On July 1st 2017, as part of a weight-loss bet with a friend, I began to run, and have since kept up the routine of running every 2-3 days. I began to run then to help me lose weight – but in the process, I realized and remembered how good it is for me overall. I’ll try to write a little bit about what it does “and all that” here, to maybe inspire one or the other person with a similar story to try it. And I’m not just talking about weight loss (yes, I won that bet) but I’ll cover that in this first post as well.
I don’t recall exactly when I first ran. It was with friends in Germany and I was in my mid to late 20ies, perhaps. I do remember that the first few times were absolutely miserable. I just couldn’t keep running, I had to pause every 5 minutes and then walk for a while, then run a little more, pause and walk again, and so on. I felt like I was constantly out of breath, with burning lungs and sore muscles – it’s no wonder that so many people reject the idea of running!
I think we only ran together once or twice a week, but after a month or so I was able to run for 30 minutes without pause, and it began to feel good. I remember keeping it up even while it was winter in Germany. I never ran fast. My pace right now is probably somewhere in the range of 10-12 minutes per mile.
I think the ability to run continuously doesn’t just come from improving one’s endurance – it’s also about finding the right rhythm, where breathing and movement are balanced. I’m saying this because I always had (long) periods of time in between when I didn’t run, at all – but once I picked it up again, I never had to go through the “run, walk, run, walk” routine again. It was always possible to pick up the right rhythm again, immediately. I would compare it to learning to ride a bicycle, or swimming: once you’ve figured it out, you can’t unlearn it.
When I started running again last year in July, I ran in the early morning (after all, it was July!) and only in the neighborhood. 20-25 minutes of continuous running was all I could do before I felt exhausted. I gradually grew my route over the first few months, incorporating one cul-de-sac after another, until I ran for 50-60 minutes. Eventually though, running in the neighborhood on pavement and concrete became boring and annoying – later in the year, I moved my runs to nearby trails instead. They’re dusty and there’s a good bit more of up and down depending on which trail I choose, but overall, so much better. I only run in the neighborhood after rain now (when the trails are too muddy and/or closed), or when I really want to get a run in but time constraints don’t allow me to drive to a trailhead first.
In the long run, I didn’t keep up my running routine to lose more weight, but I want to write about the weight loss and how it happened: it simply kept going down, automatically. I lost ~55 pounds since July 1st, 2017 and my weight has been pretty stable for 2-3 months now.
When I ran in the early morning in the summer months, I started hungry (for breakfast) but when I had finished the run I wasn’t feeling hungry anymore. I could delay breakfast until late in the morning, was able to skip lunch sometimes or keep it light, until dinner.
Losing weight wasn’t a very conscious effort. For the weight-loss bet, I did set some goals (my friend and I had agreed that eight pounds in one month was the minimum), but I always only looked at short-term goals. When I approached the 220 pound mark I was very motivated to go on of course – why? 220 pounds is 100 kg, and I’m a metric person. 🙂 I hadn’t been under 100 kg in a really, really long time. Then I thought “hey, I made it under 220 pounds, why not try and see if I’ll reach 215 pounds?”
It was all small steps. I never said to myself: “I must lose 30 pounds and get under 200!”. That probably wouldn’t have worked for me – the weight loss was a really slow process (on average, about 3 1/2 pounds per month, but in the first few months it was more of course). I’m fairly certain that, if I had told myself that I “must” lose 55 pounds when I began the bet last year in July, it would never have happened.
I read an article that people who are trying to lose weight and get on the scale daily are more successful and lose more weight than those who only measure their weight once a week. That seemed to make sense – you get a daily reminder that there’s work to do! 😉 So I got (and still get) on the scale every morning to check my weight – first as a daily reminder to resist the cravings for snacks, then to help me stay motivated, and now to be more conscious about what food I eat and what effect it has on my weight.
I even went so far and weighed multiple times per day – not out of an obsession for my weight, but because I was curious about the fluctuations. I wanted to see what was normal. Just an example: three pounds difference between the early morning (right after getting up) and late morning (after running, taking a shower and before lunch) is a fluctuation that I’ve seen regularly.
I recorded my weight in my phone’s health app. Every Monday I would delete all the daily readings from the past week, and only keep the Monday weight. That way I could more easily see a trend – the graph was impressive, and motivating.
After the first couple of weeks of running, my appetite changed – the cravings for sweet, salty, crunchy snacks, for carbs and such were all much reduced. I began to see how incredibly big (and calorie rich, of course) many restaurant portions are, and how completely unbalanced our diet is – carbs, starch, protein, sugar (including fruit) without end – but very little vegetables, and by far not enough leafy greens. Thankfully, Shuwen insists that we have plenty of them, and I began to get cravings for leafy greens instead!
Being born into the metric system, getting consistently under 176 pounds (80 kilograms) would have been cool but alas, it just doesn’t happen. My body just seems to say “nope!” and I certainly don’t want to starve myself – after all, I still love food! 😀