Last weekend I had the great pleasure of seeing my niece in a gymnastics meet at the University of Illinois Champagne where she has a full scholarship. WOW, how amazing it was to see the life of scholarship athletes at a university in the top 10 for athletics. They train hard and have TONS of support needed to excel.
We see quite a few patients who were athletes in their younger days and now struggle with weight loss. If you or someone you know is a former athlete trying to lose weight, here are some tips for taking the good and overcoming the challenges.
- You were used to eating large volumes of food when you were in training. Now it may be a challenge to adjust to “normal” portions.
OR you were an athlete who had to watch your weight. So you are used to ignoring signals of hunger from your body for the sake of excelling at your sport. Either way – your relationship to food was influenced by sport training.
- Old injuries + weight gain = you can’t do what used to do for exercise.
- All or nothing approach to training from either being in-season off-season.
- “Go big or go home” – training hard and long was just how you are used to exercising. If you can’t go all out, what is the point? Right?
- “No pain no gain” – You might be used to ignoring signals from your body that you had overextended. You had to in order to excel in your sport. You might find yourself getting injured easily now and that zaps motivation to start again.
- You are used to an external motivator – the coach, getting ready for the game/performance, your teammates, your personal goals for the sport.
- Exercise had a purpose with a deadline when you were an athlete. Now it is easy to put off starting.
- You know how to exercise specific for your sport(s). This training may not help in training for “life” losing weight and sustain it.
- You had group support built in with perhaps lots of kudos from others to keep motivation high.
Plus side of Athletic Experience:
- You are comfortable with pushing yourself physically.
- You know how to exercise, it just might need an update for your goals now.
- You probably like to move and be active.
- Sweating might be a positive thing for you (for many non-athletes, sweating is a de-motivator).
- You might have other activities you like to do now recreationally that keep you fit.
- You are probably have more muscle development and are stronger than those your age who were not athletes.
Some advice for weight loss:
- Update your Motivator: find your motivation for now. No longer pushed by athletic performance – what is important about weight loss and exercise now in your life?
- Build a Support system: Connect with other former athletes only if they have updated their approach too. If they are still caught in the “no pain no gain, go big or go home” approach you may be led back to old mindsets that don’t help you now. Connect with those who share your goals and approach to exercise now. Use social media to build your “team” for support as well.
- Update program: Learn an exercise program that is specific to training for function and weight loss. Exercise training is specific – so let go of old ways of training which are sport-specific and could even be outdated. Your training for a new game now – life!
- Create structure: Pull from the benefits of structure of athletic training. Create a schedule and a plan like you had when you were training.
- Consistency not intensity is the challenge: The BIG challenge in preparing for the sport called “life” is being consistent. The intensity and the duration of your workouts are not near as important as how consistent you are with exercising. That is enough of a challenge when LIFE tends to get in the way.
- Seasonal Training: There is no “in-season and off season training” in life. However you can use this approach to adjust your program form the weather seasons. We are always in training for what we need/want to do in the next season IE: shoveling snow, weeding the garden, mowing grass, recreational sports, etc.
- Most important, try not to compare yourself to what you used to be able to do. Enjoy the memories of past victories and then celebrate the “wins” of today.
Keep Moving, Be Well,