Fitness Isn’t About Exercise


On a mantle in my parents home sits a picture of me immediately after crossing the finish line at the Richmond marathon [1].

I both love and hate that picture at the same time

I love it because that photo captures the excitement of a moment four months (and hundreds of miles) in the making as my right arm was raised in victory after finishing (actually it wasn’t raised victoriously so much as lifted slightly in exhaustion)

Then I notice the fact that I’m around five pounds overweight (maybe closer to ten)

The reason I’m thankful this picture takes such a prominent place at my parent’s home is it clearly teaches an important truth:

There is no such thing as the runners diet

The runners diet is basically an idea that you can eat whatever you want on training days (or immediately after strenuous exercise) since you’ve already burned lots of calories.

There is some truth to this since our bodies will crave food after a hard workout or run and there is a need for extra calories. However what we use to refuel our bodies must still be healthy.

I learned this lesson the hard way as marathon training that began in July started to end in November. The last six long runs on Saturdays looked like this

  1. Twenty Miles
  2. Fourteen Miles (a rest week)
  3. Twenty-Miles
  4. Twenty-Two Miles
  5. Fourteen Miles (in the pouring rain)
  6. And Eight Miles (Resting for Marathon)

So during the last month and a half I ran ninety-eight miles on Saturdays alone…but was still overweight.

How in the world did this happen?

It actually started with something quite innocent

I deserve to eat a Mcdonald’s biscuit on Saturday morning because I ran twenty-two miles today.

The thing is that’s true, I even ate it within thirty minutes after the workout which is recommended. The problem arose when the statement started changing ever so slightly.

“I can eat a Mcdonals biscuit because I ran twenty-two miles Saturday” or “I can eat junk food since I ran eight miles today [2]

Now instead of putting back calories I burned a half-hour earlier, I’m putting back calories I burned two days ago. Or in the case of running eight-miles I’m putting back calories I haven’t even burned yet!

But wait, it gets worse

As the marathon training come to an end (particularly during the last five weeks) I developed a sense of accomplishment.

This was quite understandable…after all I ran almost 100 miles on Saturdays leading up to the Richmond Marathon alone!

So the phrase became “I can eat a Mcdonalds biscuit (or other junk food) since I ran over 100 miles this month including all training runs!”

Does running that much give a person permission to indulge themselves more than usual? You better believe it! However if this excuse is used often enough it results in extra pounds.

I wish I could tell you the runners diet works but it doesn’t

Unfortunately I had to learn the hard way that the only path to true fitness uses both exercise, and a healthy eating plan.

  1. The only reason it’s there is my mother specifically requested this picture for her Christmas present 🙂  ↩
  2. my longest run other than Saturday was eight miles, not quite long enough to earn a biscuit  ↩

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