Fat Skinny Me


Something that I’ve been thinking about for a while is the fact that last year I spent four months training for a marathon and didn’t lose any weight.  None!  And now, how can it be that after completing two marathons in eight months, I still haven’t lost much weight?  I’m not alone in this. I’ve noticed that a lot of marathon runners (the slower ones, not the 3 hour guys) are somewhat overweight.

Stumbling the web the other day, I came across a blog which seemed to have the answers to these questions. The title of the blog was “Why Does Endurance Training Make Some People Skinny Fat, And Others Ultra Lean?”  Most of what it said about skinny fat athletes seemed to describe me, or at least it described the way I ate and trained up until a month ago. I can’t say I’ve become an Ultra Lean runner (or even lean) but I feel I may have started the move in that direction.  (Full disclosure: I love to eat, and one of the reasons I originally took up running was because I believed it would allow me to eat the food I like and still keep my weight in the normal range. It’s true, however, that since then running has become a passion/obsession in its own right).

Training Makes A Difference:

According to the Josh Hillis, author of Skinny Fat and Ultra Lean, “All of the lean endurance athletes are training one way, and all of the skinny fat endurance athletes are training completely differently.” Over the past month I’ve changed the way I train from more of the same low intensity runs of varying distances to – in the words of Hillis, “a structured training week hitting different adaptations from long low intensity endurance training, to high intensity speed work, to moderate intensity tempo work.”

As I mentioned before my trainer/dietician has created a training program for me based on heart rate levels. This regimen includes four runs a week – that’s one more than used to run – and each run is different. The first run of the week is an easy 5-8 mile run (at a target HR of 140-145). The next two are mid-length tempo or interval runs, and the last run of the week is a long run. Every week the distances get longer and more difficult (distances at high HR levels).

For the first time, I find myself feeling challenged every time I run. Often I find myself at the beginning of a run wondering if I’ll be able to complete it, and at the end of the run I feel like I could keep on going. And hey, I don’t know if all this will pay off in the Rotterdam marathon, but it definitely feels good.

Eating correctly is much tougher for me than running right. I’m trying to cut out much of the fat in my diet, and eat the carbs my body needs to be able to run. Not easy – especially since it means making adjustments in my insulin regimen.  There have been some (too many) lows.  But if I get this right, I might run a faster marathon, lose some weight, and maybe even go from skinny fat to ultra lean, or at least to not-as-skinny fat.

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13 years ago

I have a related question based on a cross-country bike trip I did shortly after being diagnosed. It was a trip from Connecticut to San Francisco and we were biking about 60 to 70 miles a day — and by the end, I noticed that while all the guys had gotten really skinny, most of the girls had actually gained weight. Granted, some of that may have had to do with the fact that the women were replacing fat with muscle, which obviously weighs more. But the difference seemed to go beyond that (since presumably the guys were building muscle,… Read more »

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