I was ordering a sparkling water the other day in a restaurant. Adam Ant was on the radio. “Don’t drink, don’t smoke, what do you do?” he was asking in the song. He was calling the person in the song a “goodie two shoes” and it got me thinking about the choices that we make to support our lifestyle as athletes.
Some of our choices are straight-forward. We choose to spend our time running or cycling, rather than saying watching TV. When we look at the average amount of television that Americans watch, which counts in several hours every day, I would imagine that many runners fall below that average somewhere. There’s only so much time in the day, so choosing to work out means choosing to do less of something else.
But there are much bigger choices that lurk out there. Some of them get made without a lot of thought. Most runners wouldn’t smoke cigarettes, for example, knowing that this is an impediment to good health. Although this is not always the case. I wrote a blog post many years ago about the impacts of smoking on runners and it continues to get comments from runners who say that they smoke and they are still “fine.”
For the most part, athletes are likely to eat foods that support their training. Although, again, this isn’t always the case. I recall a recent time following two runners out of the gym. They had just finished a longish run and one said to the other “I am so hungry. Let’s go get burgers!” (And no, they didn’t have the physique to suggest they were getting veggie burgers.)
The choices become much more complex when they involve giving up something that we either love or are afraid to give up. Drinking alcohol comes immediately to mind. Many runners drink. There is almost a culture of drinking around beer and running. I recently won a race and was presented with two large beers as a prize. All of the winners got beer. The organizer was a little shocked when I handed them to someone else in the crowd. He looked at me like an insane person when I said, “I don’t drink.” At a restaurant recently a fairly snotty waiter complimented me for winning a medal at a competition (I was still wearing it) and then he dismissively asked, “and something to for the man that does’t drink?” with an eye-roll. We all know as athletes that drinking alcohol is not a contributor towards our training, but making the choice to cut it out of our lives can be a difficult one for a lot of reasons.
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