TIART is Better than Daily Elliptical

October 23, 2008 at 1:09 pm | Posted in Cross-training, General Health, Nutrition | 9 Comments

Time of Day: 6:00 AM

Weather: Air-conditioned

Duration: 50 minutes

I did the elliptical today. It was boring, but at least it was cold and windy outside instead of perfect like yesterday. Also, finished two magazines. I’m going to the gym again after work today to do strength training, and that’s all I’m going to say about my workout because who cares about the elliptical anyway?

Luckily, it’s Take it and Run Thursday at Runner’s Lounge and now I don’t have to revisit the boring experience of the elliptical by writing about it. This week’s theme: Running and Weight. And I am about to come out of the closet about something.

Readers, I have never had to lose weight. *Runs and hides from thrown rocks and angry shouts.*

Actually, my weight has probably fluctuated up and down about 15 pounds since my senior year of high school, but was never beyond its healthy range, nor did I ever diet during this time. I gained a few my first year of college while injured, I lost a few when I began running again, I maintained effortlessly for a few years, then lost a few after college, then lost even more when I began my whole “healthy eating” thang at the same time that I began training for a half marathon. This was not an intentional weight loss, but healthier foods + more mileage usually equals a lost pound or ten.

But before you stone me and perhaps even desecrate my remains, let me say that I have struggled with weight issues, as skinny women often do. Of course, high school is rough for everyone, but for girls it means new body developments and added fat. If you’re a cross-country runner, it also means watching the skinniest girls win all the races. And watching your faster friend have grapes for lunch. There was a very brief period of time during my sophomore year that I was counting bites of my sandwich every day. More exercise meant more bites “allowed.” Luckily, despite being in high school, most of my life was much too happy for this to develop into a real problem. Thank you, wonderful parents and girlfriends. I watched a few unluckier female runners break records for a year and then burn out completely, their poor, malnourished bodies breaking down on them.

My luck continued in college competition. I’ve heard that many cross-country and track coaches will give strict nutritional requirements, but I ran for two different colleges and both coaches had wonderful outlooks on food. The first coach’s advice, “make sure you are eating enough to fuel your bodies.” Any nutritional suggestions from him included more food–more iron, more carbohydrates, more protein, more snacks, etc. My second coach, a 5-time Olympic qualifier and lifetime runner, did not address the issue beyond making sure we had adequate access to pasta before meets. She once told me, “My cross-country team often has larger athletes than the other teams. I will never press this issue with them. It’s not worth it.” She has turned women away from the team if she suspects an eating disorder, knowing that they need to become well before competing.

I have no idea where I’m going with this post, really. I guess I’m sharing my journey towards my Food for Fuel eating outlook. I’ve learned that I need to eat well to run well, that I need to eat more if I’m running more, and that I need to eat more nutritious foods. I’ve also learned that I’m unhappy if I’m too restrictive with my food and too obsessive over nutrition, and that it’s ok to eat a little junk, even every day if I keep it under control. And because Tom and Amy of Runner’s Lounge asked us to share our tips, here are mine in bulleted form after a lengthy post that didn’t really address the issue at hand.

  • Learn to cook. Maintaining your weight is much easier when you have full control over what goes into your body instead of relying on others. Also, it’s usually cheaper.
  • Learn to prepare vegetables in a way that tastes good. I was not born with a love for vegetables; the love grew as my cooking skills improved.
  • Learn to make the foods you like healthier. Mexican food can be a nutritional powerhouse or a nutritional disaster, depending completely on how it is prepared.
  • Treat yourself. I did go through a time when I was much too restrictive. If I’m too restrictive, I lose pounds that shouldn’t be lost and get a bit too skinny. I’m sure this makes me run faster, but I’m willing to bet that I would burn out eventually without adequate fuel, and I think a few pounds are worth eating cookies and ice cream. But, instead of treating myself all day long, I eat healthy foods all day and then allow myself a moderate dessert every night.
  • Pay attention to how food makes you feel. I never grab the donuts at the office because I know that all the fat and sugar in the morning will make me tired and lethargic. Knowing that too much sugar before I go to bed will keep me awake also helps me keep my nightly dessert small. Lean proteins and whole grains give me energy. Vitamins from fruits and vegetables make me feel good. Greasy foods make my stomach feel gross and make me run poorly. A large, fat-laden lunch leaves me sluggish in the afternoons. Paying attention to these things helps me make better choices.
  • Educate yourself. Do you really know why you aren’t supposed to eat trans fats? Look it up. It will make you much less likely to consume them.
  • Be an adult. You had to sit through that boring meeting this morning in order to keep your job. You have to eat well and exercise to live a long and healthy life. Eat the freaking broccoli.

I suspect that this is getting too long, so I’m going to let you finish it for me. Got anything to contribute? Tips? Thoughts?



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  1. ugh, weight. i really think that running is the only sport where weight is an issue. Obviously you have to find a balance between being light enough that your weight doesn’t slow you down, but have enough energy (fat) stores to get you through the race.

    Kelly Turner

  2. These are great tips, all of which I agree with. I also enjoyed your coming-out-of-the-closet-on-being-skinny. I was blessed in high school: our fastest runner was a big-boned girl with hips and a healthy appetite. Yet I STILL had issues. Siiigh. High school. Glad that’s over!

  3. THANK YOU so much for this post. I love your bullet-ed list, but even more so, I like hearing about your experiences with weight as far as speed vs. burn out, and how your college coaches handled it. It’s definitely refreshing to hear that no one pressured you at college level… I think we’ve all heard some pretty terrible stories in regards to that.

    I don’t think you’ve ever posted a picture of yourself, have you? Obviously it doesn’t matter but the post made me curious

  4. Great post! You don’t need to be overweight to have weight issues!

    I like your list – especially the part that says make things you like healthier. I think that’s manageable for most people! Along with it, I would add – free food doesn’t mean take it. That really goes to food at work! Finally, listen to yourself. Are you hungry? Eat something!

  5. Hi Girlie,
    Great post!

    Yes, I have lost a little bit of weight with this diet. But–it’s hard because I have also significantly upped my training (I train about 10-12 hours a week), so I have gained some serious muscle. I have gotten faster, but I know its more from my training. I know this is the eating plan for me because my daily energy levels are high, and I used to have horrible crashes followed by basically binging on PB or sweets. This hasn’t happened at all since I switched my diet. I think my body was deprived of carbs!

  6. I’m glad you’ve pointed out the skinny girl issues. In high school, I was NOT skinny and didn’t understand how my skinny girl complained about being called skinny. A word I would have embraced thoroughly. We all have our issues I guess. My tip would be mostly prepare your own foods BUT if you are going out..educate yourself. Does the restaurant have an lonline menu with the nutritional information? I like to try to plan ahead what I order to avoid major breakdowns with my food.

  7. Thanks everyone for “weighing” in. Har har.

    Kelly: Wrestling comes to mind. Those guys do some terrible things to themselves.

    Toni Jo: There are a few on here, but stay tuned 😉

  8. […] Sandwiches, Wraps, and Burgers, Seafood | Tags: Enchiladas, Shrimp, Tex-Mex One of my tips in yesterday’s post was to learn to make the foods you like healthier. I used Mexican (Tex-Mex, Southwestern, whatever […]

  9. Wow, you might be my twin. I’ve definitely gone through all the same things – although I did x-country only in high school and not college. So great that you have such a healthy & cheery outlook now though. Love your blog!!

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