I’ve always feared taking a break from running and training hard. I was absolutely convinced that the moment I stopped running I would gain 20 pounds, lose all my fitness and never run again. That’s ridiculous. First of all, during my break I learned that running before work is almost as routine for me as brushing my teeth. I’m not in danger of quitting any time soon. I may retire from competition and marathons at some point, but I don’t think I’ll quit running. Anyway, I decided (probably during a 70 mile week) that for “2 weeks after CIM I am going to do nothing but sit on my booty and eat chocolate, white carbs and wine.” FYI those are my favorite things to eat. Think I’m a girl? Um, yes.
Believe me, when it comes to running and eating I am as Type-A as they come. It’s hard for me to eat food without thinking about its nutritional value, how it fits into my overall servings for the day (I don’t really count calories but try really hard to get 4-5 servings of veggies and 2-3 of fruit each day) and how it’ll make me feel while running. So just eating and drinking with abandon and not thinking about WHAT I’m eating exactly is a bit of a paradigm shift. Don’t worry, no disordered eating over here– I’m capable of doing it, it’s just a different way of thinking.
So anyway, I told you all this week that the “sitting around” part didn’t go so well. But, the chocolate, white carb and wine thing? Oh I am doing quite well there. Between a million Christmas parties, clients sending glorious boxes of deliciousness, my tendency to bake when I’m bored and all my extra time I have consumed more cookies and candy in the last two weeks than the previous 6 months combined! And here’s the weird thing: I have lost weight. And I’m not trading muscle for fat either, my clothes are looser and I don’t feel jiggly when I run. At all. Like not even a little bit. It’s so weird! I have a couple theories on this:
1. Apparently when you’re running high-ish (I consider 60-70 high-ish but not high) mileage your body puffs up a little bit to store glycogen. Plus, I’m pretty sure I was chronically dehydrated from August through the marathon. My addiction to coffee does NOT help rehydrate. So that could explain a few pounds.
2. Now that I’m working out like a normal person and not a Jack Daniels-crazed marathoner I am eating far, far less. It’s amazing. I can go whole stretches of time without eating! And I don’t think about food constantly.
3. Good eating habits are so ingrained in me that although I’ve been snacking on a lot of candy and allowing myself cookies I still eat a LOT of vegetables and reasonable portion sizes. A pound of fat is 3500 calories and overeating by that much is actually tough-ish to do. So although I’ve been “slacking” it’s not like I’m eating Chipotle burritos every night. Or Taco Bell. Or pizza. You know… come to think of it, I never had my post-marathon pizza. I may have to make that happen before my 2 weeks are up! (I NEVER eat pizza. As a rule I don’t eat cheese because it makes me feel awful but I do love a good pizza).
4. My metabolism is pretty high from all the running– changing metabolic rates takes a long time.
Who knows. I’m not a scientist and I don’t even play one on TV so those are all theories I made up but they sound good to me. At any rate, this reason I write this is that I want everyone out there to know that it’s okay to take a break. It has been so fun to run without a watch, to fit my running into my life instead of my life into my running and to treat myself to some good food. There’s a time and a place for self-discipline and “training mode” but it’s not permanently sustainable. In fact, taking a break has just made me excited for the day I get to make a training plan, choose races, put away the candy corn and hersheys kisses and get going again. So, take a break. I promise you won’t turn into the Michelin Tire Man or the Pillsbury Dough Boy. You won’t quit running and your body and mind will thank you.