is body image and triathlete partners an issue

Having a triathlete as a partner brings up a lot of fitness issues, not the least being the body image of the non-triathlete. When one partner has about 5% body fat, where does that leave the other person? While the two of you may have started out at similar fitness levels, for the majority of couples, the triathlete has left you in the dust. I guess we all knew this would happen, but probably never really thought about this consequence when we signed on to the lifestyle. So, at what point does body image and triathlete partners become a real issue?

While most non-triathletes want to stay fit, that doesn’t include a 3 hour bike ride followed by an hour run. In conversations with these couples, I’ve found a few of those tri-partners who manage to stay as physically fit as their triathlete and a few whose idea of fitness is shaking a cowbell at a race. Most of us happily fall someplace in between, myself included. But, it’s an issue I’ve grappled with ever since my husband started doing triathlons.

is a partner's body image affected by their triathlete

In the beginning, if you’re like me, you honestly never really thought about how bodies would change (the triathlete) and body images (the tri partner) would be affected. But then, something happens…

First…You notice your triathlete getting leaner and starting to feel pretty good about themselves.

Then…You notice some new lean friends coming into the picture and you find yourself checking out the spouses of these triathletes to see what kind of shape they’re in.

Then…You go to races and all you see are women in skimpy spandex outfits with amazing bodies and tans and your husband gushing over the pro women like they’re rock stars.

is body image affected for a triathlete's partner

Miranda Carfrae and Carl at Ironman World Championships.

And…At the same races, you kind of get left by the wayside to fend for yourself a lot. Your triathlete is off with new friends and feeling part of the community that you’re not really a part of.

Then…At home, you’re forced to carry a lot of the weight (pardon the pun) of family responsibilities and don’t have the time to workout multiple hours a day or as much as you’d like or maybe even used to. This one begs the question…Do we sacrifice our own fitness at times for that of the triathlete partner?

And before long…You find yourself grappling with your own body image issues that likely never existed before.

Does any of this sound familiar? 

do partners of triathletes have body image issues

Over the more than 15 years my husband has been doing triathlons, I’ve felt at my right weight and felt fat at various times. I’ve always worked out and try to eat pretty well, but I’ve still had some fluctuations. Hence, at times I’ve felt good about myself and at times I went “ugh”. And it was at those times that I felt very self-conscious going to races.

About 6 months ago, I was shocked to discover that I was at my heaviest weight. It was truly horrifying. For a short while, I started to accept it as my new reality and a part of getting older and did very little to change the situation. But, when you’re married to a triathlete, it’s hard to let this situation last too long before you start to feel uncomfortable.

Not exactly to the point, but luckily, it didn’t take me long to figure out a possible cause. Totally unrelated to my husband or his hobby, it ended up being my own boredom! I was so sick of my current exercise regimen that I was finding any excuse not to do it and with great success I might add. I did find an exercise I’m thrilled with called Megaformer and am happy to report it has cured my boredom and got me back on the exercise wheel.

how is body image affected by the partner of a triathlete

Taking a Megaformer class. Photo credit Catwalk Fitness.

And now back to the point…While it’s taken me a while to get there…I mean my husband’s been doing triathlons for over 15 years now…

Here’s what I’ve come to accept…

I will NEVER look like or be in the same shape as my triathlete husband.

I have ZILCH desire to spend 3 hours a day working out.

Staying fit can happen in my own ways. I love kayaking, golfing, and swimming in the summer. While they may not be high impact exercise, they are exercise. Besides, I get to be out in the gorgeous summer sun. Most importantly, they make me happy!

My self-esteem is my own responsibility apart from my husband. I have to make any changes in my lifestyle for me and not for external pressures of being involved in the triathlon lifestyle.

I have family responsibilities that need to be taken care of and that’s HUGE.

With pretty much certainly, I know my husband is not focused on those female triathlete bodies at a race. Instead, he’s thinking about his bike, his competitors, his nutrition, whether to save his legs on the bike…

They’ll come a day when this lifestyle ends and we’ll be back on equal fitness footing.

How have you handled body image or self-esteem issues being a triathlete partner?