I once heard that taking three consecutive days off of working out is equivalent to losing two weeks of training. I’m not sure if that’s true, but it feels that way these days.

Adrienne Zimmer sharing a moment with her dad after finishing Ironman Wisconsin.

It was just three short months ago that I was crossing the finish line of Ironman Wisconsin – a 2.4 mile swim followed by a 112 mile bike and a 26.2 mile run. Today I can hardly run three miles without having to take a walk break.

How did it come to this?

I have a few answers in mind: a minor surgery left me ‘resting’ for one week; the onslaught of bad weather meant I couldn’t bike outdoors; and the free time I had was spent catching up with my family, whom I had put second to training for many months. There were many reasons – or excuses – I stopped exercising, the largest of which was that I was just exhausted.

After spending nine months of my life relentlessly training for a single goal, I felt stretched thin. But three months later, here I am, starting from the bottom. And it has not been easy.

My running shoes feel like weights every time I put them on now. I can still recall how, not too long ago, I would run seven miles over my lunch break and nine miles the next morning. This past Sunday, however, my long run was five miles…and I walked a few times.

When I finally forced myself to get back on the trainer last week, I made it 30 minutes before I had to call it quits. And when I convinced myself to go swim laps yesterday, I saw that I had lost all of my speed and endurance. Not to mention the fact that I’ve gained back all of the weight I shed during Ironman training, plus some more.

I feel a bit ashamed, if I’m being honest, because I don’t feel like an Ironman finisher anymore. In fact, the accomplishment feels distant to me, like an unattainable goal. The only thing is, I did accomplish it; I just fell back out of shape and I did so a lot quicker than I thought I would.

People keep telling me that I will bounce back in no time, but their tone suggests that it is going to happen overnight. If Ironman training taught me anything, however, it’s that nothing happens overnight and it certainly doesn’t happen without a lot of hard work.

It took nine months for me to get to a place where I felt athletically capable and it took only 12 weeks to lose it all.

Exercise has never been and will never be easy, no matter what shape you’re in, but I have come to believe that it’s a lot harder to put on running shoes and say “yes” when starting from the bottom. But I will lace up my shoes anyway, start my watch and keep building one mile at a time.


  1. Hey, reading this years after you wrote it and years after I finished the “Chesapeake Man” – same Ironman distance – I just want to tell you that it really picked me up tonight. My experience after the race was very similar and It was good to read I wasn’t alone in it. Later I would do the Bay Swim 4.4 Miles, but I have never returned to my running and weight form from my Ironman days. I actually thought I had Lyme because it was so difficult to run for distance again. Maybe I’ll give it another shot. Cheers, Mike in Maryland


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