I have 16 miles on the agenda today. Don't worry, I'm not running from the police.
I'm at week 9 of my training program for the Chicago Marathon and my Foxy Fitness and Pole Showcase is a few days short of a month away. The New Jersey Spartan Super follows up two weeks after, then two South Carolina Spartan Beasts, approximately 14 miles each. My last marathon for the year is the TCS New York City Marathon on November 6th. Yes, I live in the gym and on the pavement. The number one question that I get that could be kind of insulting is "Why are you still fat?"
If only it was that simple as to go outside at 4am and run all of my cellulite away into the New York City humidity and come back home as a size 6. No, not for me. Despite the notion that my doctor wants me to get my thyroid checked out and host of medical issues, this will not be my scapegoat on why I'm still fat.
Living in the gym will NOT make you skinny. Say it with me: LIVING IN THE GYM WILL NOT MAKE YOU SKINNY! Now go cry into a bowl of ice cream and cake so it can rub the boo boo away and add on another spare tire. Doctors swear by it to go outside and do some physical fitness. Do you know the other part that they swear by? Eating properly. Running 50 miles a week will not make me this skinny sex God. If you happen to find me on Myfitnesspal, you would see that my food journal has me eating around 3000 calories on average. ::inserts freak out and robs candy store here:: The reality of it is that it's damn hard for me to reach my calorie goal without junk food daily. I could do the protein shake and pills like everyone else but I'm not much of a fan of these things. Instead, I have to be smart and strategic about my eating habits and sometimes, a bit of a food Nazi. That's no way to live and I refuse to eat dry salads, become PillBo Baggins, add no seasoning to my food or start the latest Atkins diet.
I can tell you why I STOPPED losing weight a year ago? Stress and not eating enough. Stress can be the ultimate fat builder master 6000 equipped with the eat cake attachment. Having the extra stress of life, juggling a job at the time with insane hours on my feet and barely having enough sleep, I spent my days eating very little and moving a lot. Ask my Fitbit. My poor baby was clocking in 28,000 steps by noon just from working and I did not even make it to the gym or hit the pavement by this point. I spiraled into this pool of nowhere by indulging in a beer here and there, which went from twice a week to 5 days a week. The pressures of being a marathoner means that you will spend a lot of time alone unless you have a workout partner. Pair this solution with an unconventional job being on your feet 10 - 14 hours a day, traveling home and still managing to cook dinner, if at all healthy, for your family, you might not lose weight if you're someone like me. Without eating my required amount of calories, particularly healthy ones, made my body go into starvation mode despite my hard core fitness regimen.
Sure, I ate 2000 calories a day most of the time but I cannot promise you it was always healthy. Sometimes the healthy stuff just wasn't enough. Try doing this to a person in marathon training and you will watch them look like fast flubber down the pavement. It amazes me that I weigh more now than a year ago but when I look at some of my pictures, I look more slender than at that time. I started losing muscle from the lack of adequate food.
It took for me to lose my job, leave another one shortly after and hit rock bottom to ask myself the dreaded question that so many whispered to me, "How the hell are you a fat marathoner?" Well, aside from the fact that I no longer care about cutting the pounds, I lost track of the important elements. I forgot basic things like muscle is leaner than fat**. I drink close to a gallon or more a day of water, which means the number on the scale is a goddamn heathen. Hell, I forgot about the hidden calories of drinks and condiments. For some reason, I forgot that distance runners go through fluid retention a lot. Most of all, I forgot how to enjoy the process and embrace life.
Running is an absolute fat burner and pairing strength training to compliment it will surely cut some calories like the Ninja blender. But please bear in mind that there's a balance to everything. Your food must match your fitness. Know that the scale isn't the end all be all. I lost a crazy amount of inches, which means more to me than a number on the scale. Be mindful that doing the same thing for a certain amount of time will go from hardcore fitness to toning & conditioning. Understand and respect that your body works heavily with your mental wellbeing.
I said it before and will say it again: I don't desire to be a size 4 anymore. I don't even care if I don't make it to my goal weight again as I did two years ago. What I do desire is to be fit and healthy. The arrogant part of me is happy to know that my endurance training helps me lift and run longer than most. Baby, I got these muscular legs and strong arms that can stand up against the average man. My thighs are a Venus fly trap. I completed an ultra marathon on a Sunday and woke up at 3am the next morning to go to a job interview/trail as a baker, working 10 hours the very next day at 4am. That lactic acid did murder me though. But do you know why I'm able to do all of this with a smile on my face? Because I'm a fighter. A pure adrenaline junkie. I love being my own hero in a Disney film. Because my weight doesn't define me. As long as I continue doing what I'm doing, the weight will continue to shed in a healthy but slow manner while I'm enjoying life. Just know that I will be embracing the high calorie fattening meals here and there even though it's not a cheat day. Your weight loss journey isn't supposed to a sprint. Give your health and body permission to be an endurance runner because your life is a marathon.
**Original post edited 08/20/2016, 18:16HRS
Nothing like setting off a second blog post like talking about shit.
Like really talking about shit. Not the expression. Just in case someone says that I didn't warn them, I am giving you a disclaimer now. This entire post will be dedicated to talking about the beloved Gingerbread Man that's not in your favorite stories. Unfortunately, the beloved fictional character is a serious villain in the runner's community.
The Gingerbread Man is another name for Runner's Trots or Runner's Diarrhea. According to the Mayo Clinic, "Runner's diarrhea is characterized by frequent, loose bowel movements during or immediately after a run. Runner's diarrhea is most common in long-distance runners." Unfortunately, from what I read from numerous sites and talking to a few folks within the running community who isn't creeped out about talking about poo claim that they are not really sure of the cause.
I am not ashamed to admit that this grown woman has encountered many close calls with that Gingerbread Man fellow. Before each run, I pray to the skies and my stomach to please not let this be the day that I become an Internet meme. I'm sure some of you saw a meme of a white gentleman running across the finish line with a stream of diarrhea smeared all over his clothing. Yes, this is not a joke, especially to my long distance running enthusiasts out there.
The first time that the Gingerbread Man almost caught me was in Summer 2014. I felt pretty hyped up knowing that I finished a few runs with New York Road Runners and at this point, I might have earned medal number 4. On average, I was running at least 30 - 35 miles weekly. My favorite place to run was Boys and Girls High School track but it wasn't consistently open during the scheduled hours at that time. Fortunately, on this day, they opened a few minutes before 6, which was exceptionally surprising to me. I performed my normal check: Checked my laces, warmed up my muscles and reminded myself that I needed to place one foot in front of the other. My Nike+ Running app alerted me that I was scheduled for a six mile run. This was very typical for me. The first few laps were typical. Slow stride, slowly increasing speed and at that time, I was doing morning posts via Facebook. I would post a video of my progress or shoot a picture on Instagram. While some may have looked at it as vain, I still use these platforms as an unofficial accountability buddy. Someone is ALWAYS watching, whether it is a supporter or the dreaded "haters".
Nevertheless, I started picking up the speed and managed to get down to an 11 minute mile. To some of you, it's nothing. For me, it was life to get there at that time. Around mile 3, I had this bubbling feeling but I didn't think anything of it. I turned for a second loop and my stomach starts to feel a bit hostile. At that moment, my imagination caught the best of me and I swore that there was a repo man inside of my stomach trying to rip my lining because the rent was due. For some reason, I thought the solution to this problem was to run faster and just maybe the "gas" would go away. I hit mile 4 and the pain is getting worse. It starts to travel up my back and unfortunately, with all of my ailments relating to my spine, that's a no go for me but I decided to keep moving. I managed to make it to 5 miles and figured that instead of finishing everything at the track, I'll run the last mile home. Ha, Mr. Gingerbread Man didn't respond well to that.
I walked three steps off of the track and my booty thought it was appropriate to put on it's best impression of being Miles Davis. The inner juvenile in me looked around to see if anyone heard or smelled it, sped up and started giggling. Judge or don't judge: I have a twisted sense of humor. The giggles immediately shifted to concern as it became frequent. Another two farts escaped and unfortunately squat day didn't prepare me for this. I started to speed walk to my house.
You know what I really despise? The closer you get to your house, the more you feel like you need to use the bathroom. Oh, I just hate that feeling. I finally make it to my doorstep and my frantic jazz hands couldn't grab the right key. A few seconds felt like two hours. I couldn't bolt up the stairs because I was clenching too hard and if I didn't make it to the toilet in time, It would have been the most humiliating day of my life. I will spare you the graphic nature but it was nothing short of disgusting. My stomach felt horrible for two hours.
Knowing nothing about runner's diarrhea, I thought it was just a bad day or maybe because I'm lactose intolerant. Nope, the Gingerbread Man harassed me for a month long. It didn't matter what I did, he assaulted me in the middle of my long runs or five minutes before a run. Then I was devastated when I actually encountered a full blown accident and nauseated by the thought that he caught me. After that day, I knew something was wrong.
I am rarely embarrassed about asking or experiencing things. Maybe this is why I am so comfortable typing out a full blog on runner's diarrhea to my audience. I asked some folks that I befriended in the community and one of the girls giggled. "Oh, it's the Gingerbread Man love..." she said nonchalantly. She suggested me to research Runner's Diarrhea and I felt a sigh of relief and anger. Why the hell am I experiencing this?
Well, here's the deal: Long distance runners and people who do strength training are at a higher risk of encountering this issue. As a person who loves to lift weights, do a fair share of calisthenics, was cross training with a hybrid/mountain bike for 30 miles a day, 3x a week, I just increased my chances by who knows what exorbitant percent. According to Active.com, 60 percent of all runners experience runner's diarrhea (or even what's referred to as runner's colitis). It is very much a temporary issue and can be worked around if you take your time to figure out your triggers.
In my case, I had to hydrate a lot more than what I was doing. 8 cups of water a day for a distance runner is almost comical. On average, I find myself drinking 12 - 14 (and no I will not drown). Please consider that our bodies can use the hydration. I'm not sure of where I received this type of advice but I was advised for every 30 minutes of exercise, I should strive to get 1 -2 cups of water. Aside from hydration, I avoided highly fattening foods hours before a run. Some places suggest that people shouldn't eat 1 -2 hours before a run. Unfortunately, this does not work for me because I get light headed fairly quickly if I didn't carb/protein load a decent amount hours before. Without it, I should carry an energy gel or bar to balance me out. My sodium intake was exceptionally low and as much as I'm not the biggest fan of Gatorade, it has helped out tremendously with my electrolytes, keeping my booty terrorists inside until it's time to use the bathroom.
Here's some other factors to consider: Runner's Trots can be attributed from a weak pelvic floor, a previous or current health condition, medications or maybe a different condition altogether. Certain foods are natural diuretics and can be a nuisance if you're looking to get in a long run. Try keeping a training and food log. This can be a great aid to figure out what works for you. I switched around certain foods and I'm careful about eating things like celery, certain greens and beets when I kick into heavy gear of my marathon training season. Another culprit was my Vitamin C and coffee/tea intake. If you are experiencing this, you might want to back up just a little bit from it on race day. In the meantime, nothing wrong with talking to a doctor and/or nutritionist/sports medicine doctor in trying to figure out what you can do. Plus, think about your route and mapping out bathrooms along the way. Take into consideration that some businesses will not let you use their bathroom if you do not buy anything.
On a better note, I figured things out and it did get better. With my knucklehead formula of trial and error, I figured out what works for me. I still get nervous about race day so much that my body knows to use the bathroom before every run but it doesn't deter me from enjoying the sport. For all of our sakes, I hope that you never catch the Gingerbread Man.
Regardless of what activity that I choose to pick up and drop off, I LOVE running. I cannot emphasize it enough to people. There's something that is incredibly liberating about the journey. During these summer months, I say random obscenities to myself at 4am asking why am I getting out of bed to go run to nowhere. I live in Brooklyn, NY. I kinda sorta live in the hood depending on who you talk to throughout the week. There's some terrible stuff that runners don't like to talk about and I take pride in sharing every ounce of TMI with or without filters to anyone who will listen.
If someone would have warned me about the glorious "Gingerbread Man" or what's best known as Runner's Trots, I don't know if I would have been so open to running. Hell, nobody could have told me that I would be interested in running yet it's been 3+ years (or rather 1176 days, 21 hours because I like to be petty and pretentious once in a blue). Honestly, people gave me the Splenda version of the joys of running when I started out. I can safely say that I did not do ENOUGH research on how to run, how to breathe and did not look into the Couch to 5K program seriously until I impulsively signed up for a half marathon simply off of a pure neurotic impulse triggered by my friend Rob, affectionately called Slo/Sloetry, who said that he would sign up. Did I mention that we never met and we have been friends since Myspace days and he lives in another country? Yeah, I'm a little off but this is the beautiful thing about being a runner. There's a lot of us "crazy" folks running after NOTHING but stale bagels, free water, sugary bananas and at the better races, candy. Sometimes there are medals, tee shirts and hats involved. But to be honest, almost all of us are running for an epic experience. A memory. A cause. A personal achievement unlocked. Running just because we ran our entire lives from everything else so this is the one thing that actually makes sense.
Unfortunately, I didn't know anything about Fat Athletes though. As an African American woman, I certainly did not see plus size athletes of color. I wanted to be inspired so bad some days and I didn't have a public figure to really look at. Nope. Scratch that. I didn't know they were out there because of lack of research. If I would have known about Mirna Valerio, the kick ass plus size ultra runner of Fat Girl Running from the beginning of my journey, I could have saved myself so much trouble. I learned about her probably a few months before everyone on the planet turned into play doh as I did. Instead, I learned the hard way. Basic trial and error.
I walked, skipped, did some exercises in between and joined a vinyasa yoga studio in Forest Hills, Queens called Living Yoga. Thanks to my friend and yoga instructor, Latesha, I felt a bit better about doing things above society's stereotypes for black women in 2013. I didn't have to feel like I had to be ultra skinny, exceptionally flexible, eat nothing but salads and smiled all day. Shortly after doing yoga, I followed two plus size yogis who just happen to be killer in community. I followed Jessamyn Stanley's Tumblr page before she made her way to Instagram and found out about Dana Falsetti shortly after through Instagram.
As I read back all of what I just typed, I had such a narrow minded idea of what fitness as a whole was about. Unfortunately, we have the media and a very harsh society to thank for this. We live in a world where "fat people" are allowed to call smaller framed women skinny bitches and in turn, people retaliate by calling plus size people derogatory terms. We continue this vicious cycle of being mentally unhealthy and in turn, it translates into our daily lives.
When I decided that I wanted to run, I didn't think I wanted to be a runner. I looked at it as some gateway to get a medal, knock out a new bucket list item and lose some weight. It tapped into my personal goals and the adrenaline junkie in me. I am thankful for the days that I had no idea on what the hell I was doing and ran across a group of incredible women from Black Girls Run. Strangers, who are now an extended family to me, taught me all of the basics. I learned how to breathe, the benefits of sneakers, wicking clothing and how to increase my stride. The best lesson I learned from the Bedford Stuyvesant's chapter was that I was not TRYING to be a runner: I am a runner.
Dammit, I am a runner! But I'm fat. I was still in my 200s. I still sweat under my boobs and my love handles. I could not run a 8 minute mile. But let's take a moment to thank all of those wonderful memes that float around the Internet: Whether it is an 8 minute mile or 14 minute mile, it is still a mile. If you are walking, then skipping, then running for a half minute just to walk again, YOU are a runner.
So, with all of this said, please do not correct me when I use the fabulous hash tag #fatrunner. "Fat is such a dirty word." Says who? Pardon my expression but bitch please! I love eating some fattening stuff and I'm not thinking about how dirty of a word it is when I'm indulging in it. Newsflash: Whatever nice way that you want to glamour it up, I will still identify myself as a fat runner with pride. Sometimes, I am wrongfully corrected on it because it actually makes the other person feel uncomfortable. If it don't apply, let it fly but if it does to you, please take my word on it that I am not offended. I cannot say this for my other counterparts but I love this fabulous hash tag. Through it, I am part of an incredible community that I didn't think existed. It is 2016 and I never felt so good to see that people around my size and weight running.
I am thankful to say that I am muscular, fit and FAT! I may not remain fat forever but I absolutely love this community. Screw a BMI. This is the most incredible that I ever felt in my life.
In case you haven't read my pseudo About Me page (only pseudo because I just cannot follow the guidelines of a proper biography format), please understand that I am a grade A potty mouth but I do value respect and gratefully return it to others when given to me. In addition, I should note that this is NOT a weight loss guide. I am not a nutritionist yet nor a fitness instructor or any sort. If you are still here with me, please know that you can be a marathoner like me and NOT lose an ounce of weight. I know that scares people reading that but please don't let this discourage you from participating in the sport or from following my blog.
I created this blog because I want to unapologetically speak freely about this entire experience called life. I love food and fitness. I LOVE people and traveling and being long winded. I love it when people pick my brain about something I'm passionate about. To be honest, I also created this blog because a bunch of my Facebook friends, long time buddies and Instagram followers asked me when the hell am I going to put this into one constructive space. I will continue to share through these platforms but I will try to link those things to here as much as my schedule allows me to do so.
You get to a point in life where you want that happy balance between being a part of something, finding your purpose (or voice) as well as being comfortable in your own skin. For a long time, I wasn't comfortable with any parts of it. Being sick and disabled really hardened me but it's a lesson I keep with me as I am still battling through several things. Through this blog, I hope that sharing my experiences will help someone, maybe make them chuckle at times, question some things or even tell me off because I am not aware of something. This blog is my glass house. This blog is here to make people feel uncomfortable and comfortable at the same damn time. Know that you are not alone and for others to learn that what you look at as a minor thing might be a hard thing for someone else. I am not looking to be a teacher through this blog but more like an interactive student.
Please know that I am much more than just a runner. I am a parent. I am learning how to pole dance. I love sports in general. If you are a down to earth person (or even a bit snobby), I am sure there's something that I can love about you. Each and every person out here has something magical about them. We are all in our own pursuit of happiness. Find your happy. I found parts of my happy through being a fat athlete.
Pardon me. I'm being incredibly rude. My name is Latoya Shauntay Snell and I am a running fat chef.
Latoya Shauntay Snell
For my pretentious ass bio, check out the about me page but for anyone interested in who I really am, make me a good meal at your house and I'll tell you a dope ass story.
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