Saturday, 1 February 2014

Body Composition

Every few months at the training centre we do some body composition tests.  I usually get really curious to see the results but I also dread it a little.  During these tests they take measurements of my legs to calculate my thigh volume as well as skin folds to calculate what percentage of my body is fat.  Every time I have these tests done the results come back and I'm told that my thigh volume is too low and I have struggled in the past with my fat percentage dropping too low.  Bigger leg muscles means faster skating, it's as simple as that, but fat percentage is a little trickier.  If your fat percentage is too high then you're basically just carrying dead weight that can slow you down but if it's too low your body will start breaking down protein (muscles) for energy and can lead to other health issues (especially for women).

I've always been small.  It's just something I've always dealt with, I don't think I hit one hundred pounds until high school.  From about 12 or 13 years old every year I went to the doctor for my checkup she would ask me this series of questions: "Do you eat meat? Do you eat vegetables? Do you snack in between meals?"  She once asked my mom these questions to make sure I was telling the truth and I was also once asked "You're not making yourself throw up or anything are you?"  I understand that the doctor had to ask me these question but it was still uncomfortable and couldn't help wondering if there was something wrong with me.

Growing up in the speed skating world I used to hate that I didn't look like everyone else.  I was basically skin and bone wrapped in spandex.  I didn't like how my legs didn't touch when I walked like all the faster skaters in my club and my mom had to custom make all my skin suits so that they would fit.
Racing at 14 years old 
In high school I actively started to try to gain weight.  I would have a protein shake almost every night before I went to bed and tried to eat in between meals during the day.  When I moved out to Calgary at 19 and had the body composition tests done for the first time I was told that my thigh volume was too low and that my fat percentage was ok but that I shouldn't let it get any higher.  I had been obsessing about my weight for years but had never in a million years thought that my fat percentage would be on the higher end of the spectrum (for speed skaters).  I started to cut out unnecessary things like sweets and unhealthy snacks but I didn't replace them with healthier options.  My fat percentage dropped, my thigh volume dropped, my energy and performance dropped, and I had to have an emergency meeting with my coach.

Right now I am happy with my body appearance-wise but even though I've always been fit it is not how I have always felt.  I think that athletes can tend to have obsessive personalities because we are always trying to seek perfection in order to be the best.  In the sport world I also think that it is much more common for people to comment on a person's size or to talk about weight.  I can now look at my fat percentage number and not let it affect me too much because I know from experience that I can't skate as fast at 12% as I can at what I am now but I've also realized that it would probably be healthier for me not to memorize my thigh volume number and not to compare either of these things with other people.  I now use these tests mostly just to make sure I am still going in the right direction.  Is my thigh volume going up? No? What can I change so that it will? Did my fat percentage drop? Guess I better up the carbs at dinner.

at trials in November (
I would also encourage you to read this article about Clara Hughes and Gillian Carleton: 
"Canada’s Olympians not exempt from depression and anxiety even with success"

1 comment:

  1. i always admire people who are speed skaters. it looks like a lot of work. i used to ran in marathons but I actually took it too serious. hours and hours of trainings everyday, eating only what my trainer let me to eat. i was proud of my results after marathon but the price I had to pay to archive this was to big. now i'm my own trainer, i still love to run but i'm much happier. i don't have to worry that my trainer will come to my house with the scale in his hand and shout at me cause I gained few pounds. I don't even know why i wrote this everything but i hope you'll find a way to keep your body compositions results the way they spoused to be !