July 1, 2022

Fit Focused: Starting from Scratch

In August 2009 my husband and I gave each other anniversary presents of entry fees to compete in Ironman Lake Placid (IMLP) to celebrate 20 years of marriage.  I had just completed my third half ironman and this was a natural progression.  For those of you who don’t know, an Ironman (or ironwoman!) is a 2.4 mile swim, followed immediately by a 112 mile bike ride and then straight into a full 26.2 mile marathon run.

The training commitment was huge and we wondered after a few months of training what we had got ourselves into.  The training was going to be a monumental task and everyone in the family had to buy into it including our three kids and the dog.

Our friend Jason, who had just completed the Providence Half Iron with me had given us lots of inspiration as he had not been in the best of shape yet had trained for, and completed, Ironman Arizona the year before.  The commitment was not just monetary; the $600 fee to sign each of us up was proving to be the easy part!

The race was at the end of July 2010.  After a long year of training and a few minor setbacks everything was going well, we were covering longer and longer distances and getting fitter by the day, but each having to train separately so the other could manage our kids, our businesses and our training. 

In that 10 months I learned so much that helped me to be where I wanted to be.  I felt like I was a great role model for my children when my youngest daughter, who was 10, decided to do her first kid’s triathlon.  The kids were excited for us and very supportive and I felt like I was living a better life for myself.  I felt great focusing on our lives and value for all – living every minute to the full.
In June a bombshell fell.  I was having age-related medical issues and after a routine check-up and some tests I was told I was going to need a total hysterectomy.  “There goes my Ironman”, I thought.

The disappointment was overwhelming as I was just peaking in physical fitness and my husband and I were doing this together.  Surgery would put me further back than when I started.  I was gutted that I had come so far and it was all going to be for nothing.  Rod continued training and although it was tough, I found that I was able to help him even more with those last few weeks and really make a difference.

Two days before surgery I went to watch all the athletes, who had trained all year just like I had, begin their race. Although it was mentally tough for me to watch rather than participate, I was so glad that I took that opportunity and was amazed by what I saw. 

There were blind people tethered together doing the 2.4 mile swim in Mirror Lake.  There were recovering cancer patients doing the 112-mile bike ride and participants with artificial limbs running the 26.2 mile full marathon.  This motivated me to start from scratch again — my situation was not so difficult.

That day I cheered my husband on who finished in 13 hours and 22 minutes and I went and signed up for IMLP 2011.  Two days later I was having my surgery and was not allowed to exercise properly for three months.
It is now Oct. 17, and a beautiful sunny afternoon and I just ran with my daughter.  I am training again and even though I have lots of hard work ahead of me, I feel I am living life to the full.

Setbacks happen and we have no control over them.  I had two choices – pick myself back up and get going or admit defeat. 

I chose the former.

I encourage everyone of you, who has had physical or mental setbacks, to have exercise as a major part of your lifestyle. My point is that you don’t have to be a personal trainer to be involved in exercise — anyone of any age or fitness level can do it.

It comes down to personal motivation and goal setting.  Lance Armstrong is a perfect example of someone who has overcome one of the worst illnesses and managed against all odds to do the impossible – win the Tour de France multiple times.  I know we are not all Lance Armstrong, but we all have the ability to set our own goals and succeed in whatever chosen level we decide.
Since my surgery, ball class has been the best medicine for me – starting over with core training on the ball to build back all those muscle and using light weights.  Anyone who wants to start with me is welcome as I am just crossing the start line.

I advise everyone to have a personal goal for themselves to exercise in some way.  The fall is a great time to start planning your exercise goals — don’t wait until winter when things get harder because of the weather.  People of all ages, shapes and sizes, disabilities or not, had the will to do the Ironman.  Inspire yourself by whatever exercise regime makes you feel great.
If you need to set an event goal, here are some great sites to pick upcoming events to get you started :
Active.Com has many choices  including the Turkey Trot on Nov. 25 sponsored by Sound Runner, Feb. 12 is the Cupid’s Chase 5K run or walk in Hartford.

The website Cool Running has a New Year’s Day run in Lowell, Mass., as well as many other events to choose from.

I hope that you get inspiration from these Ironman participants I have just told you about and that it inspires you to lead a better, healthier life.

Allison Duxbury is an AFFA qualified fitness professional with over 15 years experience in group and personal training.  After many years travelling the world with her husband Rod, an officer in the British Army, they returned to her roots in Connecticut to bring up their young family and start her business: FitFocused.  Three years later, the business is thriving and her clients range from 9-year-old competitive Irish Dancers to an octogenarian veteran