To Run or Not To Run: That Is The Question

So I am second guessing my decision to run a half marathon, but maybe not for the reasons you might think – hear me out and then I would love it if you weigh in. I have no perspective in these types of situations. INTERNET, I need your advice. Eep!

:::opens up can of worms:::

I signed up to run the Seattle Rock and Roll Half Marathon a few months back after a night of imbibing and ego-fluffing, clearly. Liquid courage and a few months of CrossFitting will make you feel like you can do crazy things. I was excited at the thought of a new challenge and I am nothing, if not someone who loves to get wrapped up in a new challenge. I thrive off a good To Do List.  You know this.  This is the personality trait that Garrett will probably mentally order under ‘worse’ when it comes to contemplating that whole “For Better or For Worse” thing. While it is also a strength of mine, it is absolutely my Achilles heel.

When I signed up, my thought process was A) This will be a new challenge and it will feel exciting to accomplish as well as B) It will support my overarching goals to lose 50 more lbs this year. I still feel the same about option A. I am no longer doubting my ability to finish the race anymore and I totally think it will feel awesome to complete!  But it is B that is beginning to feel a bit like a gray area.

I began running regularly in February and coincidentally that is also when my weight loss completely stalled. It wasn’t a total shock and it didn’t concern me too much at first (oh, who am I kidding? I had concerns in the beginning when I was only losing 6 lbs per month.)  But overallI had lost 70 lbs and this wasn’t my first rodeo — I knew I would plateau at some point, so I started to tweak some things with my approach.  I quit drinking alcohol completely. No change. I reduced my fruit consumption. No change. I really reigned in my carbohydrates and started tracking my food. No change. I tried Intermittent Fasting. No change. After 2 months, I hadn’t lost a single pound and it sure wasn’t for lack of effort. I was starting to get REALLY frustrated.

I continued to train for the half marathon, actually even kicking that up a notch, and I tried to remain patient because my body composition was still changing. My pants continued to get looser. If it wasn’t for my friend Sarah and the lovely AndreAnna (who sent me a box full of 12 POUNDS OF CLOTHES, God love her!) I would have absolutely nothing to wear! Things were changing, but the truth was with a goal of 50+ more pounds, something had to give because I was not comfortable staying at this weight and just saying “Oh, this is my body’s set point.”  Because it is not.  There was something rotten in the state of Denmark, and I was determined to figure out what it was.

Frustrated (and kind of exhausted, frankly) I had decided to take a little running hiatus. Three days per week I had been running 3-4 miles before I started work at 7am and you know what, I WAS TIRED. Especially considering that at least 2 days per week I would work until 4:30, CrossFit at 5pm and then go home to make dinner, handle things on the homefront, and try to squeeze in some active relaxing before I would crap out on the couch just to get up and do it all over again. It was becoming a bit of a grind, and I just didn’t want it to be like that.

I have a tendency to get a little obsessive with goals so trying to employ some things I have learned about balance over the last 8 months, I took this opportunity to try and intervene before I got to the point of quitting out of exhaustion. I weighed my options (no pun intended) about what could give a little, and I chose to take the break from running because even though I enjoy, it can’t hold a candle to how much I love CrossFit. I couldn’t imagine a week without CrossFit, and I thought I could ease off the running without much consequence since I had plenty of time to get back on the wagon before the Half Marathon in June.

My last run was March 24th. Since that run I have yet to get back outside to run or hopped on the treadmill. I have continued CrossFitting 3-4 times per week but I ditched my food tracking and just went back to eating an unweighed, unmeasured Paleo diet because I wanted to get back to being intuitive about my eating. You know with my obsessive personality there is nothing that drives me to insanity quicker than tracking my food.  I started having a glass of wine again with dinner on the weekends because DAMMIT!  I really enjoy that and don’t like feeling deprived. I bought a giant box of mangoes from Costco and I have been shameless eating them for dessert nightly and that one act alone has brought more joy to my life that you can even imagine. Fresh Mangoes! I could write a love poem about them, but I will spare you.   

Also, I lost 7 lbs.

And the only difference was that I was exercising less and enjoying what I eat more.  This weight loss journey is just abolutely messes with your mind sometimes, doesn’t it? 

I was doing some hop scotching around Mark’s Daily Apple (a great resource for Primal/Paleo info!) and I read The Case Against Cardio.  I think he does a succinct job at explaining why rigorous aerobic activity isn’t always a great way to burn fat, but talk about an idea that goes against everything you’ve ever been taught about losing weight.  But hey, so does going Paleo, and that seems to be working out pretty swimmingly for me in the big scheme of things!  So I kept an open mind.  Then I re-read this article about chronic cardio and a little light bulb in my head went off. It was actually this passage that got me thinking:

This kind of training…raises cortisol levels, increases oxidative damage, systemic inflammation, depresses the immune system and decreases fat metabolism. About the only good thing it does in improve cardiac muscle strength – and even then you get to the point of diminishing returns fairly quickly.

Was I doing myself a disservice with all the running without even meaning to?

Needless to say I haven’t been super excited to get back on the treadmill. Sure I have missed it a little bit, but when I go to bed each night and think, “Should I set my alarm for 4am tomorrow and get back on the treadmill?” I never feel the pull of the Siren’s song like I do when I skip CrossFit. I don’t want to stop running forever, don’t worry out there my favorite running buddies!  But part of me feels like at this point in my journey, running might need to take a back seat. I am trying to see the forest through the trees here, and my major goal this year is to lose the weight. That is Numero Uno. I don’t want to do anything to hinder that.  But I also don’t think I will be able to show up in June and perform well in this Half Marathon if I don’t get back on the training bandwagon — when I stopped running I was only doing about 5-6 miles comfortably.  That would obviously need to improve and I am thinking my abilities may have even decreased with the time I’ve taken off, who knows? 

The last little nagging thing is that we are already registered to the tune of a few hundred dollars that is non-refundable if we opt out of the race. This point is moot whether we run or not, that money is spent.  But if we do choose to run it, we will also have to fork over at least an additional $600-800 for plane fare/hotel/food/etc at a minimum.

I’m starting to wonder whether it is worth the cost.  Physically.  Mentally.  Financially.  But damn if the idea of giving up on a goal doesn’t chap my stubborn hide! 

I’m struggling.  Any words of wisdom, internet?

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13 Responses to To Run or Not To Run: That Is The Question

  1. Elizabeth says:

    I think, if you have found exercise that you love, do THAT. If you don't love running, don't do it. It's too hard and too much work to make yourself do it if you don't love it. Everyone finds their perfect exercise and running is NOT it for some people. And there's nothing wrong with that!

  2. Diane says:

    I'd be curious to see what happened if you added back in some of the running while sticking to your paleo-intuition-eating. Since you changed up a few things at once (dropped running, stopped tracking food, resumed a bit of wine consumption) it's hard to point to one and have an AHA! moment. (Though I do agree that it sounds like the running may be a huge part of it.)

    Honestly, though, do what makes you happiest! If you're happier not running and just cross-fitting, I don't think anyone can say you're not doing enough for your body! You're doing a fantastic job!

  3. melissity says:

    I wish I had some advice, but I do sympathize. I know how it feels to work SO hard and get frustrated when you aren't seeing results on the scale.

    Quick background: I struggled with being a bit overweight all my life, until I lost 40 lb around age 25 and kept it off for 1 yr… got pregnant with my 1st child, gained 51 lb, lost it all in 14 mo and kept it off for 1 yr… got pregnant with my 2nd child, gained 58 lb, have lost 50 and since then NADA (he's almost 18 mo now). I eat a low-refined-carb diet and I'm also hypothyroid, so it's not easy even staying at this slightly higher weight. My friends just shake their heads and say, "How do you not weigh 90 lb?" lol…

    But reading this post of yours was a HUGE eye-opener for me. I had just been complaining to my dr how I worked out all the time, watched what I ate but couldn't lose any more weight. I even tried running (Cto5K) and didn't lose a single pound. I thank you for the links you posted and I'm going to check them out. I would really love to lose a few more pounds because like you said, I don't believe this is my body's "set point." Hopefully all this new information will help me. THANK YOU 🙂

  4. Erica says:

    If you're asking for advice, here's my 2 cents. Running a 1/2 marathon or even a full one is cool, but it's nothing like hitting your weight loss goals. If you're having success without running, maybe there's a reason for that. The rock n roll marathon will always be there. Maybe you can hock your tickets on Craigslist at a discount and not lose so much money. At the end of the day, finishing the marathon is cool and you will always be able to say you did it, but reaching your weight goals will affect you so much more profoundly. Why add one more thing to your goal list if you're succeeding right now?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Well, as your potential half-marathon partner, I am biased… but I totally understand. I think the "do what you love" and "do what works" sentiment is correct. Stay true to your goals. With all my working out this past year, I was happy to lose weight, but that was never my primary goal. My goal was to transform the "I can't" into the "I can" and to build a track to a healthier future. The side result has been weight loss- and I am soooo happy about it, but if I could lose weight but not be any closer to my primary goals: health and transformed mind-set (for lack of better terms) I wouldn't do it….well maybe…no….I am doing the 1/2 marathon now only because I want to see myself doing it; it has become my goal. If your goal is weight loss and this is hurting that goal, don't do it. We all do what we think we should too often. Or we keep doing something because we said we would, not because we want to. From what I have read, CrossFit and Paleo not only have made you happy, but have worked for you extremely well. And to add to that, running can cause injury very easily. How pissed will you be if you can't do what you love because you were pushing yourself to do something you thought you should do? I want to run with you in June- and it would be great fun, but I don't want you to do it at the expense of your goals. Jessica

  6. AndreAnna says:

    Life's too short to do shit you don't love.

    The end.


  7. Jessica says:

    My husband lost 150 pounds over two years by running (he didn't even have to watch what he eats! I hate him!). However, he ran the Chicago marathon last fall and is doing the Fargo Marathon this spring and he totally agrees that while running 2-3 (or even 4-6) miles every day helps him lose weight, marathon/half-marathon training does NOT. You have to run such long distances that you really have to fuel your body and he eats a LOT more when he's training than when he's just running for "fun."

    And I agree with everyone else you says do what you love and what works for you. Running worked for him, but it doesn't help as much for me and, it sounds like, you.

  8. Changes says:

    I've been following your blog for a while and your progress has been extremely inspiring.
    Since you're asking for advice from the internets, I can't resist 🙂
    Your body spoke to you. Listen to it.
    I read a book a while back that explains why all the marathon training/running wasn't helping you, yet crossfit did.
    It's called PACE by Al Sears. Lord help the man, he wrote it like a runaway infomercial. If you can get your brain past that, the information is golden.
    I came across it when I was reading Nora Gedgaudas' book Primal Body, Primal Mind. She recommended it.
    If you're curious about it, but not enough to read a whole book (ha ha) let me know and I'll send you the gist of his spiel.

  9. Dr. Maureen says:

    I say drop it. If you have exercise you love, do that. Don't do something you hate!

    But here's my thought: I'm wonder if you just weren't getting enough *sleep* to lose weight? Your running-and-crossfit schedule sounds pretty crazy to me. Sort of like this: work out – work at your job – work out more – sleep. Somewhere in there you had to fit cooking, eating, and general household responsibilities. So anyway, it seems like you weren't sleeping a lot.

  10. Home Sweet Sarah says:

    Gah, this is tough; it's not like the half is HERE, which would of course make it a no-brainer. (I think it would, at least.)

    Pros and cons as I see them:

    Pros: You get to go to Seattle, best city ever, IMO. Great food scene, great drinking scene, the weather should be GORGEOUS at that time.

    I feel like getting to actually accomplish running a half marathon is worth sort of screwing with your other workouts. It's only a short time of training, when you really think about it in the long-term, and then getting to say you ran a half marathon? AWESOME.

    Cons: You mentioned it…It costs some moolah to go there.

    (Have you run a half marathon before, though? Because if you have, then maybe the cons outweigh my pros.)

  11. L says:

    I think if you don't run it you should make concrete plans with what you are going to do with the time and money (or maybe even a portion of) that you had committed but now are thinking about uncommitting. This might help you avoid any sense of woulda shoulda coulda about the whole thing. I relate to changing your mind but you don't seem like a 'do nothing' person and I wonder if you might have some regret if you don't do something that weekend. I'm in the same boat btw. Signed up for CLE marathon but didn't enjoy the training, I could switch to a half marathon and maybe I will (but they want $20 to switch plus I'd need to figure out how) but maybe I'll just be cognizant of what I'm doing that weekend, go for a long run around here, do some apartment projects etc. You'll figure it out!

  12. LizScott says:

    I'm late on this, but here is what I think:

    The best way to achieve goals is to focus on the ones that REALLY matter, and let other ones take a back seat.

    When I train for Ironman distance races, I gain weight. That's ok w/me (um, kind of), because the goal is the race, not my weight, and my body needs more cals to execute longer distances. That's just how it goes. When I'm NOT IM training, and only doing Crossfit, I lose like crazy, but I cannot run long or do endurance stuff to save my life (seriously: I tried to do a 90 minute run the other day and wanted to DIE. Nutritionally, I couldn't get it done)

    So I guess my answer to you is: the half marathon distance will ALWAYS be there. If you don't want to focus on that goal now, you don't have to – this is not a one time only shot. If you find that this race is conflicting with more time sensitive goals (even if those goals are: spend time doing stuff I like vs stuff I don't), well… fuck it.

    It's not quitting, it's prioritizing.

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