Running Weight Loss

Back on Track, Again

As I walked in on my brother’s dog polishing off an entire crockpot of gravy suspiciously left at mutt-level during post-Thanksgiving clean-up, it became immediately clear that she and I are related.

Just call me MaryKate.

Sure, I might not down a gallon of turkey grease in one fell swoop if left unsupervised in the garage,* but without constant monitoring and self-regulation and a little public accountability, I’m just about as disciplined as an eight-month-old goldendoodle when it comes to my nutrition and exercise goals.

*Who am I kidding? I totally would.

Tomorrow, it will have been a full month since I ran the Marine Corps Marathon, and I have a confession to make: in the four weeks since crossing that finish line, I have yet to run a single 15+ mile week.

Also, I ate half a pie for breakfast on Black Friday. Whew. Feels good to get that off my chest. If only getting that off my hips were as easy.

Fortunately, I’ve learned a thing or two about myself these last 27 years, and I know the best way for me to get back on track is to lay out a specific target to work toward achieving. On October 28, I attained my 2012 New Year’s Resolution of running a marathon, but with five weeks left in the waning year, there’s no reason I can’t lay out some small, supplemental goals to sustain me until January 1 rolls around. So here goes:

  • Achieve a new PR. After much metaphorical dragging of feet, I’ve signed on to run NYRR’s Join the Voices 5M this Sunday and NYRR’s Ted Corbitt Classic 15K on December 15. Despite having raced more 10Ks than I can count (because I can apparently only count to five), I’ve only run one timed 5M and one timed 15K since first lacing up my racing shoes in early 2011, meaning a new year-end personal record may actually be in the cards.
  • Eat more homemade food. I love New York, but if I’m not careful, whole weeks go by without my kitchen seeing any action. It’s not only difficult to get five fruits/veggies a day when I’m sourcing all my meals from falafel peddlers and burger shacks; it’s also downright expensive. I just spent all my disposable income on a plane ticket to India (more on that development later), so I’m back to bagged lunches for the time being.
  • Steal this dog.
Come now, readers. You didn’t really think I was going to spend three full days with my niece this holiday season and only include one photo of her, did you? 

How have your 2012 resolutions fared, and what are you targeting for these five final weeks? Let’s all go out with a bang. And possibly a dognapping misdemeanor.

Running Training Weight Loss

Marathon Weight Gain

There are plenty of good reasons to run a marathon: the sense of personal achievement, raising money for a cause, offending a bear on a 26.1-mile-long chain.

There’s also at least one bad reason to run one: to lose weight.

As counterintuitive as it may seem, signing on to run a four-hour-long road race is not a sure-fire path to watching the pounds melt off. In fact, if my statistically sound survey of one respondent tells me anything, it’s that 100-percent of runners actually gain weight during marathon training and the subsequent recovery process. (Note: I may or may not know the definition of “statistically sound.”)

But you just spent an entire summer running more miles each week than most Americans run in their entire lives! How is marathon weight gain even possible?

A lot of things don’t make sense in this world, dear reader, and marathon weight gain is one of them. Also, cats.

Any coach will tell you some modest weight gain during marathon training is normal, since you’re amping up your muscle density and keeping more hydrated than ever before. And when you really start carbo-loading in the final week of your taper, you can expect to see the scale spike as much as four pounds, this Runner’s World article says, since your body’s retaining three extra grams of water for every gram of carbohydrates stored. As you make your way to the finish line, those extra pounds of water weight will quickly melt away.

Try to spot me! Also, try to find Waldo’s binoculars.

Unfortunately, the other weight gained during marathon training – the real, tangible weight – is a lot harder to get rid of. And how did those extra pounds get added in the first place? Well, let’s do some simple math:

Conservative estimates tell you a runner burns about 100 calories per mile, meaning a would-be marathoner on a 40-mile peak weak is burning an additional 4,000 calories every seven days. Sounds like a get-out-of-vegetables free card to me. But when you break it down, spread over the course of a week, that’s only an additional 571.4 calories a day, or 83% of a basket of ShakeShack cheese fries. Add in your voracious marathon runner’s appetite and you’ll shift from a calorie deficit to a calorie surplus faster than ConEd restored power to the Rockaways.

What’s that, you say? Rockaways homeowners are still without power 15 days after the hurricane? Oh. Awkward. Hey, let’s all take a page from New York Road Runners and donate to the very-much-still-ongoing recovery efforts. Cool? Cool.

But beyond keeping tabs on your fueling during marathon training, it’s even more important to step back and re-evaluate your nutrition and exercise routines after the race comes to a close. Not for the first 72 hours, mind you – those days are unquestionably meant to be spent cramming your face with bacon cheeseburgers – but in the weeks that follow, you’ll need to reteach your suddenly less-active self to once again ignore the caloric cravings your high-intensity marathon training had allowed you to indulge. Once the post-race aches and pains subside, you’ll also need to reintroduce moderate movement into your daily routine. Burning 300 calories on the elliptical doesn’t give you free reign to, say, butter your cheese curls (that’s what she said), but it will help you get back on track now that your 26.2-mile achievement is a thing of the past.

Pysche! I wasn’t even in that first photo! But I’m in this one, I promise.

Of course, if you do find yourself needing to shed a few pounds post-marathon, the most important thing to remember is this: be kind to yourself. You didn’t train your body to run a freaking marathon in a week, so don’t expect to get back to your goal weight in a blink-of-an-eye, either. Drastically cutting down to a 1,400 calorie diet is not going to help you maintain all that lean muscle you built over the course of your training, and there’s no greater crime than skipping the cake(-flavored vodka) at your 27th birthday party this Saturday.

As I always say, moderation in all things. Except crepe cake.

Here’s your damned shout out, Keirnan.

How do you keep your weight under control during or after a big race? 

Running Training

Life After 26.2

You know that feeling when you’ve been writing a blog about running for almost a year in anticipation of your inaugural marathon and then after running that marathon can no longer think of anything interesting to write about and consider just posting photos of your brother’s goldendoodle on the internet instead?

No, you don’t know that feeling? Uh, me either. Moving on then.

As many of you may be aware, 10 days ago, I ran my very first marathon. It was emotional, it was invigorating and –  apparently – it was proof that I don’t keep my eyes on the road.

Hindsight is 20/20.

As much as I rocked the race itself – coming in a respectable 3,198th place (no, you don’t get a podium slot for that) – I rocked recovery even more. For the first week after the race, I followed Hal Higdon’s “Zero Week” training plan like it was my job. That is, assuming my job is to sit immobile in a chair for 14 hours straight stuffing my face, which – oh yeah – it kind of is. Find an abbreviated version of his recovery recommendations below:

Monday:  No running today! No exercise of any kind! Take it easy. (If you insist.)
Tuesday: No running! (I might have fought this, but – hey look! – a hurricane. Guess I’ll stay indoors.)
Wednesday: No running! And don’t substitute cross-training in a mistaken belief that it will help you maintain fitness. … You earned this period of rest. Take it! (Fine. But I’m taking a walk around the block and you can’t stop me.)
Thursday: Okay, you’re cleared to run again, but don’t overdo it. (I didn’t.) Two miles of gentle jogging … sounds about right for Zero Week. (It was.)
Friday: Now is the time to cross-train. The best cross-training discipline for a recovering marathoner is simple walking. I recommend bringing your neighborhood goldendoodle along for the ride. (Wise words, Coach.)

Cheaper than a mink.

The week after the Marine Corps Marathon, I did exactly what I was told: I relaxed, I re-hydrated, I re-fueled, but now, I’m re-al bored.

I know I knew life before marathon training, but  life after it suddenly seems downright dull. Plus my blogging ideas are suddenly flowing slower than a Manhattan-bound L train. Oh. Too soon?

So, dear readers, help me out here. Assuming I don’t run right out and register for another marathon (odds are 60/40, but I’m not a betting man), what should I start doing to pass the time and maintain this new caliber of fitness I’ve achieved? Swimming? Yoga? Competitive eating? (The latter is something I could totally get behind. 26.2 chicken wings? Count me in.)