The crash diet of fitness?

The Fleeting Benefits of Marathons, the article referred to marathons as the “crash diet of fitness.” It claims that few first time marathoners continue to run and that almost no one loses weight from going the 26-mile distance. This seems to happen too frequently in the health and wellness arena – individuals place the wrong goal at the helm of a fitness aspiration. Assuming weight loss is the reward of running a marathon is simply inaccurate and misplaced. In addition, running a marathon only once shouldn’t be deemed as failure, as the article suggests. In fact, completing any kind of fitness goal deserves a huge pat on the back. All this said, if you are running a marathon solely to lose weight, I urge you to reconsider. There may be better alternatives – combining exercise with diet alterations – which could be more effective. Alternatively, if you have always wanted to run a marathon, do it because of the feeling of accomplishment you hope to attain from crossing that finish line. Whether you run a marathon one time or twenty, there’s no other feeling like it. No one else can explain it to you or describe it for you. Even if you are about to collapse when you pound out that last step (which I have done numerous times), you’ll be overwhelmed with a sense of pride that no one can take away from you. When I finish marathons, I feel like I can conquer the world. How many activities – fitness or otherwise – can claim this sentiment? And speaking of losing weight, I never drop the pounds when I’m training for a marathon (nor have friends of mine who train with me). In fact, I tend to add about three-give pounds due to a dramatic increase in appetite, especially towards the end of the training when those 20-milers hit the schedule. Your body needs the extra fuel! Also, after the race is over, the tendency is to keep indulging in the pre-race carb/protein loading even though the mileage is declining. Pretty soon, however, your appetite and diet adjust and the weight drops back off.

All weight issues aside, no one should feel like a loser just because they run one marathon and decide never to run another. Perhaps running isn’t for you. Or perhaps your knees can’t take the miles. Or maybe you’d rather do something that’s more fun than running 20 miles on Saturday mornings when it’s twenty degrees outside! I’ve had many people tell me I’m half crazy when I return from a long run with frozen fingers, half able to walk. And frankly, I don’t argue with their assessment. A person has to do what is right for them, whether it’s running marathons, doing Pilates or riding a bike at the gym. So for those who feel marathons have fleeting benefits – bah humbug! If you complete this vast challenge, you deserve a big pat on the pack! Even if there’s more of you to pat.

P.S. And good luck to all my friends running Chicago this weekend!

Melinda Hinson