The off-season weight debate - lose, maintain, gain?

Over the past few years, I find myself finishing the year, thinking of my year in terms of what I have accomplished as well as reflecting on my current state of health. As I get older, I find myself dreaming bigger, working harder and loving life more and more but I also take note on the things that are working well and what I want to continue to work on in my own personal journey of life.
And I can't achieve anything if I am not healthy.

When it comes to my workout routine and my diet (two of the most common popular New Year Resolutions), I find that for me, I have done so much personal growing when it comes to my workout routine and diet. This did not happen quickly and it wasn't always easy. If the grass looks greener on my side, just keep in mind that it took a lot of watering and experimentation.
So when I think about where I am right now in my life, I feel that I'm in a great place in my life as I feel balanced and my choices (diet/working out) are simply enhancing my lifestyle.

So when it comes to my training routine and improving my physical fitness and my diet, my personal philosophy is to always focus on ways to keep my body in the best health possible so I can reach performance and life goals. I strive to keep my body healthy just like I strive to keep my athletes healthy. It's so important to me that I work hard to be the best endurance triathlete that I can be BUT in a way that does not compromise my health.

 I personally feel that there are symptoms that we all can agree on that are not normal or healthy when it comes to training for an endurance event. Chronic fatigue, disrupted hormones (ex. adrenal fatigue, amenorrhea, low testosterone, thyroid issues), poor bone health, extreme GI issues, inadequate sleep, inadequate fueling, poor nutrient timing and frequent sickness are quite common in endurance sports among endurance athletes. Now this is not to directly blame an endurance athlete that she/he is doing something wrong.  These are just a few of the many issues that endurance athletes experience and this shows how stressful endurance training can be on the human body....especially for age group athletes already who have a lot to balance in a stressful busy life.

 So when I focus on my own health, my own fitness goals, my own training routine, my own diet and my own body composition, everything that I am doing is reflective of my relationship with food and my body. 

There are times throughout the season when my body changes and so does my diet. But my focus is never on a number on a scale....ever. 
I love my body and what it allows me to do and because of that, I find is critical that I don't underfuel, undernourish or overtrain. It's a careful balance to train enough to become resilient to training stress and to prepare for the demands of my upcoming event but not too much that I burn myself out or get injured or sick. And above all, that I also fuel enough and appropriately to support my training load and also eat in a way that keeps my immune system healthy.

A lot to balance, right? 

When I think about my journey as an endurance athlete, I can think of more than a dozen mistakes that I have made over the years. I am not perfect person and never believe I can be perfect or want to be. But in an effort to keep my body in the best health possible, I have learned how to train and fuel smart.

As I approach 2015, I want to share a list of things that I cheerish about my body and health. This list doesn't include my body fat, my body weight or what size clothes I wear but instead, very personal things about myself that I want to focus on each year as I take care of my health....as an endurance athlete. 

So, as I share this list, it is important to understand that we should all have our own lists as to what we consider is important when it comes to our personal style of eating and how we train or workout. Perhaps you may find it important that you have lost a significant amount of weight and have kept it off for a few years or maybe you are training less so that you can spend more time with your family but still work hard enough to reach fitness goals. Or maybe you may feel that it has been life changing to learn that you have a food allergy or a clinical condition and you now recognize what foods you should eat or what supplements you need to take to improve your health. 
What's on your list?
-I have never had a stress fracture or broken bone
-I haven't had a cold or flu since 2007
-It's been over 8 years since I have been on any type of prescription medicine and over a decade or more since being on an anti-biotic
-I get my menstrual cycle regularly, every month, naturally (no pills) for the past 7 years
-I have kept a healthy weight all of my life within 15 lbs
-I have never fasted, cleansed or adhered to any fad diet
-I can take my vegetarian diet anywhere in the world and yum over food and feel satisfied
-I have not a single off-limit food in my diet
-I don't get intense food cravings, super hungry, low blood sugar or feeling of lethargy throughout the day and I don't overeat
-I get great sleep and wake up feeling rested (although Campy sleeps the best in the Trimarni household)
-I recover very quickly from workouts
-My life doesn't revolve around when I eat or what I eat or how much I train
-I have continued to experience gains in fitness, in addition to winning races, by training smarter. I don't feel as if training takes over my life but it is part of my lifestyle. 

Why did I write this list? Because I don't chase a body image in our body obsessed society. I also don't support diet fads. I am a competitive, hard working and very disciplined and motivated athlete who doesn't count weekly hours or miles. 
But I believe we all need a list. 
Why? It keeps you focused on things that are important to you, in YOUR life.

Because throughout the year, ever year, your life will change. And so will your diet.
And as an endurance athlete, so will your body.
At this time of year, you may begin to feel overwhelmed with the lack of structure and drastic decrease in physical activity in the "off-season". When you say goodbye to structure you say goodbye to discipline, and this four- to eight-week lifestyle change (over the holiday season), however temporary, can often be more difficult to accomplish than squeezing in 15-plus hours of training each week.

When you throw the "food freedom" of the off-season into the mix many athletes face an even harder struggle. Let's face it: weight changes during this time are inevitable. To add to the frustration, there are many conflicting theories about how much weight you should gain, or if we should gain any at all. Really, you only have three options: lose, maintain, or gain. 

When I wrote this article for Ironman, I wanted to stress the importance that there is no reason to lump every athlete into one category. When athletes get clumped together, you forget about "the list." When you stop being an individual, you stop focusing on things that are important to you and things that may (or may not) be keeping you in good health or moving you closer to your goals.

So as you think about your list, I hope you enjoy my latest Ironman article: