Two quick announcements:
I say “marathon weight gain,” but obviously, this is also applicable to any other type of training. Runner, lifter, or otherwise.
Before I go too far in, I want to say that this post will be discussing weight gain and exercise in a way that may be a bit triggering for some folks. If you are worried that talk of this nature might affect you, please take a break from the Suzlyfe for the day, and come back tomorrow!
Edited to add: Additionally, after reading the comments, I want to make sure that you all know that I am making these statements knowing full well that I have not gained an outrageous amount of weight, or that the visual difference is super noticeable. But trust me–it is there. This is just the start–the foundations. I want to make sure that people know that this is learning how to stay healthy through training.
There are so many posts out there on the Net that talk about “I gained weight during marathon training (sadface)” or “How not to gain weight during marathon/half marathon/Ironman/etc training.”
This is not one of those posts.
Rather, it is this kind of post:
I gained weight during marathon training 😀
And no, I don’t intend to try to lose it.
While I have never been diagnosed for an eating disorder, I have certainly experienced disordered eating behavior in the past, and even, from time to time, in the present. My eating issues originated from a “chunky” childhood in the midst of more svelt peers and a brother with a mad-cap metabolism. However, my diagnosis of Crohn’s, ensuing digestive issues, hormonal issues, and steroid weight fluctuations cemented a sort of timidity around food and the need to try to control it, even thought it did me little good.
If you have followed along with my story for a while, you know that I have been working on my weight and my relationship with my body for a long time. For those that need a refresher:
If you want to check out other posts that I have done dealing with mental health, body issues, perspective, and emotional topics, please check out my “Tough Talk” page (in the menu).
When one goes to the doctor, underweight (for their height), admittedly slim, and without a period, doctors (rightly) first ask questions about exercise, diet, etc. And I always answer truthfully: yes, I do exercise, here is how much (I do NOT fib, you know how seriously I take my health); yes, I do eat, here is a sample day, my target calories, and how I try to balance between being mindful/keeping track of what I eat and living my life.
Then the bomb: oh, yeah, and I am training for a marathon/half-marathon.
You would think I had slapped them.
But hear me out:
I do better when I am training. I gain weight when I am training. And as much as I love to run and work out? I do so in part because it helps me. It helps me gain the weight that I know that I need. And no, I don’t gain the weight because I go HOG WILD at the buffet and froyo bar and whatever. Sure, I eat a whole pizza, but it is thin crust and just about the least malicious pizza of all time.
Training takes the edge off. Training makes me happy. Training regulates my mood, emotions, hormones, and depression, and frees me up to be open to eating what I want, when I want it, and even to overeat. And when I overeat? Sure, I don’t necessarily feel great, but in a way, it is part of my training–I am helping my body become stronger, to recover better. When I am training, I add about 300-500 calories a day onto my normal intake. For long run days especially, I replace everything that I “spend” in a way that ensure my body uses it–gradually, in installments, over the course of about 36 hours following the run. No gorging or binging–that doesn’t help me.
And the result? Though I did not weigh myself at the beginning or the end of my training, I would guess that I have gained a good 5 lbs. Of booty, quad, hamstring, boobs, and a bit of tummy. My arms would be bigger if I had worked them more, but some of that goodness went to the legs. And you know what else? I didn’t really change overall size that much–things fit differently–> I fill them out oh-so-much-better.
My weight gain? I’m proud of it. I worked hard for it and my 30 minute marathon pr (dust yo shoulda off). I am no longer in “peak” training, but I still consider myself to be in training. I am still getting in about 2300-2500 calories a day, even though my workouts are FAR laxer. Right now, I am putting cash in the bank, as it were. My goal is not to lose what I have worked so hard for, either in endurance, muscle, body composition, or outlook.
I am curious to see what happens this winter: last winter, my body and brain were under so much stress from the cold and work that I lost all the good progress that I had made. My body is so sensitive to stress, but I am in such a better mental place now than 8 months ago, when I left the restaurant.
And hey, doctors, you know how “marathoners don’t get periods”? I got one. A month before the race. First full-length one on my decreased artificial hormone regimen. WHAT NOW.
My racing weight? It’s a little higher these days. And I am a better athlete for it. There might even be room for a few more. Though I will say, my tricep dips were a bit tough this morning….
If you want to discuss these types of issues further, my crazy fast friend and Elite runner Tina Muir recently wrote an excellent post about the changing body of the female marathoner. I encourage you to check it out, if you haven’t already.
Again, please know that your body is your own. I am not saying that all underweight people should train for marathons, or that you should give your doc the middle finger. I am the last person to say that, ever.
I just knew that what they were suggesting (the sit at home and drink Ensure diet) was not for me because a) it takes me to a dark place because of past associations b) I would go out of my everloving mind c) my body needs good weight that it can use for life, not “just fat” d) mental health is a huge part of my struggle–when I put on muscle, I relieve stress and gain confidence, thereby further encouraging better health.
So, the short and short of it is this: I gained weight during marathon training. And that makes me happy. It makes me strong. It makes me healthy. The weight powers me, my future, and my dreams, both of racing and of having a family. Just because you are doing something your own way, or using it for your own purposes/means to an end doesn’t mean that it is any less meaningful or wrong.
Everyone heals themselves in their own way. This has been a part of my therapy. I hope that you find what helps keep you healthy.
Reactions? Thoughts? Have you ever done the “opposite” of the typical recommendations in order to achieve a result?
Tell me about a “negative” transformation that has happened as a result of training/working towards something that you in fact view as a positive!