Perhaps the biggest challenge in the last weeks of the buildup to my fall marathon has been maintaining a steady weight.
For my spring marathon, I got down to a 10- or 20-year low: 188 pounds. I attribute at least part of the credit for my marathon PR this spring to being at that weight lowpoint.
I was able to maintain that weight for most of the summer, but in the past six weeks or so, the scales have steadily crept up to about 197.
I have tried to eat healthy. I have tried to limit intake. But I’ve had mixed success with both attempts.
I did record more long runs for this training session than any other I’ve done in the past three or four years. In the past 10 weeks, I’ve logged 5 runs of 18 miles or longer. There have been numerous other runs in the 12-16 mile range.
And long training runs require fuel. I’ve been starved. And I’ve craved pure carbs. Between the snacks and the adult beverages, I have a pretty good idea why my weight has been on the upswing.
This weight gain has been weighing heavily on my mind — pun intended. Not only do I want to run well, I want to maintain a certain level of fitness and good health. I haven’t liked watching my weight climb higher.
So I was pleased when I read a blog where Dr. Michael Joyner, in reviewing a recent study, related that “remaining fit and active can trump a lot of the negative health risks associated with obesity.”
(Disclaimer: According to BMI, I am currently “overweight,” not anywhere near obese. In fact, about 8 years ago, I lost 13 percent of my body weight, and even at my heaviest, I was not obese, according to the BMI calculator. Although I was flirting with it.)
You can read all of Joyner’s blog entry here.
Obesity does put a person at increased risk for a shorter life and increased instances of cardiovascular disease. And that “increased risk is clearly amplified by being unfit,” Joyner wrote.
But he also wrote, “There are all sorts or reasons why being fit and active can trump other risk factors like obesity; less diabetes, blood vessels that stay relaxed, and better blood pressure control to name a few.”
Joyner’s entry also links to a New York Times story that examines the obesity paradox. That story offers two very interesting quotes:
“More often than not, cardiovascular fitness is a far more important predictor of mortality risk than just knowing what you weigh,” said Glenn Gaesser, author of “Big Fat Lies” and director of the Healthy Lifestyles Research Center at Arizona State University.
“Maintaining fitness is good and maintaining low weight is good. But if you had to go off one, it looks like it’s more important to maintain your fitness than your leanness. Fitness looks a little bit more protective,” said Dr. Carl Lavie, medical director of cardiac rehabilitation and prevention at the John Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute in New Orleans.
What’s my takeaway from all of this? If a bunch of medical experts are telling me that my fitness level is more important than my weight, I’m going to listen.
But then again, a friend of mine keeps telling me that you can pick up 2-3 seconds per mile for every pound of weight lost. And that’s nothing for a runner to ignore, either.
- Study Finds You Can Be Fit As Well As Fat (losethattyre.co.uk)
- Obese People Can Be Metabolically Healthy And In Good Shape (medicalnewstoday.com)