Yesterday, Ginger pondered why she runs. Lately, I’m asking myself the same quesiton.
One weeknight in January 2006 I got out of bed, put on a pair of running shoes and headed to the gym.
I weighed 235 pounds.
I didn’t run that night.
Heck, I could barely walk.
It took me six months to lose fifteen pounds. A year to lose sixty. Three years to lose 100. Not exactly the results you see on Biggest Loser.
And then, finally, I could run.
At first, as I lost weight I got faster. As I continued to run to lose weight, I also started to care about my performance and get a thrill from the PRs. The more and faster I ran, the more calories I burned. By my first half-marathon, I’d lost over 120 pounds. I’d exceeded my weight loss goals, but I’d only started to touch my running goals.
And that’s the problem. I have a constant mental struggle between maintaining my weight loss and reaching my running goals.
Each time I train for a marathon, I gain weight. I’m now the heaviest I’ve been in years. Although I know I’m fit and not fat, I struggle. I still have the overweight and unhealthy me living in my head. That person tells me that I shouldn’t take rest days. That I shouldn’t eat after I run (and NEVER during a run) and that I need to exercise for at least 90 minutes every single day.
That person also tells me to do more cardio and less strength training. She also calls me fat, just because I gained some holiday pounds. She’s a great friend of weight loss, but not a great friend to my running goals or to my self-confidence.
Looking back at the injuries that have kept me from running over the past three years, all of them are related to overtraining. Overtraining that was caused by my insistence on exercising when I was in pain, tired, or just simply needed a day off. I’ll take on ANY challenging running workout. Hills? Check. Speed intervals? I’ll do them twice. Day off? No freaking way.
As you can imagine, this could do wonders for my *ahem* bottom line, but is not good for my running performance. Running well and healthy is about training cycles. In a running year, I should have training periods and maintenance periods and even weeks off, but if the voice inside my head is constantly niggling me about the weight I might be gaining when I take that time off, I’m never going to become a better runner. Just a more injured and therefore slower runner.
I know what it takes to lose weight. For me, it takes 90+ minutes of exercise every day. A strict diet.
I also know what it takes to improve my running speed and endurance. For me, it entails running a lot on Saturday, quickly on some days, slowly on others. Lots of rest including rest days. Adequate fuel during long runs and ALWAYS after the tough workouts. And sometimes a little weight gain.
I know that these two things don’t have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, they aren’t mutually exclusive seemingly for most everyone else. Running is a great tool for weight loss and weight maintenance. In fact, it’s the best tool, because running is so darn fun.
But not for me lately.
I hesitated to write this post because I don’t want to trivialize other people’s battle with weight loss or the real problems that exist in the world. It’s also hard to admit that while I physically left the old me behind, I’m still dealing with her on the inside. Losing weight didn’t solve all of my problems. Before, I physically couldn’t meet my running goals. I don’t want the mental and emotional old me to hold me back from achieving my running goals now. If I want to qualify for Boston, which I REALLY do, I have to incorporate rest and proper fueling into my training. If I don’t, I’ll end up overtrained or injured and ruin all chances of qualifying in May.
Right now, I’m struggling to rectify the beginning of my Windermere marathon training cycle with the extra pounds I’d like to lose from the holidays. For me, now, it’s about taking each day as it comes – and putting healthy before skinny. And someday, hopefully, I’ll replace the fat me in my head with the fit badass runner I am.
Have you lost a lot of weight because of running? Does your fear of gaining weight impede your running performance or interfere you enjoyment of it?