I’m always hesitant to talk about body or weight-related topics because they are definitely touchy subjects! But I wanted to talk about some things that have been on my mind recently.
My running during the peak of Boston training was around 65 mpw. These days, I’m anywhere from 20-40. No run has been longer than 11 miles. Very few have been beyond 10. (I’ll go into more details soon about how I’m feeling, what I’m doing / not doing, etc).
I’m also not eating as “healthy” right now as I was several months ago. It means ice cream at night, muffins or donuts on the weekend with my little guys, frappacinos when I feel like it. I’m not eating until I’m nauseous but I’m allowing myself to eat all those things that I may have passed up during the peak part of my training.
And I’m about 6-8 pounds heavier than I was three months ago. Now, I’m not saying I’m heavy or need to diet or anything like that. Not at all. But I am heavier. I can feel and see the weight gain. 6-8 pounds on my body is noticeable (to me). It’s about 5-7% of my total body weight.
In years past, the down period after a huge goal race would have caused me to freak out. I would have obsessively watched (or restricted) what I consumed in order to keep my weight what it was several months ago.
But I’ve learned to let this happen. It’s normal and all part of a marathoners training cycle. Our bodies need time to unwind and relax before we ask it to go hard again.
As a marathon training cycle progresses, my body leans out. My ab muscles are more pronounced, my thighs and butt are smaller and my arms lean out significantly. I’m often at my leanest 2-6 weeks out from the goal race. And I would definitely call it my peak weight (I am not really a fan of the term “racing weight” – more on this in another post!).
I will be completely honest and admit that I love the way I look and feel (confidence and happiness) when this happens. But staying at that weight or in that shape is not sustainable more than a month or two for me. It happens when multiple things are going on at the same time (and all of which I need a break from after a long training cycle!):
- First, once I start running consecutive 55, 60 miles per week, my body naturally begins to lean out. I have found that ~55 mpw weeks is usually when I start to see a change in my body. I’m sure that if I were able to run say 70 mpw and then 80 mpw, I’d see more changes. (I’m not saying I have any plans to run those mileage weeks – but I think my body would respond accordingly if I did.)
- Second (and this goes hand in hand – for me, at least – with the high mileage) is consistent long runs. There’s a difference between running 10-12 miles each weekend and running 18-23 miles each weekend. Your body adapts and changes.
- And lastly, my nutrition improves as the training cycles progresses, mileage picks up and workouts become more intense. It’s natural for this to happen to me. I am much more aware and focused on what I’m putting into my body when I know I have a 23 miler or a 3 x 3 mile workout the next day. If I’m not putting good stuff into my body, I won’t get the results I am after.
And so during each cycle, once I get about 6 weeks out from the goal race, I find that I am lighter and leaner. Which is when I really start to see paces start dropping.
This past training cycle was a breakthrough cycle for me – and it went hand in hand with the leanest I have ever been in my life. I definitely think they were related – and that they were the result of each other (in both directions).
Now, there is a major difference between losing a few pounds in an unhealthy way and losing a few pounds because of training, intensity and healthy eating. I’ve done both and my running looked completely different from one to the other. When I was restricting, I never really felt good when I was running. I was constantly fatigued and tired. There was no breakthrough running either.
For me, the key is just to let things happen naturally. I don’t obsess about my weight (we haven’t owned a functioning scale in almost 3 years). I don’t obsess about food (I do not count anything for food – calories, fat, protein). The only thing I concern myself with is ensuring I am consuming enough food to feel and run well.
I will add, however, that feeling and seeing a bit of weight gain is never truly easy. I am human. I complain to my husband when I put on pants or shorts that were loose on me in March and now are a little too snug for comfort.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with acknowledging that there has been some weight gain. It’s when that acknowledgement leads to unhealthy habits or eating that it becomes an issue.
Just some thoughts to keep in mind as you may be in the middle of that “down” period right now before fall marathon training resumes shortly. Don’t obsess over the weight. Enjoy the downtime. Eat those treats that you may have skipped when training was heaviest. And know that when training and intensity pick up, the weight will likely return to what it was.
My good friend, Tina, wrote an awesome post recently about a similar topic. You can read it here.