How this mum went from 99kg to Ironwoman triathlete!
Alison King talks to Christine Stride about how she went from overweight new mum to four-time Ironman triathlete and multiple marathon finisher.
The day I left hospital with my five-day-old baby I should have been feeling so happy. But one feeling that overshadowed the excitement of bringing our son home was stepping on the hospital scales. I'd lost just 5kg. I felt ripped off - weren't you supposed to lose a big chunk when your baby was born?
I'd gained 40kg over my pregnancy and I felt so uncomfortable - even more so, now he was born. I had a c-section wound to heal and I was a mix of raging hormones. I had a beautiful son I wanted to show off but equally I wanted to hide my body.
I needed to get out of this funk. So I focused my attention on what I knew would work - running and eating well.
You can't outrun a bad diet, that's a fact, so losing weight had to come from a change in eating habits. Eating more vegetables, not eating all the slices that well-meaning visitors had brought around, reframing my brain to eating better, not finding excuses such as needing the calories for breastfeeding.
When my son was five-weeks we started walking - a lot. I'd walk at least one hour a day. I felt energised, plus it helped him to sleep.
When he was seven weeks I started run-walking. I was a runner before I'd had him and I was desperate to get back to where I used to be. There was a 3km circuit around my house - and I could cut it short if I needed to. The first day I went out I walked almost all of it, but every day I would run just a little bit further.
I did all my running while my husband was home. It's not recommended you take your baby running until they are six months old. I had to be home before he went to work at 7.30am, so that meant if I didn't get up early enough there was no run - I'm not an evening exerciser so it was morning or not at all.
At 10 weeks postpartum - and with a total weight loss of 10kg - I entered my first event. I snuck in at 99.9kg (my goal was to be under 100) and I lined up at the Rotorua Marathon 5.5km. Two years prior I ran the marathon. I was in the best shape of my life, I was running strong and the fastest I'd ever been running.
But this day, I felt so self-conscious of my size. I felt huge. My boobs were still humungous, despite having already weaned on medical advice. I managed to run the entire way, I passed people and felt so proud of myself. I was by no means fast, but the goal I'd set myself was to run non-stop and I achieved it.
I carried on running, and eating well (well, as well as a mum can). I started swimming when I could.
I knew I could get fit, because I'd done it before. When I moved to New Zealand from the UK I ate all the takeaways I could find and before you knew it, my fat pants were too tight.
A decision to try aquarobics - suggested by a fellow Weight Watcher - led tome trying to swim a length. Before you knew it I'd signed up for the Special K women's triathlon. How did that happen?!
I had to learn how to swim properly, I had to buy a bike and I had to learn to run. I certainly didn't do things by halves.
I had seen pictures of larger women getting out and being active at events and thought I could do it too.
I was right. In the space of 18 months I went from someone whose only exercise was walking to the car to get drive-thru McDonald's (even though it was only 500m away) to an Ironman - that's a 3.8kmm swim, 180km bike and 42km run all in one day!
I got my money's worth from the race, finishing in 16hrs and 38 minutes (the cut-off is 17 hours), but it spurred me on to do more. Ironman - and the decision to try it - changed my life. If I'd not given it a go I wouldn't have learned that I could love exercise. I ended up completing four Ironman races before "retiring".
My last event in 2011 was the best I could imagine and I wanted to go out on a high. But the self-discipline of training and knowing I could achieve something so massive, meant I found I could stick to a running plan to help me get fit again with a baby.
It's unlikely I'll complete another Ironman, but I know I am still active through running and that's giving my son a positive experience that I hope will transfer into him enjoying his own exercise.
I've now trained as a running coach and fitness instructor so I can pass it on. I know how much good those endorphins can do for you, especially when you're feeling low.
I get so much joy from helping other women to learn to run and to love what it does for them.
Alison King lives in paradise, aka Rotorua, New Zealand, with her husband Casey and son Axel (both pictured above in 2010). She runs her own coaching business Run For Your Life.