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Member Highlight: Alison Shields

March 30, 2018

1)     Why did you decide to join Island Health & Fitness? 

Last May, I hit a number on the scale that I never thought I'd see.  That number was a bit of a slap in the face, and a message that I couldn't continue to ignore my weight.  I spent a couple of months focusing on eating right, counting calories and taking my dogs for walks but not adding too much exercise to my routine.  By the end of the second month, I'd lost about 16 pounds and realized I was motivated to stick with my diet this time.  At that point, I decided it was time to join a gym and add a more structured exercise plan.  I picked Island Health & Fitness because of the aquatics facilities.  I've always liked to swim and figured that would be a good way to get back into exercise.  I'd also visited the building a few times for Rasa Spa, and liked the feel of the facility.


2)     How has it been trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle? Struggles? Highlights?

It has actually been easier than I thought it would.  The biggest difference this time is the support of my partner, who was overweight himself.  He and I used to go out to dinner regularly, were not focused on making healthy choices and would spend our Saturday nights binge watching Netflix.  Now, our routines are completely different.  Most nights we cook dinner together, focusing on creating meals that are high in protein and lighter in fats and carbs.  Saturdays we take the dogs for a long walk, usually between 4-5 miles, before we settle in for a movie.  We have both also established independent exercise routines and for some reason it's easier for me to get myself to the gym if I know that he is doing the same thing, even though he belongs to a different gym.  

There have definitely been struggles.  I travel a lot for work and it can be hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle on the road, especially when meals are part of the work day and the days can be really long.  I've learned to either leave a fair bit of food on the plate, or accept that I might see a gain on the scale, commit to not letting it derail me, and working to get it off again.  I've had some highlights, too.  Most recently I hit 60 pounds lost AND have started to fit into some of the smallest clothes in my closet, things I haven't been able to wear in a decade.


3)     What motivated you to sign up for a triathlon?  

I like a challenge but I don't like the thought of letting other people down, so I thought this was a great way to push myself outside of my comfort zone without having to worry about teammates.  When I saw the signs start showing up at IHF, I had been swimming and biking for awhile and was toying with the idea of using Couch to 5K to start running.  I decided to sign up as a way to push myself to start.  I also really liked the idea of the race being time based, rather than distance, so if I needed to go easy or if I overestimated my ability, I could still finish.  


4)     What have you learned about yourself through your training for this race, and through racing?

The first week of January, I started Couch to 5K and hated every minute of it.  It was hard, even though I had been working out regularly for months, and I didn't want to do it.  I kept with it, though, reminding myself that I could stop running once I completed the triathlon.  It surprised me, then, that a week or so before the event, I actually started to look forward to my running sessions.  It was a good reminder that I should keep going with things, and give them a chance.  The week after the triathlon I didn't run at all, going back to the elliptical as my primary cardio, and I really started to miss the treadmill so I've added it back into the routine.  I didn't quite make it to the 5K part of Couch to 5K before the race, so that's my next goal.


5)     How did you balance training with your busy schedule and what tips do you have for similarly busy people?

The biggest thing I've had to learn about exercise in general, is that it's okay to keep time for myself and keep the blocks I've scheduled for exercise "unavailable" to others.  Of course with work and personal responsibilities sometimes you need to skip a workout, but most of time people were happy to have me suggest an alternate time for a meeting if they proposed a time that was during my gym-block.  I've also leaned that skipping a workout doesn't completely throw off my routine, and I just need to look for ways to get in alternative exercise if my gym time was disrupted.


6)      What advice would you offer first-timers based on your experience?

First, just do it.  The scariest part of the triathlon for me was signing up.  Once I did that and was committed, the rest of the training wasn't so hard and the event itself was just plain fun.  Second, pick a friendly event to get started.  The way this triathlon was set up meant that after about 5 seconds no one knew where I was in relation to them and also that I could focus on doing my best and not worrying about others.  Third, don't be afraid to ask for help whether for accountability or motivation.  Everyone I told about the race was incredibly excited and impressed that I was going to do it.  I even motivated a few of my friends sign up for similar races, which is a great feeling.

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