The Whole30 in Africa: A Runner’s Journey
One reason the timing of my Whole30 worked well for me is that, as a runner, I was already planning an easy month. I had a weird knee niggle that started after an 11-mile run in the desert and was cutting back on mileage anyway. But I wanted to keep running enough that I would feel the effects of eating this way and be able to assess how my body was responding and what I needed, both during and after the Whole30.
I average 30-40 miles per week and cut back to 20. I replaced some of those miles with more weight lifting, yoga, and the occasional bike ride, so I was still pretty active.
How’d it go?
It was hard. I don’t mean emotionally hard, nothing really about the Whole30 was emotionally hard for me. I never found myself staring into the refrigerator, cussing, as some have confessed to. I never had to physically restrain myself from gobbling up a piece of toast or chugging soda. I didn’t lose my temper more than I normally do.
I mean it was physically hard.
I had all this energy. I wasn’t getting tired in the afternoons. I woke up for my morning runs before my alarm ever went off (we’re talking 5:30 a.m.). I don’t think I yawned once the entire month.
I was weak.
My muscles were so, incredibly, weak.
The entire first two weeks of running I couldn’t go more than two miles without being utterly exhausted in my legs. I would then walk a bit, run some more, walk, run, walk, run. It was discouraging.
I read forums and followed the advice to up my carbs. I ate bananas, potatoes, squash. I was already hungry all the time and so I just kept eating. And eating. And eating.
And I felt so weak.
By the fourth week, I felt a little better and managed a 5-mile run without walking. But having recently run for over two hours, this weakness was hard to face.
I also felt the weakness while lifting weights. I’m not a heavy-lifter but did notice how much harder it was to lift my normal amounts.
But, while it was discouraging, it was exactly what I wanted. Not the weakness, but this lesson. I entered this, like I wrote in the first post, to better understand how food affects my running. Not running in general, but mine. So this weakness fascinated me.
I could hardly wait to begin the introduction phase and to see what would happen to a run after I consumed a piece of whole grain bread.
I did wait and finally, the day for my gluten grain reintroduction rolled around.
I ate a piece of toast at breakfast and had a tortilla at lunch. Then in the late afternoon I ran for ninety minutes (the entire time my daughter was at soccer practice) and felt like a superhero. Not tired! Not walking! Not dragging to a stop at the end! Hurray for bread!
I don’t have issues with gluten, my gut is healthy as far as I know, so it was with great happiness that I realized I could not only eat bread but it would fuel me with all the energy I needed for longer runs. Bonus lesson: I don’t need to eat as much of it as I did and I can plan wisely in order to get this extra boost on the runs when I really need it. It isn’t magic, but seeing how bread impacted my run encouraged me to eat it with joy and intention.
Those last two words are key for me now when it comes to food. Not guilt, not calories, not gluten-free or dairy-free or vegetarian or any trending thing, not even Whole30 compliant.
More about that later…
Any runners out there who have tried the Whole30? What did you learn?
My other Whole30 posts:
*image via Flickr