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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Weighty Matters

The definition of a typical runner has certainly changed in the last 15 years.

Before the recent running boom, there were essentially two types of runners. There were those who were good at it and ran competitively, and there were those who ran primarily to stay in shape and/or lose weight. Sure, there were tens of thousands of "others" who just ran because they enjoyed it, but they were lost among those who ran to be faster and those who ran to be lighter.

In recent years, participation in races (and, consequently, every registration fee) has gone through the roof. I read an article that attributed this boon to the failing economy. Someone out of a job starts running as a way of taking charge of some part of his or her life. They become a "runner" because they need to do something without anyone else's help. I agree this is the most likely cause.

Regardless of how it started, the movement has caused a shift in what runners (and running publications) talk about. Instead of balancing articles evenly between running faster and losing weight, there is now a wider range of topics. The most important, it seems, is longevity. When someone finds and falls in love with running, they want to do it forever, so the most important thing becomes not gaining a second or losing a pound, but avoiding injury. If you can stay healthy, you can run as long as you want, and this is the most important thing to many of us.

That has been the focus of my latest round of workouts. Though I'm not officially in training for the next marathon yet, I keep an eye on my times, often to make sure I'm not running too fast. After several  months of working out as hard as I can only to end up injured or burned out, I am trying to be careful this time around not to let myself go too hard.

And one way I monitor that is (oddly enough) to watch my weight. I'm not trying to lose anything. Even though I'm nearly 20 pounds heavier than the average elite distance runner, I attribute this to the fact that I'm also about 5 inches taller. I'm quite happy with my size and shape. However, I still weigh myself every day, and it has nothing to do with desiring change. It has everything to do with maintenance. 

I know my goal weight, and most of the time, I'm within 5-10 pounds of it. The reason that I weigh myself daily has less to do with calories and much more to do with hydration. After a long, hard run, I might be down 6-7 pounds from my average weight because of lost water. This means that I'm not hydrating adequately throughout the run. This is not a surprise when it comes to runs shorter than ten miles, because I do not often take water with me unless it's an official "long run" day. Still, I need to learn exactly how much water to take in order to keep my body functioning, and keep my weight constant.

So I think I've decided upon my March focus. I can't come up with a good challenge that I'm not already doing, so I think instead that I'll simply pay attention to my pre- and post-workout weights, the temperature outside, the intensity of the workout, and how that's all affecting my body. Ideally, I'll learn exactly how much replenishment I'll need throughout the race to run at an optimized level. 

And if I learn nothing, at least I'll get to create another awesome spreadsheet.

Wednesday's Run:
82 Degrees / Sunny and no I'm not joking
3.22 Miles

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