Monroe County YMCA Blog

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Thank You! — Choosing Fitness with Sue Reynolds

Sue About Me

Over the past four years, Sue has lost 200 pounds, began exercising, started competing in triathlons, and in 2016, qualified for the World Triathlon Championship where she finished 11th in the World. Sue is eager to user her experiences to help others begin their transformation journeys.

Thank you!

Over the past eight months, I have greatly enjoyed blogging for the YMCA as I prepared for the World Triathlon Championship which was held last month in Rotterdam.  Sharing my thoughts about losing weight, getting fit, and doing triathlons has been fun.  Thank you, YMCA, for giving me this opportunity.

When I started this blog, I wasn’t sure about sharing my story publicly.  I was nervous about “putting myself out there.”  But I have to admit, I’ve enjoyed the blogging.  The writing has helped me grow personally as I tried to put my thoughts and feelings into words.  And your “likes” have been encouraging.  Thank you!

I hope my story has helped people think about doing things that they never dreamed of doing!  We are all so capable of doing things that we perceive as being beyond our limits.  At 335 pounds, I never dreamed I would participate in a triathlon, and I certainly didn’t imagine racing at the World Triathlon Championship.  Luckily, people saw things in me that I didn’t see in myself.  I am eternally grateful to my triathlon coach, Brant Bahler at Dream Big Triathlon Coaching

My triathlon journey continues.  I am now preparing for the 2018 World Championship in Australia next September.  I am also continuing to write:  My new blog is at Triathlon 200 – Blog, and I’m continuing to work on my book.  That’s another thing I never dreamed I would do!

I thought I’d close with some of my favorite quotes.

  • Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.- Plato 
  • Find a way.- Dianna Niad
  • No complaining.  No whining.  No excuses.  –  John Wooden
  • What’s Next? – Tim Grover, Relentless
  •  Patient.  Tough Minded.  –  Matt Foreman
  • Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go. – T.S. Elliott 
  • If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.- Lowell Lundstrom
  • In a triathlon race, you are always on the verge of failure. – Paulo Sousa
  • It is not hard. It is not a challenge.  It is an opportunity to show what you are made of. – Carrie Cheadle

Choosing Fitness with Sue Reynolds — Worlds! Racing for the USA!

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Sue About Me

Over the past four years, Sue has lost 200 pounds, began exercising, started competing in triathlons, and in 2016, qualified for the World Triathlon Championship where she finished 11th in the World. Sue is eager to user her experiences to help others begin their transformation journeys.

Finish Line_WorldsI am writing this blog in Rotterdam after racing in the World Triathlon Championship.  Great race!  I gave it all I had, and managed to finish 7th in the world, and first American, for my division (women, 60-64).  Unbelievable!  Couldn’t be happier or more satisfied. 

I still shake my head in disbelief when I think about where I was five years ago (335 pounds, and unable to walk more than 100 yards), and where I am today (134 pounds, and 7th in the world).  Unbelievable.

There’s still lots of work to do, but I’m pleased with the way that I trained over the past three years, and with my execution on race day.  I’ve learned that if you put your mind to something, and stick with it for a long time, you can accomplish things that you never dreamed possible.  I’ve also learned about the power of kindness in transforming lives.  I am so blessed by all the kindness that has been given to me throughout this crazy journey!

Rather than write a long blog about the race, I thought I’d share my Worlds Race Report and Thank You List.  The Race Report walks through the race in some detail.  Many triathletes write race reports after their major races.  If nothing else, it’s a great way to relive the joy of the race!  The Thank You List is just that – a list of all the people who have helped me lose weight, develop as a triathlete, and qualify for Worlds.  I am SO grateful to these people!

Remember . . . you can reach your dreams!  I did!  Woohoo!

This gallery contains 6 photos

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Choosing Fitness with Sue Reynolds — Ten Days to Worlds!

Sue About Me
Over the past four years, Sue has lost 200 pounds, began exercising, started competing in triathlons, and in 2016, qualified for the World Triathlon Championship where she finished 11th in the World. Sue is eager to user her experiences to help others begin their transformation journeys.

Woohoo!  In ten days, I will be racing in Rotterdam, Netherlands on behalf of the United States at the 2017 World Triathlon Championship!  A few years ago, I was so overweight that I couldn’t tie my own shoes, and I didn’t even know I liked sports!  Who would have thought!  My emotions are all over the place!  But mostly, I am grateful.  So many kind people have believed in me and supported me along this crazy and wild journey, especially my wonderful husband and sons.  I love them to the moon and back.

The Hay is in the Barn!
I can’t believe Worlds is here!  The past three years have been a lot of work as my coach, Brant Bahler, and I prepared to compete at the world level.  He’s the brains.  He writes my training plans.  I just do what he says. 

As a sprint triathlete, that training included a LOT of intervals where I swam, biked, or ran for a short distance as fast as I could go.  After each interval, I’d get a rest which always seemed too short, and then I’d do the next interval – over and over and over!  When running on the track at the YMCA, I always gasped for air at the end of each interval.  Sometimes, people would stop and ask if I were ok!  Unfortunately, I was usually too winded to answer, and I’d just dumbly nod my head!

I learned that training wasn’t just about pushing my body physically.  It was also about learning the technique that would make my movement more efficient.  I learned where to find “free speed,” like putting on your bike helmet at the same time as you step out of your wetsuit in the swim.  I also learned how important recovery (rest) was.  I worked to bring a “fresh” and rested body to training each day.

This kind of commitment meant that a lot of other things in my life had to go.  In reality, there was only time for three things in my life:  work, training, and sleep.  The commitment meant there was no longer time for much of a social life, leisurely outings on the boat, or camping – things that my husband and I previously enjoyed so much.  (Have I mentioned that my husband is a saint?!)  Was it worth it?  You bet!   We’re going to Worlds!!!!  Woohoo!

Worlds Overview:
Sue Worlds Outfit
The Age-Group World Triathlon Championship is a “by invitation” race that is sponsored by the International Triathlon Union (ITU), the same group that is responsible for overseeing the triathlon event at the Olympics.  In the United State, an organization named USA Triathlon (USAT) selects athletes to be members of Team USA based on athletes’ finishes at two qualifying races.  Worlds is much like the Olympics.  Competitors participate in a Parade of Nations at the Opening Ceremony.  In Rotterdam, Team USA will be marching in red t-shirts with USA across the front, and grey shorts. 

WorldsParticipants also wear their country’s uniform when they compete.  I will be wearing the same uniform as Team USA wore in the Olympics.  I never dreamed that I’d be in in a red, white, and blue uniform with USA Reynolds written across my chest and butt!  Competitors compete with people in their age group, and countries compete for the most medals.  USA!  USA!  USA!

Calm Before the Storm!
Am I nervous?  Kind of, but not really.  As the clock counts down to the race, I know that I prepared well.  I can count the workouts that I’ve missed over the past three years on one hand – and those were due to illness or injury.  I’ve maintained my ideal race weight, and although it is my biggest struggle, I’ve greatly improved on getting sufficient rest each night.  I also believe in my coach’s training plan – 100%.  As I walk to the start line, I will know that he has given me the perfect balance of fitness and fatigue.  I’ve always said that the biggest win is getting to the start line, and I am so proud to be toeing the line at Worlds!

My New Middle Name is Flexible!
In a race, as in life, there are so many things that are out of one’s control.   The weather on race day may be extremely hot, cold, rainy or windy.  I might flat on the bike, or not be able to get my wetsuit off, even though it came off easily a million times in practice.  For the next ten days, my middle name is “flexible.”  Whatever the next ten days hand to me, I will adjust with calmness.  After all, out of chaos comes opportunities!

Packing for Worlds:
Packing for Worlds is a trick!  I must take all of my gear, and back-ups for all of my gear.  I also take all of my food for the days prior to the race (freeze-dried eggs – yum!).  The biggest challenge is my bike.  I purchased a special bike case in which my bike will be suspended by straps.  Including carry-ons, and our personal items (small backpacks), we have seven pieces of luggage!  I am hoping that my bike arrives in one piece!

Other Bloomington Triathletes at Worlds
I am not the only one from Bloomington who will be racing at Worlds!  Liz Upsall, who is part of the YMCA’s Endurance Group, and is coached by the Y’s Margie Kobow, will be racing!  Also, Brad Shannon, who is coached by Bloomington’s Craig Piedment will be racing!  Three racers and three coaches!  I think Bloomington’s growing triathlon community is well represented! 

Follow me!  I will be posting regularly on Instagram as we travel to Rotterdam and prepare for the race.  So many people have helped me get to this point.  I’d like to share this great adventure!  You can find me on Instagram at sue.reynolds.

Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!   Thank you all SO much for your support through this blog.  Your support truly means so much to me!

My next blog will be after Worlds.  Woohoo!!!

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Choosing Fitness with Sue Reynolds — Little Tips for Weight Loss

Sue About Me

Over the past four years, Sue has lost 200 pounds, began exercising, started competing in triathlons, and in 2016, qualified for the World Triathlon Championship where she finished 11th in the World. Sue is eager to user her experiences to help others begin their transformation journeys.


This month marks the one-year anniversary of my 200-pound weight loss!  Unlike every other weight-loss plan I’ve tried, my weight seems to be staying off this time.  What a relief!  While eating a healthy nutrition plan is part of my daily routine now, it still isn’t easy.  I’d still love to sit down with a dozen cookies from Bake House and eat them all at once! 

Past blogs have talked about How I Lost 200 Pounds – Nutrition, and the Power of Grit.  These blogs talked about the “big picture” of how I lost weight.  In this blog, I will talk about the little things I did (and still do) to avoid eating in an unhealthy manner.

Hanging with Healthy People

In the beginning, I moved into an office where people made healthy choices and discussed the nutrition decisions they were making.  There were no donuts in the break area.  My colleagues took walks at lunch and talked about “eating healthy.”  I learned how much easier it is to be healthy when everyone around you is focused on being healthy.  Many of my friends now are people that I met at the YMCA, Next Generation Personal Training, or triathlon training.  We all have a common goal of being fit.  This week, one of my work colleagues told me that I inspired her to start cycling on a recumbent bike.  How cool is that?  Made my day! 

Hide the “Fun” Food

I have an uber-supportive husband who helps tremendously.  He agreed to hide the “fun” food from me!  Fun foods are the items for which I have trouble with boundaries.  Currently, crackers and dry cereal are hidden in my house!  When my husband wants to eat those things, he gets them from their hiding places.  I know that’s a hassle for him, and I am SO appreciative.


I found that the foods I enjoy most are all “munchables” – small items that I put in my mouth one at a time, like popcorn, chips, or cookies.  So, I now make healthy foods into munchables.  For example, I slice my apples paper thin, and eat them like potato chips at lunch!  Sometimes, I cut my bread at dinner into little cubes and eat them one at a time.

Single Serving Packages

Another little trick I’ve learned is to package food into single servings.  If almonds, for example, are in a large container, I will eat them all at once.  But, if I put 15 almonds into snack bags, I don’t eat them.  Same thing with peanut butter and jam.  There’s something about having to open multiple packages that makes me not binge.  Go figure!

Four Foods on the Plate

I discovered that when there are four or five different foods on the plate, I feel like I’m eating a lot.  So for lunch, it’s apple, almonds, bread, yogurt, and V8.  For dinner, it’s Egg Beaters, bread, salad, and oatmeal.  Just makes me feel like I’m eating a ton!

Healthy Taste-Alike Foods

Healthy foods can sometimes appear and taste like “fun” Here are some of my favorites:  I purchase plain, unsweetened yogurt, and then add sweetener, and nine drops of extracts.  If I add five drops of orange and four drops of vanilla, I have a Creamsicle!  If I add five drops of lemon and four drops of vanilla, I have a lemon pie.  Truly yummy!  I can also make a mini Reese Peanut Butter cup (sans chocolate), by putting one tablespoon of peanut butter plus sweetener in the microwave for 15 seconds, and then stirring.  I eat it with a baby spoon to make it last longer!  I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m looking forward to mixing my favorite vanilla protein shake (Premier Protein) with peppermint extract.  Kind of excited about that!

Fast Foods

Like everyone else, my life is sometimes crazy busy, or I’m just dog tired.  In those situations, I sometimes ask my husband to bring home fast food.  I’ve found foods at various fast food restaurants that aren’t too unhealthy.  My favorite is three “fresco-style” hard-shell tacos from Taco Bell.  Each taco only has 150 calories.  I also eat salads from Wendy’s and Chick-fil-a.  Caution!  While these low-cal foods may be low in calories, they tend to be high in sodium.  I usually experience weight-gain after eating low-cal fast food, but now understand that it is associated with water weight and will be gone in a few days.

Sit-Down Restaurants

I’m surprised by how understanding the waitresses and waiters are when I go to a sit-down restaurant, even upscale establishments.  I usually bring my own food with me, and explain to the person taking my order that I am on a special nutrition plan and have brought my food.  Then, I’ll order a drink and a side salad.  Without exception, the waiter or waitress has been most gracious.  I also ask them not to bring bread or tortilla chips to the table.  If my husband wants those “fun” foods, we move them to his side of the table, so they will be out of my reach.

If I’m ordering from the menu, I always ask for any dressing or sauce to be served on the side, including things like spaghetti sauce.  That way, I can add the least amount possible to flavor the food.  When ordering a steak, I’ll ask for no seasonings so I don’t have all the extra sodium.  I also try to use cottage cheese as salad dressing. 

Tracking Food – Made Easy!

I just can’t say enough about the positive aspects of tracking food.  I have logged my food every day since December 27, 2009 – with a few exceptions.  I started out with Weight Watchers Online, but now I use My Fitness Pal, a FREE online tracking app that I really like.

A lot of experts advise people to only weigh yourself once a week, but I find that I like the daily feedback.  Sometimes, my weight goes up even though I have eaten the targeted calories.  Over the years, I’ve learned what causes those unexpected gains, so I don’t falsely belief that I am plateauing or get discouraged.  Usually, I’ve eaten something that is especially high in sodium which triggers water gain.  When that happens, I know to be patient, because in four days, that water will be gone and I will experience an unexpected weight loss.  I FORCE myself to log every food, even when I mess up and eat five pieces of birthday cake with ice cream all at once!

Here’s my weight graph since 2009. 

Weight Graph

Here’s yesterday’s food log using My Fitness Pal

Food Log

I also invested in a good scale (Nokia Body Plus).  This scale allows me to see tenths of a pound with some degree of accuracy.  When I was losing weight, I would see an average of 0.3 pounds dropped each day, a healthy 2 pounds per week.

Little Rules

I’ve also established little rules for myself.  I rarely break these rules, because I know that when I do, it is so hard to get back on track.

  1. Cheat Day Limits: I’m allowed one cheat meal per week.  I can still get back on track if I’ve had two cheat days in a row.  But . . . three consecutive cheat days establishes a new pattern, and makes it SO hard to get back to a healthy nutrition plan.  Three consecutive cheat days can easily turn into a cheat month.  So, when I’m on vacation or have friends visiting for a weekend, I only do two days of “fun” eating.  If there is a third day, I know I must really buckle down ASAP to get back on plan.
  2. Candy Bars: I allow myself a candy bar once a week when I do my grocery shopping, but . . . ONLY if there is someone present to split it with me!
  3. Samples at the Grocery Store: I’m allowed!  Yum!  I can’t go overboard since the sample sizes are limited.  Love the cheese samples at Kroger!  I always log these foods, however, because small samples of high-calorie foods end up being high in calories!
  4. Candy at Reception Desks: I’m allowed!  Again, I’m not going to take the entire bowl, so I can’t go overboard.  My physical therapist has life savers and small tootsie rolls!  Our attorney has lemon drops!  Yum!  I make sure I log these little treats!


Oh my gosh!  My next race is Worlds!  I am getting SO excited!  Three more weeks of training, and then we’re on the plane to Rotterdam!  Crazy!  Still can’t believe all of this is happening!  I’ve already packed my food (so I can stay on plan before the race), and have made at least 100 to-do lists! 

Also, big thanks to Laurie Barris at Rotor Bike for guiding me in the purchase of a new crank set for my road bike, and then expediting the shipping.  I purchase Rotor because of the quality of their products, but also greatly appreciate their tech support.

USAT Nationals – Woohoo!

Y WomenLast week, I raced at the USAT National Championship in Omaha, Nebraska.  The “Y” women were well represented.  Liz Upsall and Lisa Fulkerson raced in the Olympic distance, and Margie Kobow and I raced in the sprint distance race.  Impressive to have so many women from the Monroe County YMCA represented.

This race meant so much to me.  I set 2017 Nationals as my target race three years ago when I decided that I wanted to race competitively.  At that time, my secret, pie-in-the-sky dream was to be in the top 18 so I could qualify for 2018 Worlds in Australia.  In my mind, ALL of my training for the past three years was focused on this race. 

USAT threw me a curve ball when they changed the Worlds qualification rules.  Instead of qualifying 18 at Nationals for Worlds, they announced that only SIX would qualify.  Being in the top six seemed like a big stretch.  After working so hard toward this race for three years, the self-imposed pressure before the race was immense!  I put my qualification goal out of my head, and told myself that the real goal was to execute my race plan perfectly.  That’s really all we can ever ask of ourselves.  The rest is out of our control.

Facebook LiveI raced well, setting a life-time personal best in the run.  I also PR-ed watts on the bike.  At the finish line, USAT asked if they could interview me about my weight-loss and triathlon journey on Facebook Live.  What a hoot!  I tried to use the interview to encourage others to think about starting their own journeys.  The interview has had almost 11,000 views!  Here’s a link.


When I saw the list of qualifiers that USAT posted at the Awards Ceremony, I just started shrieking and jumping!  I was FOURTH!  I qualified!  What an amazing feeling!  While I had qualified for the World Championship twice before, my previous qualifications came at USAT’s second qualifying race.  My three-year goal was to qualify at Nationals.  I did it.  All the hard work paid off.  Dream come true! 

Five years ago, I couldn’t tie my own shoes.  Who would have thought?  I still shake my head in disbelief.  So blessed!

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Choosing Fitness with Sue Reynolds — There’s a MONSTER in Me!

Sue About Me

Over the past four years, Sue has lost 200 pounds, began exercising, started competing in triathlons, and in 2016, qualified for the World Triathlon Championship where she finished 11th in the World. Sue is eager to user her experiences to help others begin their transformation journeys.

I met the most interesting woman at the YMCA this week, Madison Surface.  Madison is a member of the YMCA Endurance Group.  She joined the group because there are a lot of members like her –  “normal” people who want to challenge themselves to complete a marathon, triathlon, etc.  Last weekend, Madison participated in the Aqua-Bike event at the Columbus (Indiana) Challenge Triathlon.  Aqua-Bike is a two-sport event involving (you guessed it) swim and bike.  Madison’s goal for the event was to finish – which she did, and had a great day!!  I loved her joy and excitement as she described the challenges of the course and how she overcame them.  She’s now preparing for the Go Girl Triathlon later this month in Indianapolis.  Inspiring!  Go Madison!!

Listening to Madison reminded me about my first years in triathlon and how my goals progressed over time.

FINISHER:  Like Madison, my goal was to finish the half mile swim, 20 mile bike, and 3 mile run.  That’s a great goal and many people continue with this goal throughout their triathlon years.  They want to be healthy and completing triathlon gives purpose to their exercise.  They also enjoy the friendships they make in triathlon clubs, like the YMCA’s endurance club.  In my first triathlons, my goal was to have fun in the sun, and to finish.  I took my time, trying to conserve energy so I could go the distance.  I came in dead-last in race after race, but felt like a winner each time.  I was most proud of crossing the START line.  For me, that involved overcoming a LOT of fear, and each time I stood at that line, I let the satisfaction of overcoming my fears wash over me.  Conquering fears is a great feeling!  Crossing the finish line was just icing on the cake!  I always took my cell phone with me so I could call my husband if I couldn’t make it.

RECREATIONAL TRIATHLETE:  After learning that I could consistently finish a sprint triathlon, I started wondering if I could do it faster.  At that point, my goal was to compete against myself.  I pushed to do a PR or “personal record” in each of my races.  As a beginner, there are many areas for improvement, and I was thrilled when I saw a PR in at least one of the events.  And, while it was not my goal to beat other people, it was fun to see my percentile rank climb in various races from the 99th percentile (dead last) to the 90th, 85th, 80th percentiles, etc.  A huge milestone was getting into the top half of finishers.

THE MONSTER WITHIN:  The International Triathlon Union (ITU) governs triathlon on an international basis, and sponsors the Triathlon World Champions.  Each year, ITU offers an “open” sprint triathlon at their World Championship.  You don’t have to qualify for the “open” race.  In 2014, the World Championship was in Chicago, about four hours from my house.  I wanted to watch Gwen Jorgensen and all the others race.  Gwen is amazing.  She won GOLD at the Olympics last year.  I wondered if I should enter the “open” race while I was there.  That would give me a chance to race on the same course as Gwen and all the others mega-elite triathletes.  Very cool.  I was concerned that my slow finish time would inconvenience people so I checked the previous year’s finish times.  Based on my times, I would finish second-to-last.  Before I could chicken out, I registered!

Gwen JorgensenThe day before my race, we watched the elite women race.  As we walked from our hotel to the race start, I glanced to my side and was shocked to see Gwen Jorgensen walking side-by-side with me as she walked to the start her race!  Of course, I started snapping photos, trying not to distract her as she walked to her race.

After watching the elites, I thought about my race.  I was TERRIFIED.  There were so many things I had never experienced before.  The bike course was a double loop which meant hundreds of bikes would be close together.  And . . . a third of the bike course was underground along Lower Wacker Drive!  If I crashed, I could easily hit a concrete post or wall.  Crazy!

In addition to my fears about the bike, the swim presented challenges too.  The swim course was in Lake Michigan with a water temperate at 55 degrees!  I was wearing a wetsuit for the first time.  In the days leading up to the race, all of the public beaches around the race venue had been closed by the City of Chicago due to pollution.  Great.  To add to my fears, it was my first mass start.  I would be treading water with 150 women, and at the sound of the gun, we’d all take off at the same time with elbows flying, feet kicking, and water churning.  Scary!

The morning of the race, I was strangely calm.  My coach was racing that day too, and would also be swimming in Lake Michigan.  But . . . he was starting on a beach across Lake Michigan from me.  We joked about giving each other a high-five across the lake before our races started, and that’s exactly what I did.  I looked across the expanse of Lake Michigan, raised my right hand, and high-fived my coach through the air.  Then, I turned around and walked away from the mass of women at the start as I centered my thoughts.  I felt calm and tough.  That was a new feeling for me.

Lake MichiganThe water was freezing when we jumped in for the start.  My face and feet stung from the icy water, and I was thankful that my wetsuit covered the rest of my body to keep me warm.  I treaded water in a long line of 150 women, and waited for the gun.  I could not contain my excitement, and was shocked when an involuntary “Woohoo!” burst from my lungs!  Then, to my surprise and delight, women throughout the line echoed my thoughts.  Multiple shouts of “Woohoo!” rang through the morning air as we all nervously waited for the start!  That moment was magic.

At the sound of the gun, we all started racing to the same spot – a single buoy about 600 feet away.  My sides were literally rubbing against the sides of other women as we swam.  Every time I breathed to my right, I saw the face of a woman who was breathing to her left.  One time, she smiled at me.  Among all the pandemonium, that cracked me up.  Shortly afterwards, another woman who hit me squarely in the face with her hand.  Ouch!  The impact knocked off my goggles (and gave me a black eye).  I did a few quick breaststroke kicks and got the goggles back on – and took off again.

Shortly after that, my life changed. 

I was swimming hip-to-hip with a woman.  Our sides were rubbing against each other as we swam toward the first buoy.  And then . . . my arm came down on top of her shoulder.  Instead of thinking, “Oh, excuse me,” and pulling back, I continued my stroke as I raced her for the buoy.  That action literally shoved her underwater, and I swam over the top of her.  I reached the buoy first.  And . . . to my utter shock, I loved it!  That moment ignited some primal, competitive instinct that I had no idea existed within me.

MonsterWhen I finished that race, I no longer wanted to be a “finisher” or a “recreational” triathlete who competed only with myself.  I wanted to compete against other people.  Actually, I wanted to dominate / annihilate other people.  In many aspects of my life, I am shy and reserved so this was completely new, and at the time, a little disturbing.  Horrified and a little embarrassed, I told my coach, “There’s a monster inside of me!”


I struggled to come to terms with that monster.  This poem provided by my coach helped:


Today, I am here to compete
I am here to beat you.  Crush you.  Run you into the ground.
Today, I am here to run faster and longer than you.
The challenge has been made.

Today, I am here to compete.
Competition is not mean spirited.  Spiteful.  Filled with hate.
It is not a reflection on how I feel about you as a person.
Sportsmanship is the foundation.

Today, I am here to compete.
I compete to give myself goals.  Targets.  Purpose for my suffering.
Competition gives me a temporary rank amongst my peers.
I do it because I am curious.

Today, I am here to compete.
But, at the end of the day, the crowd is gone.  The fields are quiet.  The tallies are made.
I bask in the euphoria or frustration that lives in the memory of the effort.
I enjoy the challenge, not the result.

Today, I am here to compete.
Competing helps me believe in what I have done.  What I can do.  What I want to do.
In the end, competing is a small part of what makes me a person.
It is not who I am because I am so much more.


COMPETITOR:  When I got home from the Worlds “open” race in 2014, I asked my coach to start training me like an elite triathlete.  I explained that while I was still a beginner, I wanted to train like an elite.  To my coach’s credit, he agreed.  I put my trust in his coaching, and worked to do exactly what he told me to do every day – no exceptions, no excuses, no complaining.  To this day, I love competing, but I love the intellectual and physical work that goes into training even more.

And, thankfully, the monster seems to live quietly inside me – until race day!


ice bathThe last two weeks have been hard peak weeks as we get ready for my next race – the last one before Worlds.  I’ve learned to love 10-minute ice baths!  The water is excruciatingly cold at the start, but my thermal swim socks keep my feet from hurting too much.  Once the ice melts, it’s not so bad, and it sure helps achy body parts!

I talked to my doctor last week about immunizations for travel to Rotterdam.  He recommended Hepatitis A and B, so I started that series of shots.  That made everything seem real!

And, the BEST news!  We are arriving in the Netherlands a few days early, prior to the airport shuttles provided by USA Triathlon.  Because of all my gear, finding a reasonably priced shuttle from the airport to our hotel was challenging.  A friend’s dad who lives in Rotterdam just offered to drive us (plus my bike and all my gear) to our hotel.   How cool is that!  People can be so nice!

Contact Sue:  I welcome questions to help with your current (or potential) get-fit journey.  You can reach me at

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Choosing Fitness with Sue Reynolds — “Older” Women and Sports!

Sue About Me

Over the past four years, Sue has lost 200 pounds, began exercising, started competing in triathlons, and in 2016, qualified for the World Triathlon Championship where she finished 11th in the World. Sue is eager to user her experiences to help others begin their transformation journeys.

Did you see the video posted on the YMCA Facebook page about the basketball league for older women?  By older, I mean 80-year-olds!  At first, I was pleasantly shocked, and then I thought, “Heck yeah!”  Why not? 

So why are so few older women involved in age-group competitive sports?  One reason, of course, is that older people tend to have more health issues, like arthritis, that make competing in age-group sports challenging.  It might also be that at “retirement age,” people just want to relax and not have to worry about training every day.  But, I suspect the main reason that so few women my age (63) and older participate in competitive sports is because, unlike younger women, we never had the chance to play sports when we were growing up.

Back in my day . . .

 Schools in the mid-1960’s provided gender-specific PE classes.  The curriculum for boys and girls was different.  While boys went to the gym to play basketball, the girls went to the home ec room to square dance.  It seemed to me that the gym was just a place for boys.  Things started to change in the late 1960’s.  Women (and men) started advocating for public policy that would require equal opportunities for girls in athletics.

gym outfitAs a fifteen-year-old in 1968, I was invited by my PE teacher to play basketball against another school.  We weren’t really a team.  We didn’t have any practices, uniforms, a referee, or a team bus.  We wore our “flamingo pink” gym uniforms, and our mothers drove us to the game at the opposing school.  I remember our PE teachers being SO excited.  At the time, I didn’t understand why this was such a momentous occasion.  Now I do.  They were pioneers.  Looking back, I am so proud of them!

Not only were there no sports for girls in schools, there were also no sports for girls in the community.  I remember begging my neighbor’s father to let me play on the little league team he was coaching.  When he said I couldn’t play because I was a girl, I begged to be a bat girl.  No chance.  The only sports available for girls were at the local country club where girls could participate in golf, tennis, and swimming.  Of course, most kids didn’t have economic access to the country club, so that wasn’t much help.

Title IX

 Sports for girls became highly debated in the early 1970’s when Title IX was introduced as a possible amendment to the US Education Act.  Title IX would provide equity for girls in athletics – both in the number of athletic teams that were available in public schools, and the amount of scholarship funding provided by colleges for girls.  

Title 9

The debate was emotional and sometimes ugly.  Some said that sports made girls physically unattractive.  Others said that sports would damage girls’ reproductive organs and make them infertile.  Girls who wanted to compete in sports were thought to be strange.  Even though I wasn’t participating in sports, my mother warned me that sports would give me huge shoulders and make me ugly, unattractive to boys.  Others said that Title IX discriminated against men.  They argued that since more boys were involved in sports, it just made sense that there should be more athletic scholarships for boys.  It was not an easy debate.

I started teaching high school shortly after Title IX was passed in 1972.  My school had a problem.  Who was going to coach the girls’ teams?  Almost everyone believed that 1) only teachers should coach school teams, and 2) only women should coach girls.  That was problematic because none of the female teachers in my school had any experience with sports or coaching.  Perhaps understandably, none of them wanted to coach.  

I ended up coaching volleyball, basketball, and track.  To be honest, I had no idea what I was doing.  I had never played any of those sports.  I read a lot of books, and begged the male coaches to guide me as I planned workouts and game strategies for teams.  Later, when men were finally allowed to coach girls, they were harassed.  People called them sissies, and didn’t view them as “real” coaches.  The first male coaches for girls’ teams were also pioneers!

Title IX was a huge success, but there is still a long way to go.  Inequities still exist for girls in lower-income areas (urban and rural America).  Many colleges still award more athletic scholarships for men than women.  And most of the top coaching jobs in colleges go to men.  Inequities also exist within triathlon.

konaIn the World Ironman Championship at Kona this year, only 35 qualifying slots will be available for pro women, while 50 slots will be available for pro men.  The race organizers say that’s fair since more men participate in triathlons than women.  While the younger generations debate this practice, I think back to 1960.  I remember when folks used the same argument to justify why colleges didn’t provide equal athletic scholarship funding for women.  I believe that if we want women to participate in sports, we need to build an infrastructure in which women and men have equal opportunities.

Tri Equal is an independent group seeking equality in triathlon for all underrepresented groups.  In addition to advocating for equality for all, Tri Equal supports the 50-Women-to-Kona movement, and encourages women in triathlon through its “Equally Inspiring” program.  This program matches coaches who donate coaching services for three months with women seeking to reach a triathlon goal.  Local triathlon coach, Brant Bahler, donates coaching time to the Equally Inspiring program.

Getting Started as an “Older” Woman:  

 If you’re an “older” woman like me, you know that we missed sports in high school and college.  But it’s never too late to discover if you enjoy sports.  I was tickled this week to meet a 90-year-old woman who was doing functional strength training with Shellie Taylor at the YMCA.  At 90-years-old, she was kicking some you-know-what!  Amazing! 

The Indiana Senior Games is a tremendous program.  I participate in their bike races and thoroughly enjoy meeting and competing with others my age.  Indiana Senior Games offer competition in a zillion events!

Most communities provide age-level competition for women of all ages, including older women, through the U.S. Masters Swimming program.  In Bloomington, training for the Bloomington masters team is limited to only fast swimmers because of the limited lanes available during their training sessions.  However, you can still be a member of the team and compete in Masters swim meets. 

And of course, the Monroe County YMCA is known for its triathlon dominance in the older female age groups!  Think about joining the Y’s Running and Triathlon Club.  You can also find a local triathlon coach or use a FREE training plan provided by USA Triathlon.

I Never Knew.  So grateful.

 I was totally surprised to learn, at age 60, that I liked sports.  I never knew.  I was even more surprised to learn that I enjoyed competing!  Again, I never knew!  I’m just so grateful that I learned these things about myself late in life, rather than not at all.  And . . . I’m grateful for the women (and men) who were pioneers in the struggle for gender equity in sports in the 1960’s, 1970’s, and now.  Without them, I might still be square dancing!

The Road to Worlds  (Rotterdam, Netherlands – 8 weeks!)

Last week, I participated in the Indianapolis Sprint Triathlon at Eagle Creek.  Four years ago, this was the first triathlon that I ever completed.  It’s fun to see progress over time.  It took me over two hours to complete the course in 2013.  This year, I completed in 1:13 – a new course PR for me.  The race came at the end of the hardest training week of the year, without a taper (rest), so I was pretty pleased to see a PR.  Been training in the heat and humidity for the past few days.  Ugh!  But no complaints! 

Tri winnerFinally, in an effort to promote National Triathlon Week (last week), I entered USAT’s “Why Do You Tri” contest, and I shocked to learn that I won!  USAT posted my “why” on their Facebook page, and it has received over 1,500 “likes” and 130 shares in many countries.  How crazy is that?!!  Several folks wrote to tell me that after reading my story, they decided to start their own journey.  That makes me soooo happy!  Life is good!





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Choosing Fitness with Sue Reynolds — To Be or Not to Be (Coached, that is)!

Sue About Me

Over the past four years, Sue has lost 200 pounds, began exercising, started competing in triathlons, and in 2016, qualified for the World Triathlon Championship where she finished 11th in the World. Sue is eager to user her experiences to help others begin their transformation journeys.

To Be or Not To Be (Coached, That Is!)

I wasn’t planning to work with a coach when I first met Brant Bahler from Dream Big Triathlon Coaching.  I was just looking for someone to tell me what to do in transition before I tried my first outdoor triathlon.  Through a Google search of USA Triathlon certified coaches, I found Brant Bahler who lives in Bloomington.

Coach Brant’s website highlighted his amazing accomplishments and stated that he coached people wishing to do an Ironman.  I was sure he wouldn’t be interested in helping 1) a grandma, 2) an overweight person, and 3) a non-athlete who could barely run three miles.

I was also leery about meeting someone online.  I feared he might be a quack or an axe-murderer, so I did my homework.  I discovered that Coach Bahler worked at the Monroe County YMCA, and had received the YMCA Employee of the Year award.  Perfect!

I was so nervous when I sent Coach Bahler an email.  He was, after all, an elite triathlete who trained athletes to compete in Ironman races.  Surely, he would not be interested in helping me.  He wrote back almost immediately and suggested that we meet.  Oh my gosh!  I agreed and wrote down all of my questions about transition. 

We met in his office which involved climbing a flight of stairs.  At the top, I gasped for air from the exertion.  Luckily, there was a photo of his children on his desk, and I asked about them.  That gave me time to catch my breath.  I was certain that Coach Bahler noticed how winded I was, and was questioning his sanity for agreeing to meet with me!  However, to my relief, he seemed nice and made talking easy.  He seemed to take my crazy goals seriously – at least he didn’t laugh out loud.  He answered all my questions about transition, and explained the different ways that he could help me.  I found his fee reasonable for the services.

Sue and Brant

When I got home, I sent Coach Bahler another email that outlined all the reasons that he should not coach me.  I was old.  I was overweight.  I was slow.  I wanted to make sure he knew what he was getting into.  He wrote back that he was “born to coach.”  For some reason, that put all my fears to rest.  We agreed to one of his less-intense training plans, and he asked me to get a heart rate monitor so he could tell me what heart rate to hit as I did the workouts.

On Sundays, I sent Coach Bahler a short summary of each workout in the previous week.  Based on my feedback, he responded by telling me what I did well and where I needed to improve.  He also designed my workout for the coming week based on my feedback and emailed it to me every Sunday.  In that way, each workout was customized just for me.  On Sundays, I couldn’t wait to open my training plan and see what I was to do next.  It was like opening a Christmas present. 

This photo is of my first race under Coach Bahler’s direction.  I was still biking and running in capris and a t-shirt because I was too embarrassed to wear a triathlon kit.

As I transitioned from a recreational triathlete to a competitive triathlete, my relationship with Coach Bahler changed, too.  I now report to my coach twice a day.  Every morning, I send my metrics (sleep duration, morning heart rate, weight, etc.).  In the evenings, I send my workout data (heart rate, pace, cadence, stride length, etc.), and a summary about how the workout felt.  Then, every night, my coach sends me comments about how to improve.  This happens every day with no exception – even on Christmas.  We also started meeting once a week so Coach Bahler could instruct my technique and observe the degree to which hard workouts were taxing my body.  This level of support may be unnecessary for a recreational triathlete, but it has been really helpful for me.

Why Have a Coach?

I’m simply dumbfounded when I think about how much I’ve grown in the past four years.  There are a lot of reasons for my growth, but one of the biggest reasons is that I’m working with a skilled coach. 

  1. TRAINING: A coach understands the physiology of athletic improvement.  When I was self-coached in the beginning, I thought I just needed to go farther and faster in every workout.  Coaches are trained in “periodization.”  Coach Bahler had me run slowly for months as my body developed a base.  After the base was built, he put me through build and peak phases, and gave me a rest during the short taper phase right before important races.  A skilled coach knows how to periodize your training.
  2. TECHNIQUE: A skilled coach can also help with technique.  Even if you never meet face to face with your coach, most coaches will give you an opportunity to send videos of your running and swimming so they can provide tips.  This is key to improving.
  3. ACCOUNTABILITY: I’m a fairly self-accountable person.  But there are parts of my training that are challenging, like getting eight hours of sleep every night.  Having a coach who holds you accountable for those things is helpful.  Your coach will understand that you have a family and a job.  His expectations of you will be based on those things.  But, if you tell your coach that you can dedicate four, five or twenty-plus hours per week to training, your coach will hold you accountable for that.  That’s a good thing!
  4. TEAMWORK: I view my coach and me as a two-person team working toward a common goal.  Coach Bahler wants to be the best coach that he can be, and I want to be the best athlete that I can be.  For that to happen, each of us has to bring 100% to the table every day – no slacking.  I work just as hard to help Coach Bahler reach his coaching goals as I do to reach my own goals, and I know that he does the same.  This type of relationship is helpful to many. 

How to Find a Coach

Sue and Brant_2As you look for a coach, there are three things you are trying to determine:  Does the coach know what he or she is doing?  Is the coach dependable?  Will the coach care about you as a person?  Here are steps to finding the “right” triathlon coach for you.

  1. Make a list of potential coaches. Consider the coaches that are certified by USA Triathlon (USAT certified coach list).  Twenty-seven USAT-certified coaches live within a hundred miles of Bloomington, and three live in Bloomington including (alphabetical order):
  1. Think about the level of accountability you need. When I first started losing weight, I was surprised to learn that daily accountability is helpful for me.  I like checking in daily.  That not only keeps me accountable but also helps to build the coach-athlete relationship.  The down side to daily accountability is that it tends to be more expensive and many coaches do not offer that option. 
  2. Read about the coaches and their services on the coach’s website:
    • Will they be sending you a training plan once a month, once a week, daily?
    • How often does the coach want feedback from you?
    • What if your schedule changes? Will the coach adjust your training plan? 
    • What if you have a question? Many coaches limit the number of phone calls or emails that an athlete can send. 
    • Will the coach meet with you face-to-face or review videos of you?
    • Do they work with other people like you (beginner, intermediate, etc.)?
    • Has the coach posted testimonies from their athletes? What can you glean about the coach’s personality from their athlete’s testimony?
    • How much does the coach charge? Coaches usually offer a variety of individual coaching packages starting around $100 per month.  The cost of the package is based on the services provided, the coach’s experience, and the degree to which they wish to keep their services affordable.  Group triathlon coaching at the YMCA is roughly $40 per month for members and $100 per month for non-members (for a three-month period).
  1. Contact the coach by email and briefly share your background and goals. Ask if the coach believes he or she could help you reach your goals. 
  2. If the coach is interested and has the time to work with you, meet with the coach in person or by Skype. The purpose of this meeting is to see if you “click” with the coach.  If you like the coach, ask for references.Remember, the coach is getting a sense of who you are too.  Coaches want to work with people who are committed and dependable.  While they understand that life sometimes gets in the way of training, they prefer not to work with people who make a habit of skipping workouts or who don’t follow their instructions.  Coaches want to work with people who are as dedicated as they are.

    Don’t be afraid to contact a top-notch coach.  Top-tier coaches have a few highly skilled athletes, but they also work with beginners and intermediates.


  3. Contact one or more references. Ask the reference to talk about the coach’s strengths and challenges.  Find out if the coach is dependable, and ask if they feel that the coach cares about them as a person.

Getting the Most Out of Your Coach

Throughout my life, I’ve learned that you tend to get what you give.  If you skip workouts and don’t follow instructions, it will be hard for your coach to invest in you.  He or she will invest, of course, because they are professionals.  But . . . if you fully commit, your coach will be excited about coaching you.  You will become a team of two working toward a common goal.  That builds energy in you and in your coach.  So, the best thing you can do to get 100% out of your coach is to give 100%.

Another important thing is to be honest and open with your coach.  He or she needs to know what’s going on in your life (past and present) that may have an impact on your training.  In the beginning of my relationship with Coach Bahler, it was difficult for me to talk about the ways in which my pride, lack of confidence, weight, and worrying were impacting my sleep, training and performance.  And even now, it’s hard to point out my execution flaws in training.  But I force myself to do so.  I am my coach’s eyes and ears when he’s not at a workout.  To get the most out of my coach, I must be honest and open.

Coach-Athlete Relationship

I’ve never experienced any relationship like a coach-athlete relationship.  As a casual triathlete, Coach Bahler was simply a nice guy who wrote training plans and helped me improve.  But as I transitioned into a serious, competitive triathlete, Coach Bahler became more like a parent – which is funny when you consider that he is less than half my age! 

Sue and Brant_3As an athlete who is trying to be competitive, I have given Coach Bahler a lot of control over me.  Like a parent, he tells me what to do and when to do it.  For example, he tells me how much to weight, what to eat, when to go to bed, when to wake up, how to train each day, and the mental qualities I should possess.  He not only tells me what to do, he expects me to do it!  Like a parent, he has high expectations of me.

Just like I enjoyed pleasing my parents when they were living, I’ve found that I greatly enjoy pleasing my coach.  When I was a beginning triathlete, my coach’s praise and encouragement were generous.  I loved hearing, “Great job!” when I executed a workout well.  That praise gave me the confidence I needed to move forward.  As a seasoned athlete, that praise is less forthcoming, understandably.  But I still enjoy knowing that my coach is happy with my execution.

On the flip side, when I don’t meet my coach’s expectations, I get scolded – just like my parents used to scold me when I messed up.  Scolding is probably too harsh of a term.  Usually, he just writes, “Sue!!!!” in his comments.  When I see four exclamation points, I know it is time to pay attention.  Once in a while, when we’re training together and I’m not doing what I’m supposed to do, he looks me in the face and talks to me with intense firmness.  His tone says, “There is no discussion about this.  Do this now.”  This has only happened a few times (because I trust him as a coach and try to be coachable), and he is always right – literally.  When it happens, I tend to find some humor in the situation.  There’s just something that makes me smile when I picture a young person scolding me for not doing what he says to do.  I’m also kind of proud of my coach for not backing down to a person who is twice his age.  He’s a good coach – kind of like a good parent.

Like a parent, Coach Bahler cares about all his athletes including me.  For example, in the beginning of our work together, I experienced an atrial flutter (not from training).  When I told Coach Bahler about the situation, he responded, “Tell me what to do and I will do it,” and he meant it.  Coach Bahler truly cares about me and all his athletes as people.  That’s what a good coach does!

In addition to being like a parent, my coach is a colleague, working collaboratively to reach a common goal.  I’ve always enjoyed working toward a goal with a team, and this situation is no different.  We each bring a different set of skills to the table.  We each have a unique roll.  We’ve learned how to work together so each of us can perform at the best of our abilities – Brant as coach and me as athlete.

Do You Need a Coach?   So, do you need a coach?  There are many triathletes who are self-coached.  In fact, as part of the first annual National Triathlon Week (July 17-23), USAT just launched Defeat Same.  Defeat Same is a free triathlon training planning service for self-coached individuals that is customized to your skill level (especially focusing on triathlon newbies).  However, based on my experience and the experience of my friends, I highly recommend a coach!

The Road to Worlds
  (Rotterdam, Netherlands – 9 weeks!)
Sue Worlds Outfit
Less than 10 weeks until Worlds!  Time has flown!  Heavy training continues – lots of volume and intensity!  We tested last week, and I was pleased to run my fastest mile ever.  That’s a good sign, but there’s still a lot of hard work to be done!  One fun thing was that my Team USA parade uniform arrived!  The USA team members will wear the USA parade outfit as they march behind the American flag during the Opening Ceremony.  What fun!