Sharon is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a background in mental health, substance abuse, and child welfare.
“I tried my hand at being a work at home mom, but in 2009 I decided that being a stay at home mom is what works best for me and my family, at least for now. As my kids like to say, I’m “The Boss” of the family, which includes my husband of 9 years, two daughters (ages 4 and 6), and a giant goldfish named Princess Leia. My girls are beautiful and curious and wild and exhausting, and life is never, ever dull! I love reading, traveling, trying new restaurants, and shopping for bargains. I’m also training to run my first marathon in February 2013.”
This morning during my group run, I heard one runner say to another, “I’ve lost six pounds in one month.”
Hmmm….interesting…because that’s actually just about what I’ve GAINED since I started running, especially since I began my marathon training. I’m running 15-20 miles a week, presumably burning tons of calories, and yet the number on my scale Just. Keeps. Going. Up. What the heck is going on here?
In the interest of full disclosure, I must tell you that I didn’t actually need to lose any weight when I began running. I’d already been working out 4-5 times a week for several years, and I was in pretty good shape. Still, I wouldn’t have minded getting back into the insanely skinny Levis that I somehow fit into for a couple of weeks in 2010. I thought running would tone and streamline my body, and maybe take off a pound or two.
Well, I was wrong. My body is changing all right, but not in the ways I expected. My legs are toned, but my booty keeps growing and growing! And the number on the scale is higher than it’s ever been in my entire life (not counting pregnancy). Forget about the skinny jeans. It’s almost time to pull out the “fat” jeans.
I decided to get to the bottom of this. And guess what – gaining weight during marathon training is a well-known occurrence. I found tons of info online about why this happens. There are four major reasons:
1. I am building more muscle mass, and muscle is denser than fat. So even though the scale reflects a weight gain, my body fat percentage has probably decreased. According to the Tanita Body Composition Analyzer at the YMCA, as of 9/10/12, my total body fat is 23.9%. For a woman my age, the desirable range for body fat is between 21-33%. I plan to check this periodically and will be interested to see if and how this changes as I continue my training.
2. My body is learning to store carbohydrates as glycogen, or fuel. I need these glycogen stores for long runs, but they also may cause weight fluctuations. In addition, the body needs extra water to break down and store the glycogen, which may be showing up as extra “water” weight on my bathroom scale.
3. I simply may have increased my caloric intake. Running makes me hungry! But that doesn’t give me an excuse to come home and eat a dozen chocolate chip cookies as a post-run snack (ummm…not that I’ve ever done that…). Yes, marathon training burns tons of calories. But it’s important to try to keep healthy snacks readily at hand so that I don’t grab the first thing I see when I get home from a long run. I still need to make healthy food choices.
4. I may also be drinking too many calories. I’m a Gatorade junkie. I drink it before runs. During runs. After runs. At dinner. While grocery shopping. And unfortunately, Gatorade and other sports drinks are loaded with sugar and calories. And while it’s important to replace electrolytes during long runs, it’s unnecessary to drink sports drinks the rest of the time. Plain old water is perfectly fine for keeping me hydrated during short runs and trips to the grocery store.
I think the bottom line is that I’m healthier and stronger. I need to pay attention to my body, not my bathroom scale or the pair of jeans taunting me from the back of my closet. I’m so proud of what I’ve accomplished already, and I can’t wait to see what else I can do. Forget the stupid scale. I’m going to run a freakin’ MARATHON!!!
For more info about weight gain during running, check out these great sources:
Check out Ask a Marathon Mommy articles!