Endurance Athletes + Body Image
If you start typing “Kristian Blummenfelt” into a Google search bar you will notice that in the top five suggested searches are things like “Kristian Blummenfelt bike” (because it is a bit odd looking) and “Kristian Blummenfelt weight” or “Kristian Blummenfelt weight and height” or “Kristian Blummenfelt body fat.” Within the triathlon (and endurance sports in general) community, is a preconceived notion of what athletes are supposed to look like. Blummenfelt’s recent streak of incredible wins and podium finishes has shown the unfortunate side of the triathlon community that believes if your body doesn’t look a certain way, then you must not be a good triathlete.
In fact, you can even do another Google search around “triathlete + BMI” or “triathlete + weight loss” or “ideal body for triathlon” and quickly go down an unhealthy rabbit hole that will have you questioning your nutritional choices and muttering some choice words about the influence your parents’ body types have on your genetics. It is healthy to want to learn how to fuel properly so that you can maximize your athletic performance. It is not healthy if that desire to improve athletic performance leads to under-fueling, extreme dieting, and other forms of disordered eating.
So I strongly suggest that you don’t do those Google searches. As an endurance athlete who has struggled with disordered eating and as a coach who talks with my athletes about proper fueling, I know how dangerous this rabbit hole can be. It’s tough to claw your way back to health when you constantly think losing 10 pounds will make you faster so you cut back on your fueling and then you eat two huge plates of food after your workout, hang your head in shame, and then start intermittent fasting. (For what it’s worth, I’m currently 10 pounds heavier and faster and healthier than when I thought losing 10 pounds would make me faster and healthier and look better.)
However, if you are looking to maximize your athletic performance here are a few things to consider.
Skinny doesn’t equal fast. Fast equals fast. Improvements in endurance sports are achieved through focused work which means listening to your body, fueling for your training properly, giving it the macro and micro nutrients it needs, allowing it to rest when it needs it, and working hard when appropriate.
Check out the different testing available at Playtri Dallas that can help you appropriately dial in your nutrition. Tests that can help you dial in your nutrition include Resting Metabolic Rate, Vo2 Calorie Expenditure for bike and run, and Blood Lactate Testing for bike and run.
Work with a coach who looks at the whole athlete. A coach like this can design a sustainable training plan and advise you on healthy nutrition and hydration.
If you are susceptible to disordered eating, please seek help with a nutritionist and a psychologist that work work regularly with people who struggle with disordered eating.
Remember, we do endurance sports because we love the challenge and the grind. When we become hyper focused on achieving an ideal body or the perfect racing weight, we begin to lose the joy and fun of sport. If you find yourself in this place, reach out to someone who can walk with you back to joy, fun, and a healthier mindset.
Jim Rowe is a Playtri Level 4 Coach and Coach Education Lead, a USAT LI Certified Coach, and NASM Certified Personal Trainer who works with adult athletes of all abilities from beginners to IRONMAN World Championship qualifiers. Learn more about Jim at www.playtri.com/jim-rowe.