If you’ve run for a couple of years or for most of your life the idea of you being a runner is always there. The identity of a runner is branded within your mind, body, and soul. Tattooed from the years of effort and running. If you’re a new runner or simply transitioning from one state of your life to another, sticking with running for the long haul can be difficult.
Seasoned runners sometimes forget where we come from, and how difficult our journey might have been. While others, even though they are runners, still hold onto the baggage they once saddled on their back and most importantly what they communicated to their body.
When we take that step from the comfort zone (sustainment) into a discomfort zone (growth) it’s a little scary. The familiarity of the comfort zone keeps us there and makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside. The discomfort zone is new uncharted territory, it takes mental and physical effort to push yourself there. Once you’re in the zone of discomfort you still have to work hard to make it your new comfort zone.
Some of us try to leave our comfort zone and we don’t make it out very far. Before we know it we get pulled back to where we started. This happens multiple times a day whether you’re consciously aware of it or not. Our mind is constantly looking for signs of familiarity, comfort, safety. It’s wired in our DNA – it’s a survival mechanism.
I personally struggled with weight loss for a long time (many, many moons before running changed my life). Here is a picture of me around the age of 28. I had graduated from college 4 years prior and was extremely overweight. My job as a senior software programming lead forced me to sit beyond a desk for about 10 hours a day for years. I drank around 4-5 sugary drinks a day. I ate horribly and felt miserable.
One day I woke up and realized that I didn’t want to be overweight anymore. I attribute my weight loss and health kick to identifying myself as a healthy person instead of an overweight person.
Many attempted weight loss plans fail because of an unsustainable state of mind. If a person tries to lose weight and yet they still think and believe that they are an unfit, overweight person the struggle will still persist. Even if they lose 50 lbs – the chains are never truly broken until their state of mind and identity change. You see this over and over again with the term “yo-yo” dieting. The problem isn’t the diet, the problem is within your mental state and identification.
Let’s say that you start a brand new weight loss plan that claims you will lose 20 lbs in 60 days (it’s a big claim, but it’s possible if a lot of the weight is water weight). Around day 45, you jump on the scale and you’ve lost 15 lbs. You tell yourself that you’ve only got 15 more days to go and then you’re done. If you’re a seasoned weight loser, you know that this is skating on thin ice.
What happens when 60 days are up? How will you maintain your weight after this point? Are you going to go back to the foods you were restricted from before you started your weight loss diet? In order to keep the weight off, you must have a mental shift a mental change of state.
Instead of picturing yourself as an overweight person, you need to mentally visualize yourself as healthy and in shape individual. Emotion is tied to the state of your mind. Don’t worry I’m not diving into the foo-foo, new age wizard stuff. You’re not losing weight you’re adopting a healthier lifestyle. You’re not on a diet, you are changing your eating habits for life. The older you get the more difficult it becomes to shed those extra pounds.
BMI – Body Mass Index
I’m not advocating for everyone to be skinny as a rail. Also, DO NOT take your BMI reading to heart, instead simply throw it in the garbage. BMI doesn’t account for muscle and your waist size. I have a 34-inch waist, my blood pressure is well below average, I’m 6’3″. I weigh 225 pounds (16 stones), my VO2 Max is @ 43, I can run 1 mile in 7 minutes and yet my BMI measurement classifies me as borderline Obese…. sorry BMI – I’m not overweight.
If you didn’t know this already, a Belgian scientist named Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet, that came up with BMI said, “it could not and should not be used to indicate the level of fatness in an individual.” According to a study on the NPR website, “He produced the formula to give a quick and easy way to measure the degree of obesity of the general population to assist the government in allocating resources.” [BMI article].
I was a smoker 16 years ago. I picked up the bad habit in college. How did I end up quitting? One day I decided that I would quit cold turkey. The perfect opportunity to quit arose on a one-week vacation to Disneyland with my mother and my nephew. I quit smoking that week, and if I thought back on it long and hard, I remember telling myself that I’m no longer a smoker. I think this helped separate the mental fixation of smoking and route it out once and for all.
Instead of smoking, the physical side of the addiction told me that I wasn’t getting off that easily. My body had decided to eat as much sugar in sight as possible. If you’ve been to Disneyland, you know that there’s no shortage of sugar. Kicking the smoking habit, unfortunately, set me up for my eating marathon in which I managed to gain about 60 pounds (4.3 stones). I’ll save my eating habit treck for another post.
Recently, starting in 2019, I started to cut back on drinking alcohol. Don’t worry I’m not going to go on a bloody rant about alcohol and its horrible side effects. I love to drink beer, especially after a good race! I know for a fact that if I want to be able to run a sub two hour half marathon at my age and fitness level I have to become thinner.
Well, I’ve tracked my habits over the course of months and drinking has been the culprit that is adding to my extra layers. I immediately started a new habit. I decide to only drink once a week and on special occasions (any race, any distance).
My new habit has quickly made me become a social drinker. I also launched myself into signing up for as many races as possible, because my reward was a few cold ones after the race!Scott Morton is the author of, Beginner's Guide to Half Marathons: A Simple Step-By-Step Solution to Get You to the Finish Line in 12 Weeks! (Beginner To Finisher Book 3), which has become an Amazon International #1 bestseller. Scott specializes in helping new runners become injury free race finishers. He recently completed his 10 half marathon race. He is also an RRCA certified coach.
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