Why It's Easy to Gain Weight Training for a Marathon

Running to lose weight turns out to backfire
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 24, 2015 6:45 AM CDT
Why It's Easy to Gain Weight Training for a Marathon
Runners participate in the Chicago Marathon, Sunday, Oct. 11, 2015, in Chicago.   (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Melissa Dahl's week includes running six miles on Thursday, five on Friday, and 20 on Saturday. She's training for the New York City Marathon on Nov. 1, 2015, and as she writes for New York, she's discovered—for the second time, mind you—that there's no "happy side effect" of dramatic weight loss. In fact, she's either the same weight she was when she began training or slightly heavier. After doing a little digging, she's discovered she's far from the only marathon trainer to experience weight gain. "Sadly," she writes, it's probably not due to an increase in muscle mass, but rather the psychology of exercise. For one, people tend to overestimate how hard they are working out.

For novice marathoners, especially, just crossing the finish line is the goal, and while they manage to run far, they don't necessarily run vigorously. And then there's the whole getting-really-hungry issue that follows a long run, which is tempting to satiate with carbs. Finally, Dahl writes, thinking about exercise in terms of weight loss usually backfires; in one study, people told to do an "exercise walk" consumed more than twice as many M&Ms afterward than those told to go on a scenic one. "You'd be better off thinking of exercise as something to be enjoyed, in other words, rather than something to be suffered through," she writes. So maybe Alicia Keys, who is training for the NYC marathon as well, has it right in more ways than one by doing the run to support her charity Keep a Child Alive. She writes about her own training at Refinery29. (Check out how women are better marathon runners.)

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