Training for a marathon does NOT make you thin

You would think that as a plus sized athlete (yep thats me) that by simply following a strict marathon training plan, which consisting of 4 run sessions a week, covering between 20 and 30 kilometres, including threshold, speed and long runs plus a weekly circuits class that the weight would simply drop off.

This is not (or has not been) the case. Well not for me anyway.

In fact since November I have been dancing around with the same 2lbs, losing it one week, then putting it back on the following week. Now I know that we had christmas during that period, but nether the less it is so freaking frustrating.

I have less than 10 weeks to go until my marathon, my second ever marathon and I am still a dress size 18 and still 3 stone over what is considered a healthy weight for my height.

My fitness is improving, as is my speed. This evening for example I knocked 3 minutes off a 9 kilometre training route which I only did last week, and it was mainly into a headwind tonight, so I know I am getting stronger. The fact that I covered over 80 kilometres in January, clocking up 15 runs in 31 days should count for something. But nope my weight has remained pretty much the same.

I am not running this marathon to lose weight, I am running it because I like being a marathon runner. But I am a little scared about having to cart this amount of weight around a 26 mile course. In 2012 when I ran the London Marathon I wasn’t this heavy, probably a size 16…but I felt a lot smaller.

At weightwatchers this afternoon I got on the scales to find I had put on 2.5lbs since last week when I had lost 3.5lbs.

“It must be muscle” I hear you say, and yes it is quite possible that some of my fat is turning into muscle. And while we are talking about fat vs muscle, don;t be fooled into thinking muscle weighs more, of course it does not. A lb of muscle weighs exactly the same as a lb of fat…a lb. A 16stone weightlifter weighs exactly the same as a 16stone coach potato, they just look a little different.

Recently I have had a few people comment on how my body has changed since last time they saw me “wow, haven’t you lost weight?” Well no I bleeding well haven’t. But my body is different. My upper body feels very different in fact, my shoulders and the area around my ribcage. My legs are toning up too…not quite ready for a summer mini skirt…but making good progress.

My main concern is the amount of weight around my hips, bum and tum. Problem areas for many overweight women I guess. I worry about fitting into my race t-shirt, and having to keep pulling it down over my jelly belly all the time. I worry about looking terrible in my face pictures. I worry about the impact on my hips and knees of having to carry that spare tyre around with me.

But I am not going to let all of this get to me, and this is why

  • I know that in part my lack of weightloss is down to what I am putting in my mouth. Namely biscuits. I am eating a very balanced diet generally, oats and fruit for breakfast, soups and salads for lunch, chicken or fish with rice for dinner, but it is the snacking that is letting me down. This is because I am sooooo hungry all of the time, one of the side effects of marathon training I suppose. I must find an alternative snack to biscuits and chocolate.
  • I still have 9 weeks to lose the weight. So if I curb my bad eating now I could in principle lose 18lbs in this time, if I lose 2lbs a week from here on in. If I worry too much about weight loss I may jepodise my training and not have the fuel I need to run. I will focus on a small weight loss each week from now on.
  • I know that I need to employ a campaign of eating clean, focussing on unprocessed “proper” foods, with good protein, complex carbs, lots of fresh fruit and veg and of course drinking lots of water through the day too. I need to think of my body as a machine that needs fuelling.
  • The key to successful marathon training is consistency, if I continue with what I am doing training wise with my planned increases in distance and regular speed work I believe that I will be ready for my marathon on the 6th April. I have a 20mile training run, a half marathon, a 10k race and a 16mile race planned too. I have to have faith in my plan.

Running for weigh loss is a tricky thing. Well it has been for me. I mean I have been running for over 10 years and I have yet managed to get to my goal weight of just under 13 stone. But I am not at all in denial about why this is. I have not been consistent, I have not completely prioritised weightloss and most importantly I have not yet addressed fully my complex relationships with food. As the saying goes, you can not out train a bad diet…I am living proof of that.

Do you think it is a popular misconception that long distance running, or running generally is a magic pill to aid weight loss?

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Comments
15 Responses to “Training for a marathon does NOT make you thin”
  1. Sarah L says:

    This is exactly what I needed to read today. I am around the same size and really hoped that training would help me lose weight. But I’ve basically gone up and down around the same lbs since June when I first started running. I also feel stronger, run faster and feel more fit in relation to my running, but it can be a little disheartening to not also lose weight. This is the most I’ve ever worked out in my life (training for a half, not quite the full yet 😉 ) but I agree that my issues primarily come from the food I eat. I have made small changes to eating here and there, and was tracking to help lose, but I fall quickly out of it when stressed or tired. Also, I am NOT a cook-type, so it is really hard for me to plan and prepare meals, especially healthy ones. Oh to have a cook in my life… lol
    Anyways, I think you’re great and hope we both lose some more weight. I want to be faster and stronger, that is my goal now, and I just think that losing weight will help that process along (and be easier to run a half marathon with hehe)
    Best of luck on your second marathon- that is such an awesome accomplishment!!!!

  2. fatkelz says:

    Reblogged this on Losing the Fat Girl and commented:
    Sheesh, this is EXACTLY how I feel right now. 10 days out from the triathlon and I’m having a crises of faith … faith in myself and my ability to do it :/

  3. Lynda M says:

    If you are serious about losing weight, cutting sugar and processed food is the way to go. Try reading zoeharcombe. Grat book, Why am I Obese When All I |Want to do is Lose Weight. I am your target weight of around 13 stone. I am trying to get back in to running whch I last did at around 11 stone. I am using my extra weight as an excuse. Thank you for bringing home to me that it really isn’t. May be its carrying aorund the extra at 45 rather than younger that is the problem

  4. Francesca says:

    Exact feelings here!!! I have a Marathon in May, my first and was panicking about the lack of weight loss but I am on track for a 30 min 5k – when I started it was a 56 min 5K, I am sticking to my plan and know it’s the food going in, especially on an evening.

    Hope we all get to where we want to be but we are all getting faster and stronger and that’s a good start.

    All the best for your second Marathon – not sure I will I have to say.

  5. ewenlewis says:

    Hey, I can so relate to this it is untrue, weight loss and endurance sports are a difficult combination. I naively thought as I went from 10k/half runner to marathon runner I would lose the 1 stone extra I needed easily. During my first marathon training in 2012 I put on about 7lbs this was due to bad choices but also the recovery time between runs can be deceptive and it is easy to reward a 20 mile run and then have no exercise for 2 days. Now in 2014 I did a full ironman last year and still have this extra 1-1.5 stone hanging about which exactly like you isn’t helping me.

    I think you have the right approach get back to basics and focus on the 1-2lb lose and try to replace snacks with good choice (chopped apples, banana, etc) also try to mix things up slightly maybe some swimming or lighter heart rate running as the body does get use to types of exercise.

    I’m doing this myself as I want to lose 14lbs in the next 7 weeks.

    Good luck just be careful in the 2 weeks prior to your marathon not to think about weight loss at this point your better to put it out of your mind as you need to start the race fully fuelled.

    Ewen

  6. mbcrower says:

    That’s me all over. Training harder than I ever have and not a pound lighter. I have the same good intentions as you, I know what I should eat, but life (especially stress) just gets in the way.
    Good luck for the next 9 weeks training. Don’t get disheartened if you don’t make the 18lb goal. You are running a marathon which is awesome enough.

  7. Really interesting post! I think endurance sports generally don’t make you lose weight – strength training helps more.

  8. I’m pretty much the same weight now as when I started running 6 months ago however like you my body is very different.

  9. mariekeates says:

    When I did my first Moonwalk I hit my goal weight during training. BUT I was counting calories in both my food and what I burned in exercise, clean eating and not drinking (not that I’ve ever really been a drinker). Now, when I’m going through a bad patch and have put on a few pounds, the walking isn’t really getting the weight off. This is because I am not doing all of the above. Probably I need to get my act together. I found protein snacks like nuts (weighed out in sensible portions) stopped me being hungry along with chocolate milk drinks when I was walking the long miles. Not eating starchy carbs for my evening meal also helped both with the weight loss and the hunger. I know walking a marathon is not the same as running it but the distance is and it takes twice as long to walk it so I guess I earned my medals as much as if I’d run!

  10. katieruocco says:

    Yes!!! Agree!!! I believe in the simple equation of move more, eat less, but it’s difficult when you come from a background of food being a reward, and I still really believe in “a little of what you fancy”- life’s too short to constantly deny yourself. . After working hard, I feel I deserve a piece of cake/ takeaway, but that completely negates the good work. I am also finding that weight loss is getting harder and harder as I get older. I also need to re-focus, and brave the scales which I’ve been avoiding for weeks. Monday = a new dawn!

  11. Tubontherun says:

    I completely agree! Running has done nothing for my weight loss and I find that if I run 4 times a week, I am a lot hungrier which requires a lot more brain power to eat the right things.

  12. Nik says:

    Have a google and read The Final Nail in the Cardio Coffin by rachel cosgrove she trained for an ironman etc and gained weight also! I’ve trained hard and gained weight but I love running and cylcing so wont give it up my cardio i’m happy to be fat fit 🙂

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