Workout So You Can Eat, Or Eat So You Can Workout?
A few days ago, the family suggested we eat Cafe Rio for dinner (I love Mexican food). I did the math and was able to fit it into my numbers that day, so I agreed to go, on the condition that I run the 3 miles from our house to the restaurant and meet the family there. (Hey, nothing like earning your dinner). I had a fantastic run and felt like I was full of energy the whole way there. Any time something feels different, I like to reflect on the possible reasons why. In this case, I quickly concluded that my exceptionally good performance on my run was the result of having eaten very healthy the last day or two.
I had a huge burrito for dinner that night. The ingredients were fresh, but it was definitely a lot less healthy than I was used to eating.
The next morning, I went for another run. This time it felt completely different. I was slow, sluggish, I never got my rhythm, and I just about crawled over the finish line for what should have been a pretty textbook workout. It was my worst average pace in months. I couldn’t believe it.
My mind kept dwelling on that stupid burrito I ate the night before. Yes, it fit in my numbers, but there’s no question it ruined what would have otherwise been a great workout. The lack of healthy fuel in my system severely impacted my ability to do the things I wanted to do. I felt like crap. In fact, I swore I was never going to eat Mexican food again because it screwed up my running.
Then the thought hit me.
When I first started running, I did it because I had this fat-guy vision that if I ran all the time, I could eat anything I wanted. While it’s true that if you work out, you get to eat a lot more food, it obviously doesn’t quite work this way). I started running because I wanted to be able to eat all the foods.
But here I was, eating all the foods, and it was destroying my ability to run. To the point, in fact, where I was swearing off the foods. How does that work?
My entire mindset had shifted. I was no longer working out so I could eat—I was agreeing to eat so that I could work out. I realized… are you ready for this?
Running made me feel better than eating unhealthy foods!
When that thought clicked, it was like my entire focus and vision changed. I wasn’t working out so I could eat the things I loved—I was eating healthy food so I could do what made me feel good.
Working out made me happier than eating junk food.
I was, and still am, somewhat stunned by this revelation. And yet—here I am. Food isn’t my enemy or even the goal—food is fuel. Yes, it was a lot of work and pain to get to this point. I’ll talk more about that in a future post. But looking back, it was easier than I thought it would be—and it was well worth it.