Shocker! Running Daily Does Not Prevent Weight Gain

barefoot teresa and brf lisa

Streak Day: 1309
YTD Mileage: 1,222
134.00 lbs
19.9 body fat

Oh, yes! I am in shock over my sudden weight gain. Other than for health reasons beyond my control, I’ve never had to worry about my weight. Even before I started running at the age of 44, I never had to watch weight. I was actually too thin, until 2006 when, after years of misdiagnosis, I was finally diagnosed by a GI with celiac disease. I gained a healthy twenty pounds when I started the necessary gluten-free diet and I held steady at the healthy weight of 130 (my height is 5’7). Then suddenly in the spring of 2014, and I do mean suddenly, I gained ten pounds and nearly 10% body fat. The sudden body fat gain indicated a metabolic problem. I also had myriad other symptoms, so I saw my doctor for the problem. He ordered thyroid testing and discovered that my thyroid had stopped working.

Once the medication had taken effect, I promptly lost that ten pounds. I also returned to my regular running routine. Before my hypothyroid diagnosis, I had feel so sluggish that I repeatedly missed days at a time of running. To ensure that I never again had streak days of non-running, I started a running streak on January 1, 2015. As of the day this post is published, I am on day 1309 (about 3.5 years) of my running streak.

toning muscles - daily running doesn't prevent weight gain
Phillip took this photo of my back, to show off my muscle tone gain, in early June. My sudden weight gain happened shortly after this photo was taken. I still have a way to go for complete toning, but the way my muscles look in this photo is an improvement over the way my muscles looked before I started the abs / arms streak.

In early April this year I started an abs / arms workout streak so that I could – hopefully – look fit and buff at a family wedding Memorial Day Weekend. I wasn’t trying to lose weight as much as trying to just tone my muscles and reduce that oh-so-hard to lose  back fat (not a lovely image the idea of back fat conjures up, right?). I use free weights, body weight, and my rowing machine. The early result was that I maintained my weight, but lost body fat percentage. I also reduced my muffin-top. My abs responded but only a little to the workouts. I can’t ask too much of my abs, though. I had abdominal surgery 1996 and since then my abs don’t recognized the words “toned” or “flat.” Still, I can help them a little by maintaining my fitness.

The wedding came and went, and I decided to continue the abs / arms workout streak. Stopping a streak is impossible! Or seemingly so. I added push-ups to my core regimen (I’m now up to 96 in one workout), and I was feeling pretty good about my body and fitness level – but then it happened.  I suddenly started feeling heavy and bloated. Much to my surprise, despite the daily and weekly mileage I’m maintaining, despite my regular core work, I’ve had another sudden weight gain – as in 7 lbs – this past couple of months. In response to my whining, Phillip pointed out that my weight gain is probably linked to my daily strength training workouts. The scales, however, don’t lie. My body fat percentage had increased some, as well. I’m gaining fat: not muscle.

Thinking that perhaps my thyroid medication needed adjustment, I had my doctor order lab work to check my thyroid. It’s fine. I’m on the correct dose of thyroid medication. My doctor did note during my appointment that I do weigh more now than this time last year. He suggested that my weight gain is age-related. He also suggested that my lower weekly mileage during the past few weeks of hot weather might be contributing to my weight gain.

As for his first suggestion, I reject the idea that people automatically gain weight when they age. I know too many people who are even older than I who manage to maintain their weight without taking any extraordinary measures. I also know that researchers now question the notion that people inevitably gain weight as they age. As for his second theory regarding my weight gain, I’m still running 40 + miles a week, in hot, humid weather that incredibly taxes my body. I believe this effort makes up for the ten or so fewer miles per week I’ve been running since May. Yet this second theory, given my daily runs of over three years, may have some merit. Maybe running every day, even with my body stressed in the hot weather, won’t prevent weight gain since my body has gotten used to the activity.

barefoot teresa and brf lisa daily running doesn't prevent weight gain
Me with BRF Lisa, after I reduced my muffin-top with daily abs / arms work, but before my sudden weight gain. I’m not courageous enough to show my weight-gain photos. Some people are. I admire those folk: truly I do! 
As any runner knows, the slightest gain in weight makes one’s body feel completely different. One’s clothing feels as if it fits differently, too. Besides these effects of weight gain, I want to avoid excessive weight gain. If I don’t find out what I need to do differently after having gained nearly ten pounds in fewer than two months, I will continue to gain weight. Weight gain has a domino negative effect on running performance, over-all health, and self-image. In order to age gracefully and healthfully, I need to establish new life-style habits. In response to my weight gain I’ve made some exercise and dietary changes. I’m concentrating on identifying behavioral aspects of my training and eating where change will help me gain control of my weight again. So far the changes I’ve made have helped me to lose 4 lbs, but only a small fat percentage. I’m still discovering helpful information and fine-tuning changes accordingly, but I believe the changes I make will work in the way I hope they will.
daily running doesn't prevent weight gain
9/26/17 – The day I earned my comma for my running streak! I must have accidentally deleted this photo from my camera roll. I had to copy it to this post from my Instagram roll (barefoot_teresa). I can’t imagine why I would have deleted it. But then again I’m always accidentally messing up with technology.

I plan to use this blog to keep a record of my research, my plan of action, and the success (or failure) of my actions. I want to hold myself accountable in public, and perhaps help other runners who are struggling to maintain their weight. I will make changes except for in two areas. I will not omit entire food groups – except for gluten – from my diet. I enjoy cooking, baking, and eating too much to deny myself foods I enjoy. Eating has spiritual and communal aspects which dieting (other than that required for medical purposes) negatively impacts.I also will not stop my running streak. Running every day is benefitting me mentally and spiritually as well as physically.

In my next post, I’ll deal with the relationship between aging (including menopause), weight gain, and exercise. If you have this same weight maintenance struggle, or have had it but have overcome it, please tell me about it in the comments below!

 

Author: TD Morris

I am a small business owner (ATX Ultra Eats, gluten-free, grain-free products www.atxultraeats.com) who loves God, my family, my dogs, running, barefoot running, cooking, eating, and reading!

2 thoughts on “Shocker! Running Daily Does Not Prevent Weight Gain”

  1. While age gains may not directly correlate to weight gains, it is certainly common that one’s metabolism slows with age, which can make it harder to keep excess weight off. Or at least that’s been my experience. I first noticed the difference at age 25, then again around age 45, and then again around age 57. The last two times, only a combination of maintaining or increasing rates of exercise while also making dietary improvements (or eating less – which I absolutely hate to do LOL) made it possible to get my weight back down. And yes – more weight-bearing work, rather than just running/hiking, does much to help. Best of luck to you on your maintenance goals!

    1. Thank you for your thoughts on this topic, Ric! After reading so much about the role of metabolism in weight control, I’ve decided just not to worry about my metabolism. As with most other areas of science, especially medical and nutritional science, the information about metabolism and its effect on weight that we get from researchers is just too contradictory. I agree with your assessment that maintaining or increasing calorie expenditure through exercise, while also making dietary changes (ugh!) is the trick to maintaining our weight as we age. Fortunately you and I are very active, so we’ve got that part of the equation easily covered, anyway!

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