As I sit at Starbucks, sipping on a “skinny” Cinnamon Dolce Latte and a mini-vanilla bean scone, I find myself thinking about how many kilometres it will take for me to run this off tomorrow. Some might call it obsessive, I call it aware. Thanks to Starbuck’s online nutrition guide, I am very aware of the fact that, after consuming my latte which I now know costs me 100 calories, and my mini-scone which will cost me another 140 calories, I will have to hit the treadmill for 45 minutes, at least.
I use the word cost on purpose because at times, the workout following my indulgence really feels like payment. I know – working out sucks, for everyone. For years, I ran because I had to; because my trainers or coaches forced me to, and because if I didn’t, I wasn’t stepping on that field. So I ran. I ran long-distance, intervals, beep test, ladders, 120s (the length of the field). We all did. But I never, ever, ran for fun. I used to envy people who told me they loved running! More specifically, they loved running outside! Unless I was wearing soccer cleats or being forced to hit the pavement with the team, I was on the treadmill, counting down the digital moments until the chains were cut and I free at last. Since my soccer career came to an end, I’ve taken up running as a full time sport. It started on the treadmill but I found anything more than half an hour and I lose all desire to take another step.
What opened my eyes to the beauty of running was a dear friend I met while living in Munich. We would meet 2-3 times a week to run and together we would explore the trails of the Englischer Garten or the Theresienwiese. Running through trees, in the fresh air with a great running partner made me understand why some people tolerate running as a hobby and not just a means to an end. That being said, if I could be healthy and maintain my ideal weight/image without ever stepping foot on the pavement, would I still run? Maybe once in a while, but I couldn’t say for sure, but thing is certain, nowadays, I am an avid supported of running outdoors and avoid the treadmill at all costs.
Given the amount of thought that goes into preparing healthy meals and running off excess calories, I started to wonder if I’m the only one who does this; weigh the sacrifice versus the short term pleasure of something sweet, creamy, fried, fatty etc. After conducting a quick survey among friends and colleagues, it turns out that my history on the field led to more than just a sore spot for running. It also made me extremely aware of my body including changes that were a direct result of increased or decreased activity/caloric intake. If I ate sugar, I knew I’d be slower and I’d feel heavier. If I ate a a lot of it on a regular basis combined with too much wine (or beer during university days), pastries, cheap pastas etc. I’d quickly gain in every direction. The thing is – that doesn’t feel good, so why allow myself to get to that point? Well, as it turns out, ones reaches this point much faster, the older one gets. Without daily practices/games followed and intense gym sessions to keep you on your toes, even the athlete becomes susceptible to acquiring things that… jiggle.
It is for this reason that I cannot just “let myself go”. While my habits have changed, the acute awareness of what goes into my body, and what effect that has on my body, never will and to be honest? I hope it never does. I admit, there were times where I went a little over the top. In university, for example, I was pretty hard-core. Egg whites, canned chicken, whole-wheat everything and rarely a sip of alcoholic anything. Nowadays, chicken is still the main source of protein and staple of most meals at home with a side of veg or a salad on the side. Frying foods still feels wrong and nothing, nothing, makes me feel worse, than eating white bread. But I’ve relaxed – a lot. It’s not easy for me. I love sweets. Truth be told, I love food in general, but I really love sweets. I started to experiment with baking while living in Munich and now we eat something sweet after almost every meal together (even if it’s just a slab of dark chocolate or the like). Wine has become a suitable side-dish and I don’t worry too too much about falling off the wagon every once in a while. After all, no one likes it when that one person who agrees to eat out and then nibbles on rabbit food and sips on water the whole night. It really shouldn’t matter one way or the other (to each their own and all that), but the whole point of going out is to be social and treat yourself – it’s really not fun to feel guilty about ordering a side of sweet potato fries when the woman beside you is strategically dotting her salad with balsamic vinaigrette.
If there is one thing I have come to accept, it’s that everything comes down to balance. I won’t obsess over what I eat as long as I am ensuring that I workout enough to make it worth my while. Sitting here at Starbucks, having finished that delicious latte and mini-scone, I finding myself very aware of how sore my ankle is from my run yesterday. I ran approximately 5.5km and today I’m paying the price. But the run itself was payment for the wine I consumed over the weekend, or maybe the carrot cake, I can’t quite remember how I justified which. Regardless, I had to chuckle when reaching for my water bottle (pictured above), I read the following quote: “I like running… because I really, really, really like dessert.” Today, I feel as if truer words were never spoken and think, as I rub my throbbing ankle and sip the remnants from my not so skinny, skinny latte … it’s so worth it.