Confessions Of A Former Runner

by HEAB on April 24, 2009

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I am surrounded by runners.  My husband runs…a lot.  Many of my friends run. Almost all my clients run.  They cannot believe that I no longer run, and apparently many of you can’t either.  After receiving almost daily emails from people asking about my new found love for yoga, I decided to write an entire post about it.

Below is an excerpt from an email I wrote in response to a reader who runs 60 miles a week but really wants to cut back.  After reading my Yoga Wrap-Up she was curious as to how I was able to maintain and even lose weight after cutting out so much cardio…

60 miles a week? Impressive.  I think my highest week was 50 when I was training for a 50K.  Listen, I’ve been there.  Although I did not run as much as you, I did run 5-6 days a week for about 7 years.  In my head, my workouts had to be at least 60 minutes long.  So, I either ran for an hour or longer, and on days I did shorter runs, I would fill the rest of the hour with weights.  I maybe did yoga once a week.  Honestly, I never really counted calories when I was running, but I know I probably ate around 2300 a day, sometimes more, but rarely less.  If I felt I overate, I would just do a long run the next day.  It was an awful cycle.  I was running to eat, and although I thought I loved running, I was not in a healthy place.

After getting married, buying a house, and adopting 2 puppies all in one year, I simply did not have as much time to devote to my workouts.  I also bruised my sacrum 10 weeks before getting married and could do nothing but take long slow walks.  I gained about 10 pounds during my first year of marriage, freaked out, and started working out again hard….and was miserable.  Things started to change when I tried shorter more intense workouts (think Tabata Intervals) and super sets with heavier weights.  My weight began to go down, and then something just clicked with yoga.  After doing it consistently for a few weeks, I began to do less cardio and fewer strength training sessions. For a while, the thought of adding a run or some cardio intervals before or after class creeped into my head, but I forced myself to let it go.  I decided to stick with only yoga for 30 days to see what would happened.  What happened was my arms toned up, my legs became stronger, both my strength and flexibility increased, and I lost 3 pounds.  Keep in mind that these were intense yoga classes in a heated studio.  One hour every day of the week with a 2 hour class every Saturday.  I worked hard and learned to love it so much. I’ve been back in the studio everyday since my workshop ended, and I feel amazing.

Now, back to my eating. I’m kind of embarrassed to admit this, but one reason I did not want to stop running was because I loved being able to eat so much.  My appetite was out of control when I ran, and I couldn’t seem to eat enough.  Yes, I ate mostly healthy foods, but I ate a lot of them.  When my miles crept up, I added more foods like pizza and ice-cream.  I needed the sugar & carbs for fuel.  Now I don’t, simple as that. I was scared that if I exercised less, that I would still eat the same amount and obviously gain weight.  This has not been the case at all.  With less exercise, my appetite decreased, and I usually eat between 1800 – 1900 calories a day, and I AM NOT HUNGRY.  It’s wonderful.  Plus, yoga has helped me build more muscle, &  I’m not as puffy as I was when I ran (and I even lifted weights 2-3 times a week).  I weigh about 13 pounds less than I did a year ago, and I feel longer and leaner and much much better. Promise!

Is exercise important? Yes. Do our bodies need hours of cardio day after day? No. Will you gain weight if you stop running? No. Just focus on staying active and building lean muscle mass. Try out a new strength training class at your gym. Workout with a trainer.  Get outside and take a long hike.  Run up and down the stairs in your office building. Want to work on those arm muscles? Try 60 minutes of Power Vinyasa Yoga. All those Chaturangas did more for my arms than any amount of weight lifting ever did!

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My friends, I know I’ve said this before, but our bodies were not made to spend hours in the gym.  I won’t lie, I still struggle.  Even with my yoga practice, I often feel the urge to do the most challenging class that I can find that day, but then a good friend or two will knock some sense into me. I’m fairly confident that yoga is going to remain a big part of my life, and I know when we move to Colorado, I’ll hit the trails for an occasional run. However, it will only be if I truly want to…not because I need a good calorie burn. I challenge each of you to ask yourself: What is the motivating factor behind my exercise? Why do I do it? Is it because you absolutely love spending an hour on the that elliptical machine, or is it because you know think you ate too much yesterday? Please please please honor your body. Exercise to be strong and healthy, and I promise you can get there without all this cardio nonsense.

For those of you that are truly passionate about running, then I say stick with it. Just don’t overdo it, and listen to your body. And for those of you ready to cut back? I say trade in those running shoes for a pair of Lululemon yoga pants! Trust me, your body will thank you. :)

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Happy weekend to everyone!