I like to run. I've learned that it really isn't about where you're going, it's about the getting there - the how, the why, the who with. This blog is just a little repository for my thoughts along the way; the setbacks, the lessons learned, and the occasional triumph.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Weight, Weight, Don't Tell Me...

Well, it’s like clockwork – the temperatures take a nosedive and my body instantly begins adding in a couple of extra pounds to keep itself from freezing to death. It’s kind of fascinating, really. Like cats shedding and thinning out their fur in the summer. Or trees dropping their leaves in the fall. It’s marvelous how the body just knows. Well, marvelous except for the fact that it means I’ll be carrying a couple of extra pounds until the adjustment period ends.

At some point, in a month or so, the body will figure out that, oh wait, it’s not going to die of cold, that things will continue more or less as normal, and it’s okay to drop off that extra layer of insulation. Then all the miles will begin to have their affect again.

I’ve always heard that every body has a weight that it just kind of likes to be at. It never seems to mind so much when you increase your weight, but if you ever try to drop below that weight, alarm bells begin to go off for your metabolism. My body’s idea of baseline weight seems to be roughly 170 pounds, and that includes an extra layer around my stomach that I’ve never totally been able to eliminate.

The reason I originally started running was just for general heath and, well, not so much weight loss as just weight control. Therefore, I’ve always kept track of my status with a little scale in my bathroom. At least once every week or two I hop on after a run to see what it tells me.

Back in 2005, when I started keeping serious records, I was running steadily, but averaging just 5 or 6 miles a week. Then, for no good reason, I didn’t really run at all for 6 weeks around the holidays. I put on a pair of jeans over Christmas that I hadn’t worn in a couple of months, only to discover that they were tight and uncomfortable. I couldn’t believe I had put on the pounds so quickly. It scared me enough that I finally committed myself to a more regular, regimented running schedule.

In both of the next two years I upped my weekly mileage. In ’06 I averaged 20 mile weeks and 88 mile months. In ’07 that went up again to 33 mile weeks and 142 mile months. I saw the results on the scale: For both years, my weight hovered around 166-167. Over the summer of ’07, I was down to 163-164 – the result of those 35 to 40 mile weeks and the summer heat. Burning an extra 4,000+ calories will go a long way toward winning the battle of the bulge.

This last year was a little different, though. I have been doing a few more miles – my months have basically averaged 166 and the weeks 38 – but, somehow, I have not been able to keep the weight off. Early in the year (partly aided by the winter weight gain), the scale moved back up to 170 and has stayed there ever since.

At first I thought maybe the extra miles and harder workouts were simply building my muscle mass. I’m still not sure that isn’t true, but there’s also no doubt that the waist line of all my “skinny” pants got just a weeee bit snugger, too. So, I guess that my body caught up and figured out how to process all the mileage. So, it was finally able to push itself back up to that 170 lbs mark.

Allow me to emphatically state that I am not obsessed with my weight. Really, I’m not. I mean, I’d like to see it steady and under control – that is why the running thing got started – but mostly I’ve been thinking about it lately (and blogging about it) because it’s just so interesting to see it fluctuate over time and to pick out the variables that affect it. (But I know this must still resemble the transcript of a post-lunch chat between the Olsen Twins. Oh, well. See, Girls? Guys think about things like this, too.)

I’m not sure I can continue to up my mileage every year to stay in front of the increase and keep myself below that 170 threshold. Perhaps it’s a matter of doing more cross training so that the muscles have to exert their energy in different ways. Maybe that would confuse my fat cells again to where they won’t be able to multiply at will so much. Maybe it’s time to buy some clip pedals for my bike. Or maybe it’s just finally time to choose a slightly more responsible diet!


704 Studio said...

I was in Door County for a week this summer and ran twice a day and reached the 100 mile mark for the first time.

With all the calories being burned my appetite increased, and I was eating more things like ice cream and pizza. I did not think it would matter because burning 4000 calories a day meant I would be losing weight.

When I got home and weighed myself I found that I had gained 7 pounds since my last weigh-in (a few months before). I realized then that no matter how many miles I run, I can't eat with impunity.

Good luck at Tecumseh!

GTI said...

Thanks, James!

I've read that marathon training isn't necessarily a good way to lose weight, for exactly the reason you mentioned. It makes sense to me. My month this last summer when I ran very little, I noticed my appetite dropped off as well.

How funny that after all that you wound up gaining weight. Have to be honest with ourselves: We're getting older, right? The food burning machines don't work the same way they used to.

Hope you're getting over the ick that you've been fighting, but I have been enjoying the photography on your blog!

Paige said...

As you age, your body stops responding to exercise the way it did in earlier years; it wants more work from you, and more variety.

You have to start mixing it up more in order to keep it guessing, and burning optimally. If you don't already, add long intervals in at least one run/week. Add one non-running workout and weights (using your own body weight, not machines...air squats, push-ups, balance ab work, etc.). Also, you might consider looking into the Maffetone Method...it's really interesting and teaches your body to burn fat, rather than sugars. It's HR training, and great for anyone, especially those who feel they've hit a plateau.

Just some suggestions, that and add spinach and bananas to your daily diet (not together,though!).