A bite of gluten free muffin. Not a quandry.
Over the years I have been blogging, I have posted at least once a year about race weight- mine, diets, weight loss, "looking like a runner", etc. As the first major efforts of the year are creeping closer and closer, I am again thinking about it. Most of the thinking has been prompted by reading the book, Race Weight by Matt Fitzgerald. This book is geared towards endurance athletes and focuses on more than just beginners.
As someone who knows a good deal about nutrition, healthy eating and food, it is nice to read a book that does offer simple steps/ practices to move towards race weight. The book isn't touting any certain type of diet, though it is in line with what I already believe and practice, a very Michael Pollen-esqe "eat real food" type recommendation. It is informational yes, but in the end it runs me into the same road blocks/questions/conundrums that I consider my biggest hurdles in achieving my race weight.
Currently, as of this morning, I am about 5-6 lbs over my lightest race weight. I could go as much as 7-8lbs down and still be within a healthy range for me. If I am being honest, I would definitely like to achieve something like that weight this season preferably before WS100. I also don't want to sacrifice health and training and such just to be lighter. Fitzgerald says, your ideal race weight is the amount you weigh on the day you run your PR. I care less about the number, than I do about how I feel on race day. Weight is, ultimately, an arbitrary number.
Fitzgerald argues that the best way to lose weight is to increase your training. I agree it is much easier to run 5 more miles (and not up calories accordingly) than to cut 500 additional calories out of your diet when you are in training (at least for me it is). The really big roadblock that I continually run into and did with this book is: calories in to lose weight, but eating enough not trigger hormonal imbalances, muscle loss and fat gain. I have been in the position where (when vegan) I wasn't getting enough calories, got hypo-thyroid and ending up gaining fat/losing muscle because my calories in/calories out were too far out of balance. Thus, I find myself when training hard constantly wondering if I am eating too much (to lose weight) or eating too little for the mileage I put in.
I have had my BMR checked and would wager based on my weight that I burn, maybe 90kcals/mile. Thus, on an average weekday during February in which I have been doing at least 100mpw, that I run (say 20 miles over 2 runs) and work (seated/computer) that I would be burning about 3500 calories per day. My average calories in (weekdays) is about 2400-2800 calories. In theory that means, I should lose a bit of weight each week. But that is not happening. Which means, I am either overeating (which is what I am always convinced I am doing, but not necessarily true) or undereating and freaking my body out. Trying to figure out which one, could drive you insane. Instead, I just try to listen to my body and my hunger. I eat an incredibly healthy diet, so I am not really concerned about the quality of my diet at all.
I know that I could be like some of the elite athletes in the book/that I know/that I have been at one point or another and be completely rigid about my diet. But that is the second roadblock I run into. Do I want to be so strict about my diet that I don't enjoy my life? Do I want to abstain from wine with friends, coconut ice cream out of the container after a long run and trying new things at restaurants or going on weekend trips designed around all the places we can eat? I don't. Being overly obsessed with food and weight is unhealthy and alienates you from everyone and everything. I don't think that running is a free pass by any means, but I think moderation is completely fine.
I don't like to even thinking about race weight or weight at all, but as Fitzgerald discusses, we think about it as elite endurance athletes because it makes a difference. We can feel it. I am less worried about achieving a certain number than I am about feeling a certain way about my body.
Thus, as the season thrusts itself upon me, I am devising strategies to encourage my body towards race weight or better described, race body feeling, while being happy, healthy and fueled enough to do the good hard work. At the same time, I am remembering that the things I will remember most about my training days are the fun I had with friends running then refueling, not how fat or fit I felt on that day.
Post run treats with speedsters at Flying Apron