I don’t love running, but I love that it’s low-cost, easy to do and almost year round. I also believe it’s an efficient form of exercise. I believe this so thoroughly that I assumed running a 10K (about 6.2 miles) would burn calories. However, in the home of the fit, known as Boulder, Colorado, I was able to debunk this myth.
When I was told that a group of friends annually ran a popular 10K known as the Bolder Boulder, I said I was in and mentally reminded myself to continue running the weeks before the race. In the weeks leading up to the race, I casually asked one member of the group if they trained much for the race. He laughed in my face.
The Bolder Boulder can be a serious race. I would like to think the runners from Kenya who finished the race in 28.13 minutes took it seriously (that’s 4.34 minute miles… for 6.2 miles in a row). But the Bolder Boulder can also be a circus. That was the race I was in. And I was running for bacon.
Bacon was not the sponsored cause for the Bolder Boulder but rather my personal mission once the face-laugher told me what the race was really about. I was going to find bacon and eat it while running. Thus it came to pass that my Bolder Boulder in-race tally came to include the following: bacon (turkey and pork), cotton candy (pink), beer (Fat Tire!), Doritos (nacho cheese) and a few other items I’m sure I’m forgetting. Along the way, my motivation/cheering came from Jake and Elwood, belly dancers, way too much 80’s cover rock, bag pipes and a complete marching band, to name a few. I also hit one slip-and-slide with vengeance. It was a fabulous Monday.
Cumulatively, I’m sure the 50,000 Bolder Boulder participants burned a few calories on Memorial Day. I roughly calculated my caloric burn to be about 550 calories (using the formula .75 x your weight (in lbs.) for each mile from this Runner’s World article). But my team also ate a few, and it was fun. With our bathroom and bacon stops we finished, as a team, in one hour and 20 minutes. The Ethiopians were much (much) faster and some were much slower, but ultimately there was a lot of fun had by all and I saw more than a few people pushing themselves towards a healthy goal. If there needs to be a little bacon involved, so be it.
So I’m paraphrasing a little. What the August 17, 2009 issue of Time actually said is “The Myth about Exercise – Of course it’s good for you, but it won’t make you lose weight. Why it’s what you eat that really counts.” What the article goes on to say- and I’m not even pretending to be unbiased with my summary of this- is that if you exercise, you’ll get hungry. Hungrier than if you didn’t exercise at all. And the author (John Cloud) touts a fair amount of research arguing that you’re more likely to choose pizza than a salad after exercising. This is because you’ve weakened the self-control muscle by forcing yourself to exercise. If he’s right and “…self-control is like muscle…”, Jackson Hole has some big ones. (read entire article here)
Jackson is an extremely active community where “exercise” happens outside the great majority of the time. Surrounded by like-minded people, we think nothing of an 8 hour hike with significant elevation gain and loss. That’s called Saturday. And when we get home, we eat. But the difference is we’ve discover the great dieting secret that has managed to elude the majority of the American public for decades: If you eat more calories than you burn, you’ll get fat. If you eat less calories that you burn, you’ll lose weight. Want to stay the same? A novel idea… just eat as many calories as you burn.
You don’t have to memorize caloric charts for your favorite foods to do this; just use your noggin. Blueberry muffins the size of your head with cinnamon and nuts on top have a lot more calories than an apple (250 more, to be exact). Both are a reasonable mid-morning snack. If all else fails, choose whole foods. Even if they’re calorie-rich like avocados, you’re body is getting plenty of healthy yummy nutrients and will thank you for it later.
If you’re in Jackson, take a look around the town square. Those big beer guts? Those are tourists from Michigan. The guy with the 6-pack behind the counter at the t-shirt shop? Yeah, he lives here.
Quote of the day: “In general, for weight loss, exercise is pretty useless.” -Eric Ravussin, chair in diabetes and metabolism at Louisiana State University and prominent exercise researcher.