Monday, October 1, 2012

If I have inspired only one, I have inspired

Sucktember is OVER! WOOHOO!

Yikes, what a month. For a full 30 days (31 days if you count the actual hours), team Beer Bar Band has worked hard on our physical health and fitness through a personal program of full-on detox and training. Our main aim was to get back in shape for running in the Melbourne Marathon Festival, but there was also the desire to simply reclaim robust fitness and health after a somewhat gluttonous winter and leading into summer.

During all of September we had no beer or any form of alcohol. The only beverages we allowed ourselves were water, green tea, sports drinks (only after long runs) and coffee, which was cut back compared to normal consumption levels. I also stopped drinking orange juice, of which I used to have a glass every morning. The disallowed list during Sucktember further extended to any desserts, chocolate, sweets, chips, cheese and fast food in general. Intake of bread and any processed foods were also minimised.

The other key component of Sucktember was daily and diverse exercise. That involved waking up at 5:00am for 45 minutes of pre-breakfast exercise (exercise-bike cycling or yoga), going to work, then coming home and completing another hour or more of training/exercise (running, riding, weights, resistance, skipping, etc.), with one rest day in the week. Mostly, we were in bed by 9:30pm every day to be ready for the next 5:00am start.

Today, two weeks out from the half marathon, the taper begins. With the commitment to Sucktember over, the really tricky part starts now. During October - aka ROCKTOBER - we will allow ourselves to once again enjoy beer, but we need to steer clear of indulging and undoing the hard work of the last month ( least until the marathon run has been conquered!). Unfortunately, we both have the type of body that puts on weight and falls out of fitness very quickly without regular persistence.

I post here today because yesterday, half way through running 22km(*), I had a realisation that brought great satisfaction: even though I pursued the extreme program of Sucktember for no one else other than myself, my regular long runs have also inspired someone to better their health with exercise. It was a comment from a while ago now, but it is purely heart warming to be told that my actions have resulted in someone else's pursuit for improving their fitness health. Something I have done, without the intention to influence, has made a small positive difference.

Over the past month I have filled my Twitter and Facebook feeds, as well as this blog, with nothing else but exercise updates and lack-of-beer-whinging, but from it has come constructive impact...and no matter how small, that is special.

Fat James at age 21.
It's special to me because I know intimately both ends of the scale.  I did not have a healthy body until the age of 29. Through all my youth and early adulthood - from the earliest of my teenage years to deep into my twenties - I was obese (pushing into WHO Class III obesity of "very severe"). After five years of arduous hard work (then even more hard work) and plenty of lifestyle change along the way, I thankfully discovered real health and fitness, gaining the body I have today. Now my cardio fitness and weight** supports my ability to run a long way...and live longer.

32 & ready to run again!
I now know big change is possible, after believing for so long that it could never happen. From experience I also understand that it is much better to be fit than fat. Consequently, I desire to share with others the goodness of being in top condition whilst still being able to enjoy pleasures like beer, cheese and chocolate. Mmmm.

If you are very unfit/unhealthy, the journey to significant improvement will be long and painful, and it will also be via a different path for everyone (just find what works for you!), but the reward is fantastic!

And there's some excellent recent science for beer loving runners!  A commentary paper published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition provides a summary of beer and health science presented at the 6th Beer and Health Symposium held in Brussels last year (and yes, funded by the Brewers of Europe industry organisation, but the science is rigorous). The summary includes findings from peer-reviewed science that note moderate beer consumption boosts bone health; and it can improve immune-system function! Beer winning!

A Sierksma and FJ Kok (2012), Beer and health: from myths to science, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2012) 66, 869–870; doi:10.1038/ejcn.2012.30

Although the science unpublished, the following presentation by an aptly qualified exercise physiology scientist is a highlight for the beer runners - Beer after exercise: Yes or no? Professor Manuel J. Castillo says: "Beer quenches thirst and is frequently consumed after practicing sport or exercise. Beer is mainly water but also contains alcohol. Research into whether alcohol content prevented adequate recovery and/or rehydration found that neither a specific nor a negative effect could be attributed to the intake of beer compared to the intake of just water. In conclusion***, at least in healthy, young adults, beer in moderate amounts is as effective as water for rehydration and recovery after exercise." (***based on a 4.5% abv beer in 660ml amounts)

Throughout September 2012 I ran for beer with no beer. Right now I am the healthiest and fittest I have been for several years...and it feels great. I will fully appreciate drinking beer once again...and any tipple of an ale will be much more rewarding.

Balance is the real factor that matters.

If I have inspired just one person to take some action on their health, then I have inspired...for the better. That is something I never expected that my shy self-doubting self would achieve. I'll celebrate with a beer!

*Yes, this post made much more sense mentally during a 22km run.

**In 2007 Runner's World magazine published a useful article about a runner's ideal racing weight: "What's Your Ideal Weight?"


  1. well done, I think, it reminds me I must start exercising again but not at the expense of the good things in life!

  2. Go for it, Daz! The exercise will put those good things in life into perspective and make them all that more sweeter!

  3. I've only had a month off James, will be back at it on Thursday