And That’s When I Went On A Rant About Weight

26 Jul

The title of this post will become clear momentarily. When I started writing this post, it was just going to be about the sheer amount of food I’ve been eating during marathon training, but it somehow morphed into something more. Weight is such a contentious issue these days, and everyone tip-toes around it. But if marathon training has taught me anything sometimes you just have to lay it on the line so here goes.

Marathon training is a total bitch in some respects, one of them being the fact that your grocery bill skyrockets. I go through jars of peanut butter now like they contain crack. And pretzels don’t stand a chance if they come within five feet of me.

My five food groups now consist of peanut butter, ice cream, pretzels, bananas, and peanut butter. I think I  might need to add some variety into my diet. Fueling properly for the amount of running you do while in training is tough. It’s not something I thought about before I signed up for Marine Corps. I was too busy visualizing my collapsing on the course or expiring at the finish line. But, now I’m constantly up against the hunger monster and I don’t know how to win. Days after  long runs or tempo runs are particularly bad. I want to eat everything and as a result I spend most of the day scavenging like vulture, hunting down any snacks that might be hiding out. All this running and eating has led to some unexpected changes during marathon training.

A Weighty Issue

Many people (women especially, as we seem programed to be forever obsessed with our weight) after I’ve mentioned that I’m training for a marathon have made a comment to the effect of “Wow, the weight must falling off!” Au contraire!

Like  many before me, I have gained weight during marathon training. Around five pounds. I’ve also gone up a dress size from a 10 to a 12. When I first noticed the weight gain I was seriously bothered by it. Why was I doing all this work, putting in all this effort only to be gaining weight? Why was I slogging through long miles, early in the morning, in the heat/wind/rain just so my skinny jeans wouldn’t fit anymore? The concept of gaining weight was so antithesis to me, that I couldn’t understand how this could possibly be a good thing. As women, we are encouraged (in the cruelest of ways) to be as skinny as we can, regardless of whether it’s healthy for us. And I’m sorry but it’s so, so stupid, especially if you train for endurance events. How can you possibly perform your best athletically if you can count every single rib you have?

When I was in high school playing varsity basketball and running track I weighed 180 and wore a size 12. I never, ever thought about my weight because I liked how I looked. Sure, I was a teenager and sometimes felt awkward in my own skin, but I never felt fat, I never looked in the mirror and thought “Geez, if I only I could lose a few pounds, I would look so much better.” My clothes fit well, I felt fit and strong and assumed things would never change.

Then I moved to France for a year. Between lack of exercise, homesickness, and easy access to buttery croissants, sugary crepes and full-fat dairy I quickly gained 15 pounds. I had been an athlete my whole life and my body had  no idea what to do with the extra weight. I was unhappy and felt ugly all the time.

It didn’t take me long to lose the weight once I returned to the US, but I didn’t lose it in the healthiest of manners. I skipped meals and wasn’t really exercising. I started college and things stayed the same. I didn’t gain weight, but I didn’t feel healthy. Two years ago, I had had enough and I started running. And eating vegetables. I set a sleeping schedule. I stopped eating potato chips and ice cream for breakfast.

Soon, I felt comfortable in my own skin again, I had energy and I felt positive. I fell in love with running and started training for races. I saw further changes, suddenly my legs were toned and my love handles were gone. I added in weight-lifting and suddenly I had arm muscles and I sort of had abs.

And then I started marathon training. Things changed. Now I have to fuel for running four days a week, plus cross-training and weight-lifting. My dietary needs changed. And my body changed. Subtly, but it changed. My skinny jeans stopped fitting properly because my thighs had grown with newly developed muscles from running. Tight-fitting tops stopped fitting because my shoulders expanded with the introduction of regular weight-lifting (I’ve always had line-backer shoulders, now I look like I have the shoulders of the whole line-backer squad). Lunges and squats and running meant my butt stopped fitting into my pencil skirts.

At first, I hated these changes. I thought it was the opposite of what I wanted. But one day I stopped and took the time to look in the mirror and I realized that I was happier with my body than I had ever been. When I looked in the mirror I saw a woman who could dead-lift more than some of the guys in the weight room, a woman whose legs could run 13.1 miles and wanted to go farther, a woman whose body could swim, bike, run and lift. And I was suddenly so proud. Who cares if I’m not a size zero? Who cares if I don’t look like a supermodel? I look like me. I look like me and I know my body can do amazing things.

My body has different needs now that it has to prepare to get through 26.2 miles. Just like it will have different needs when I (one day) complete a half-Ironman (and hopefully a full Ironman). And you know what, if those five extra pounds get me across the finish line, then really, who cares? Because I don’t anymore.

I promise to return to regularly scheduled sarcastic programming tomorrow night with Work It Out Wednesday, but every know and then you just have to get something off your chest. Also, I think I’m going to start titling all my posts with “And That’s When…” If it annoys you guys seriously, tell me. But I am easily amused and so far the “And That’s When…” have been my favorite titles.

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15 Responses to “And That’s When I Went On A Rant About Weight”

  1. Victoria (District Chocoholic) July 26, 2011 at 9:34 pm #

    Don’t forget increased glycogen stores to get you through 26.2. That’s part of what you are training your body to do, so it’s a great thing, but glycogen plus the water that sticks to it when stored weighs A LOT.

    • feetoffancy July 28, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

      Training for a marathon just brings along all kinds of pleaseant surprises. At least you get official bad-ass status for running 26.2 miles.

  2. Coach Brian July 26, 2011 at 9:50 pm #

    You may as well make your own hash tag too: #andthatswhen

    • feetoffancy July 28, 2011 at 2:29 pm #

      Ha! Love it! Another way for me to waste more time on Twitter 🙂

  3. Heidi July 26, 2011 at 10:00 pm #

    AMEN!

  4. Stef July 27, 2011 at 8:29 am #

    I started running in April, with the initial goal of losing baby weight (from my 3 year old AND 1 year old- I’m a slacker). Then I became involved with Team In Training & started seriously learning how to run & training for my first half marathon (woo!). I thought the weight would fall off… So far, I’ve gained about 5 pounds. It’s a total mind f**k. I KNOW I’m gaining muscle & muscle weighs more than fat. I know that. But I seem to forget that when I step on the scale & want to scream in frustration. It sucks!

    • feetoffancy July 28, 2011 at 2:35 pm #

      I know just how you feel! I struggled so much with the weight gain at first, and it took me a long time to realize that the 5 pounds doesn’t matter. The scale will never give me a number that I want to see, so I don’t get on it very much anymore.

      I didn’t gain weight until I started training for the marathon, but that was also right around the time that I started taking running seriously, and learning about what it takes to run long distances.

      How’s your half-training going? I loved training for my first half, although my first double-digit run was a struggle.

  5. Dawn July 27, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

    AMEN! It’s all about what your body can DO, not just what it looks like.

  6. RunToTheFinish July 27, 2011 at 5:23 pm #

    I definitely go through phases where I am able to look at my body no matter the weight and just say damn i love this body for allowing me to run and do so many crazy things. And other days for no particular reason (hormones) I am incredibly concerned with weight… so I try to just stick more to the love side of the line and know that yup I’m just the way I’m supposed to be. I can do things to make myself look better, but i don’t need to do them all or do them overnight

    • feetoffancy July 28, 2011 at 2:38 pm #

      Hormones are such a pain! You’ll feel completely normal one moment and then a total mess the next.

      I love your attitude, sticking to the love side is what counts! There will always be days where you don’t like things but as long as you try to love yourself the majority of the time everything else will work itself out in the end.

  7. Sarah July 28, 2011 at 3:04 pm #

    I liked this post. I don’t think I have ever lost weight from marathon training. It is good that you feel comfy with your weight as it is! I wish I could say the same about myself, but I have always been unhappy with my body. Maybe, one day I hope, I look at myself and be happy with who I am as well.

    • feetoffancy August 2, 2011 at 11:22 am #

      It took me a long time to get comfortable with my weight, and I still have a lot of days where I don’t like things about myself. Knowing what I can do (i.e run, bike, swim, lift) helps more than I can say. You are completely awesome and can do WAY more kick-ass stuff than I can (century rides, triathlons etc). I hope I’m half as bad-ass as you are one day.

  8. Liz July 28, 2011 at 3:17 pm #

    I gain 5 pounds every training cycle. In part because I am always hungry, but in part because my muscles get big and strong. It’s totally worth it.

    • feetoffancy August 2, 2011 at 11:19 am #

      Weight gain just seems to be as much a part of marathon training as black toenails, chafing and the need to constantly have carbs nearby. And I agree, knowing that you’ll be able to run 26.2 is totally worth the extra 5 pounds.

  9. Erin @ Big Girl Feats August 9, 2011 at 8:00 pm #

    This post is so awesome. I felt the same way after I had surgery and went through radioactive treatment (so would have rather run a marathon but hey!) because I realized my body got me through some pretty crazy s*#t.

    Also, I think you look freaking awesome! I can’t wait to boost my line backer shoulders into line backer squad shoulders.

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