Tamara Sutton is a wife, mother, and fitness enthusiast. On this September 22, she will be participating in her first IRONMAN competition in Lake Tahoe. This event is yet another milestone in Tamara’s journey to getting in shape, which began less than three years ago at a 2010 Thanksgiving Turkey Trot near her home in northern California. Oübly.com spoke with Tamara about the moment that marked the beginning of her fitness experience and how this lifestyle change has impacted daily life with her husband and two sons.
How did your devotion to fitness begin?
Truthfully, I wasn’t big into exercise growing up. When I was younger, I did dance and soccer, but quit those activities once I began high school. I managed to maintain my weight without working out probably because I had decent eating habits.
Once I got married, though, everything changed. It was so much fun to cook with my husband, but I slowly began to add weight during those first years of our marriage. Then I got pregnant and gained more weight. We had a second son, and I got even bigger. One night, my sister-in-law called to see if I wanted to join her at a Weight Watchers meeting. At first I was taken aback, but realized that I needed to go. It was the best decision of my life.
So you immediately began to change your workout habits?
Yes and no. Weight Watchers was great because they gave you sustainable healthy eating options, but I wasn’t really pursuing an active lifestyle just yet. That’s when my family participated in the 2010 Thanksgiving Turkey Trot near our home.
We just walked it, but some friends ran the race. I watched them at the finish line and thought to myself, “I want to do that.” That was the moment I decided to make exercise a bigger part of my life.
I signed up first for a half-marathon, then a marathon, and so on. Now I’m about to do my first IRONMAN. I love it. It’s what I do.
Was it easy to incorporate those fitness goals into your life?
I think sometimes it’s harder to imagine completing your goals than actually achieving them. You might think, “How can I run five miles?” But you find a way to do it. You then say the same thing when you have to run 10 miles, but you find a way to do that, too.
I started working out when my sons were still really little, but I’m lucky enough to have a gym that offers babysitting services for two hours each day. It’s been great. Now that I’m doing the IRONMAN, though, I’ve had to make some scheduling changes to accommodate more intensive training sessions. I still go to the gym with my boys, but I’ll also fit in a workout either early in the morning or after they go to bed.
Has your husband helped with your training?
Absolutely. He has been totally supportive of my fitness commitment from day one. He’s a cyclist, so he understands why I’m so passionate about it. I make sure to discuss with him my desire to be in a race before signing up for it, but he’s always been on board each time I entered a competition. He’s at every finish line, too. I’ve also taken to calling him my Iron Sherpa because he’s been a great source of help throughout my IRONMAN training.
What do your children think of your commitment to fitness?
I think they’re still too young to really understand what I’m doing, but they always ask if I “won” my races. For me, the winning is the doing. I don’t compete with anyone but myself. I am admittedly a slow runner, but I’ve always achieved the goals I set for myself. The IRONMAN is a little different, though. I just want to finish!
Have your new lifestyle habits affected your role as mother?
I always have my children’s well being on my mind, so I’m definitely more conscientious about what my family eats. We don’t do fast food. They don’t drink soda. I hope my habits rub off on them and eating well and exercise just become natural parts of their lives.
Can you tell us a bit about what the IRONMAN entails?
Each participant, man or woman, must complete a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and 26.2 run in 17 hours or less. I considered myself a runner, so I feel really good about the last leg of the race. I’m not a swimmer, though, so I’ve been focusing the most on that skill.
Has this level of training resulted in any injuries?
Thankfully, no. I’m really careful about taking care of myself. I have rest days. I wear appropriate workout gear. I also try to make safe decisions when working out. For instance, I’m always the last one down the mountain because I refuse to fly down on my bike!
With IRONMAN so close, do you have any fears?
Sure, but you have to just push those thoughts out of your mind. I get nervous about getting a flat tire during the biking segment or getting kicked in the face while swimming, but I can’t control that. Overall, though, I feel really good about the race. I have to just go, do the course, and believe that it’ll work out no matter what happens.
What advice would you give another mom who wants to make a change for her health and that of her family?
Just start. Sign up for a race. It doesn’t matter if you can’t do it right now because that’s why you train. Also, start little. If you want to change your eating habits, cut out fast food during the first month. Then add a vegetable to every meal the next month. Then do something else the following month.
When you do reach a goal, set your sights on the next one. One of my favorite quotes is, “Every finish line is the beginning of a new race.” And don’t forget to do what makes you happy!