Are You At Your Peak?

In 2008, my collegiate swimming career was coming to an end. By that point in time, it was coming somewhat as a welcome. I was just coming out of some serious issues with over-training syndrome and exercise addiction. But a large part of me was concerned about what my identity would be like without swimming. Outside of that, what was I to do as far as fitness and staying in shape? For 16 years I had grown accustomed to just wearing a Speedo to swim in. But would I have the audacity to ever put one back on if I couldn't look at least decent in it again? So many concerns were going through my head with the end of such a career. "Was this my peak?" As I knew I would be getting ready for law school in the upcoming years and having a career, a part of me thought it wouldn't be. But a lot of me thought it would be the peak of my life. Yes, at 23 years old. I was practically getting paid to go to school. I posted "Blessed" as being my Facebook status, before hashtags were even a thing. And I was competing in a sport that had influenced my life, and allowed me to eat a lot of food with minimal consequences. 

I knew what the consequences were of eating whatever I wanted. After my sophomore year of college, I took a two year hiatus from swimming to go on a religious service trip. During that time, I couldn't swim at all. I wasn't allowed to touch the water (beyond hygiene purposes). I went from weighing 165 to weighing 220 pounds. I received a Christmas card from my swim coach that said "Hope you are doing well. Lose 50 pounds." Visions of that happening again went into my head. I couldn't let that happen. 

Obviously, I survived my great identity crisis associated with leaving a sport. I found marathon running and eventually found CrossFit. My physical fitness was still actively on point. I continued to do well running marathons and made huge strides in the gym. However, despite all the training that I did, it looked like I perhaps worked out twice a week. It didn't show that I was working out six days a week. The only one who seemed to notice that I worked out was a car salesman, who grabbed my meager bicep and asked if I did workout. [Side note: I was flattered, but didn't buy the car]. My concern that I had peaked between the years of 2002-2004 and 2006-2008 only seemed more and more real to me. 

Finally, in February 2017, my wife and I both had this mental breakdown. Literally, we both sat down in tears and were just fed up. Feeling sorry for ourselves that we had "peaked" on the scale was enough. Sitting at around 212 pounds, I was only pounds away from the fat Zach pictures circa 2007 that I was terrified to look at. 

That's when Black Iron Nutrition came into play. Through coaching, I was provided sustainable habits to lose weight. No more fad diets or restricting myself from foods that were "bad". No more binge eating; trying to starve myself; or wondering if some supplement, shake, or wrap would give me some actual benefit. I was amazed that I was able to eat so much food, all while still enjoying the food that I loved to indulge in occasionally. 

I finally started to see that the peak I had in college wasn't "the peak." Yes, I did reach the top of a peak in 2008, but there were so many summits still ahead of me. In June 2017, I eventually reached another peak of my physical body, getting down to 182 pounds. That was a number I never thought I would see again. With a lot of muscle to show and a lean body, far leaner than my collegiate swimming days. 

Right now, I don't weigh 182. I have made a conscious decision, along with my coaches, not to get that lean right now. But it is still a possibility for the future. Just a possibility in a series of peaks ahead of me. And, even now, sometimes I wonder "Did I peak at 182? I am going more towards that terrifying number over 200." But I know I have the skills, abilities, and coaches to help me, whatever the end goal is. Right now, it's not to weigh 182.

In reviewing my last 16 years past peaks, I've been learning that being at the top of the peak does not necessarily mean the lowest number on the scale or the leanest body fat percentage. Yes, it's amazing to see those low numbers. And it's also amazing to think of all the things I've accomplished. But being lighter or leaner isn't always the goal. Further, being 24 years old and "in the best shape of your life" isn't an end all either. You aren't passed your glory days. There are still so many experiences to be had and so many circumstances in the midst of climbing the mountain. 

Ultimately, it's important to realize that your best days aren't past you. They aren't even close. That body you once "had", it's still there. You can still get there. Is it your peak? Not likely. Can it be? Yes, it can be one of many. But there are many peaks and many valleys you will have to climb along the way. Some are tall, while others are short; some take years, while other take days; some have friends or family, while others have to be taken alone. No matter the trail that leads to your peak, celebrate getting to that point. Enjoy it while you're there. But realize that one day you'll need to take the step forward to move onto the next. The best is not behind you and you have only seen glimpses of the best part of yourself at the top of life's mountains. Take in where you're at now, and just keep climbing. 

Author: Zach Anderson, Black Iron Nutrition Coach, @motionsustained