I began running three years ago. I’d been actively following the Weight Watchers plan and steadily losing weight. The program encourages “moving more,” but it’s up to you to decide what that movement looks like and what “more” means. Technically, you could do no exercise and just focus on staying within the allotted points and you’d likely lose the prescribed 0.5-2 pounds a week.
At the time, adding in some cardio 3-4 times a week made sense since everything I’d ever read and heard about weight loss included changes to diet and exercise habits. I didn’t realize then that it would develop into something more than just a habit.
In late February, I joined the gym thanks to a sweet promotional deal. I signed on to my sister’s gym plan for $15 a month. Lori and Adrian gave me some tips on working out and soon I was a late night regular at the local 24 Hour Fitness. I mainly stuck to the treadmill and elliptical, but also added in some light strength training moves Adrian taught me.
I saw results immediately. I improved in my endurance and speed within a few weeks. On the weeks I exceeded my allotted points but still got in 3-4 workouts, I still lost or remained even at my weigh-in. Working out made me feel good, but it was primarily a weight loss tool just like tracking, journaling and watching portion sizes by measuring out my food.
Although running and weight loss were inextricably linked, I didn’t see it as a chore or a necessary evil. I stuck with running rather than other cardio activities because it was what I enjoyed most. I was also inspired by my sister’s marathon training and seeing her cross the finish line at the San Diego Rock’n’Roll Marathon.
Soon, I got fitted for running shoes at Run With Us in Pasadena and signed up for a 5K in the summer. That trail 5K kicked my ass, I wasn’t prepared for the hills and had to walk a little, but still enjoyed the experience and atmosphere.
Eventually, I’d lose 60 pounds by following the WW plan and running regularly. (More on that here.)
Last week I read a post by RoseRunner, a talented and fast runner who bristles at the assumption that she runs to lose weight or stay thin. Unlike a lot of her readers, I couldn’t relate. One, I don’t get those comments. Two, if people made that assumption about me, it’d be true. I wouldn’t be a runner now if I hadn’t decided I wanted to lose all the extra weight I’d been carrying around since I was a kid.
In my experience running to lose/maintain weight was not mutually exclusive with actually enjoying the sport. Soon after my first outdoor run (May ’09), I grew to love running and came to see myself as a runner. It took another year before I was ready to push myself to run longer distances and sign up for the Long Beach half marathon. That first experience was great and made me want to challenge myself more.
I no longer run to lose weight, but running is part of my lazy maintenance efforts. I don’t track calories/points for food or exercise. I’ve tried both and ditched it after a week or two. If I feel like my jeans are too tight, I concentrate on eating — more vegetables, watching portion sizes, eating out less — rather than exercise. I occasionally attend WW meetings to weigh-in, but don’t weigh myself weekly. I haven’t been at my goal weight since summer 2010, the same summer I increased my running and started training for my first half marathon. Yup, I’ve gained some pounds back as I’ve run more and become faster… go figure.