Gaining Weight Training for a Half Marathon

2011 Savannah Half Marathon

In late May 2011, my wife and I agreed to focus on wellness and start reversing a decade of decadence. 12 weeks later we had each lost and kept off 20 lbs. As a result, we embraced our reward — a trip to Maine for a week of cycling (and coastal cuisine)!

But then life got in the way. And the weight started slowly returning. This weight gain occurred while we were running 58, 59, 67, and 71 miles each month training for our first half marathons. Our first was November 5th in Savannah, GA; our second in Miami, FL on December 11th.

How does someone gain weight while training for a half marathon?!

Apparently, it is fairly normal to gain weight while training for a half marathon. The weight-gain culprit? We were eating too much again. A single long run may burn a lot of calories, but it turns on your hunger, too. A night out of pizza and beer (read: liquid bread) can quickly destroy the caloric burning power of that week’s long run.

Consistent exercise is key.

When I look at our exercise calendar, I saw that while we had some high mileage weeks we had reduced our daily exercise to 3-4 times weekly. When we were losing weight, we were exercising 5 times weekly even though getting in less miles. Many of those days were walking, too.

Comparing September and October 2011
In September, we ran a total of 59 miles with an average 5 runs/week. In October, we ran 67 miles but with only 3 runs week. Can you guess which month we started gaining weight?

Lesson to learn? Endurance training can increase hunger.

Being Accountable

So 2012 is going to be a bit different. First, we are going to aim for exercise 5 times weekly. Even a 30 minute walk counts. The goal is to make exercise part of our daily routine — perhaps something we start every day doing.

Second, we are tracking exercise by counting beans. Each bean color represents a specific exercise.

  • White Northern bean: 1 mile of running
  • Garbanzo bean: 1 mile of walking
  • Kidney bean: 10 minutes of Crossfit strength training
  • Black bean: 10 minutes of cycling

Counting beans

Third, the bean counting is a game. At the end of the year we get to trade in the beans for money. We can use the money for whatever prize(s) we want. Every bean is worth $10. I figure that exercising 10 minutes is easily worth $10 in reduced healthcare costs down the road.

So, all of a sudden that 13 mile half marathon is “worth” $130. It truly pays to exercise!

Finally, we are committing to challenges upfront. Below is our 2012 Challenge Calendar. At least every 2 months we have already signed up and paid for a challenge such as a 10k, half marathon, or cycling race.

Here’s to a “challenging” 2012!


10 thoughts on “Gaining Weight Training for a Half Marathon

  1. What a great blog! Your ego, unlike most blogs, is kept out of the mix. Great writing and fun to read! btw, there’s a great 1/2 marathon in Detroit in October AND you get to run across the Ambassador Bridge into Canada and return to Detroit via the tunnel under the river. Something to think about… 🙂

      • Very astute observation, David!
        Married to one for 24 years! 🙂 Actually he’s half-German also. I am half-Italian and half-Armenian, so lots of good cookin’ to go round! 🙂

      • Ha! Funny you should ask and very nice of you to remember! I actually did the Brooksie Way Half-marathon in Rochester, MI this morning! I started training earlier than normal this year, accidentally so, .. just happened to be running one day and felt like going farther than I was supposed to so I thought, “well, I guess I’ve officially begun training!” (I probably only feel that way once a year so I had to go with it!) It’s a race I’ve wanted to do since it began 5 years ago – and it was less money than Detroit with me missing all the earlier and cheaper registration dates. Anyways, I think I averaged 12 min miles, or a hair under for Detroit’s flat course (except the bridge and tunnel) and would have been pleased with 13 min. splits today because I think that’s what my long runs were. But, I took a record 1600 Motrin during the run today which immensely helped the pain of a flattened L-5 I’ve had for year, and this was a very hilly course, and ended up with 11.86 minute splits!!!!! So I am VERY excited (I know that’s slow but it’s good for me! – Now it’s back to swim, bike, run training : ) How about you? Are you doing Detroit?
        Oh hey!, If you are into grilling, or have friends that love it, please check out my new website:
        Have a happy Monday, Red!

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