slacker Triathlon and purchased an Ariel kickboard.

I am pleased to report that I had a blast.

There were some more serious types participating, but there were also a good amount of participants who were "on my level." There were also a lot of cool costumes (there was a contest) and decorated bikes. For an event that was all about moving around in the hot Florida sun, it was pretty fun.

The swim and bike portions were no problem at all. The water was refreshing -- something that is rare for gulf water -- and the bike route was mostly not in the sand. I'm going to be completely honest with you though, the run kind of sucked.

I really don't like running. The fact that half the course was in soft sand and the sun had finally come out in full force didn't help. I'm told I need to run consistently for about two months before that "runner's high" kicks in but I'm doubtful it will ever come. I'm going to keep doing it though, because the other two parts of the triathlon were delightful. I didn't manage to run the entire two miles, but I finished.

I'm really quite proud of me. There is this impulse to downplay it as a "baby triathlon" and "not that big of a deal," but I'm going to try and ignore that long enough to tell you that it was a big deal for me and I do feel accomplished.

The small amount of training I did kind of got me into a groove; I'm starting to crave movement after a long day of typing. Besides feeling accomplished, other benefits have included feeling more energized and sleeping better.I'm considering taking proper swim lessons.

This may be the start of something. Sean thinks I could do a sprint distance.

We'll see.

Follow Claire's triathlon training (or lack there of) on Twitter. @clairelizzie