Happy Thanksgiving everyone in Canada (and Happy Columbus Day here in the States and in DC where I am now.) I'd like to give thanks for all the food we get, and also for the running that allows me to enjoy eating it.
Running is a great balancer in my life. It provides me an outlet outside of my working and social hours. It gives me time to think and be alone, allows me to escape my condo for the great outdoors. It also allows me to be healthy.
Part of that, of course, is that I, like so many runners, love to eat. Love it. Meat, pasta, bread. Even worse than that -- or better -- is that I also love to cook. I have more cookbooks than running books (although more Runner's World magazines than Bon Appetites). I love to cook so much that now I get for gifts either cooking releated presents or running related ones.
Running and eating have such a close relationship: we're told we need to keep our carb intake high to store up on glycogen. We need sodium to help with electrolyte loss. Iron deficiency is a real problem for some runners, while our muscles need the protein to repair themselves.
Anyone who runs knows the deficits we build with every mile so that a 20 mile run is a 3-hour-plus jaunt through the city translates into an everything-I-can-eat card, or at least 2,000 calories worth.
Last year, I used my marathon training as an excuse to indulge in foods I love. Unfortunately, alongside with bigger portions came the unhealthy foods (ie., the fried variety). I would run 10 miles then not really care about what I was eating cause I was 'burning it off.'
And it's a losing battle. You can run off 100 calories in 7 to 12 minutes, but you can polish a bag of chips in that time and consume more than three times that amount.
Over last year's training, I actually gained weight so by the time I had reached the starting line, I was in good fitness but I had added probably 10+ pounds in 5 months. The winter and early spring didn't help.
A study in a Runner's World a few months ago mentioned how if you lose weight, you do become faster. Simply put, you have less baggage to drag around and so your body uses less oxygen to power yourself.
So in late June, just as this marathon training program started, I made a decision: train smart, eat smart.
In the past three months, I'd dropped more than 13 pounds to the point that it's noticable both in my frame and in my running. In a funny way, it's been a lot easier than I thought, but it required a lot of daily lifestyle choices: going for salad when other foods beckoned; deciding not to eat after 9 p.m.; watching my co-workers go nuts for the office food Friday (unvariably pizza, sweets or something fried); also shunning the Monday morning free bagels (soooo goood) and cream cheese cause I already had brekkie; brown bagging it when food is ordered in; watching the portions.
And the biggest choice I made: I started to cook again. I make 95% of my dinners now if i'm not going out and I make lunch every day. It's funny to think that the cook in me got set aside when my running, commuting and family obligations started to take their toll. I returned to cooking and everything else fell into place. Of course, I'm not making puff pastry, or using a lot of butter (or oil for that matter -- extra virgin olive oil) or cooking the more richer variety of foods. But being a cook makes it easier. Instead of buying pesto from a jar (laden with oil), I make icetray full with basil, garlic, pinenuts and a lot less olive oil than others use (no parm). I could go on, but this is a running blog.
Oh yeah, and running 50 miles a week always helps a little.
I know that getting into a better running weight as made me faster, but I also know the training and experience has really made me better. Two years ago, when I set my PB half marathon, I was around the same weight. This year, I was once again the same weight, but a better runner. I'd found the balance I'd needed.
That said, it's Turkey Day in Canada. Happy eating everyone.