It’s taken a long time for me to shake this ingrained mythology that serious athletes who burn thousands of calories in training basically get a free pass when it comes to eating. But watching the Indiana Pacers eke out a win over the Brooklyn Nets Saturday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, it suddenly occurred to me that those guys on the court would probably be the last people to indulge in all those crap calories that those of us in the nosebleed section are encouraged to consume.
Nachos and Dippin Dots are inferior fuel for high-performance humans. But even as a mere mortal, I’m starting to see how inferior fuel affects my performance. Case in point: Friday’s 15-mile run.
Mentally, it’s hard to imagine how I could have been more “on my game” for this run. I was calm, patient, divided the course up into manageable chunks, and tackled all the extra distance before settling into a previously conquered route that took me into Ossian for a bathroom break and fuel stop before the final 7-mile trip back home. The weather was nice, too, for a change: 29 degrees, little wind. I could’ve sworn I heard birds chirping as I headed out.
It’s a good thing I was so tuned in mentally, because physically, I was suffering from gastrointestinal distress after “overcompensating” for several days of strict dieting. It wasn’t disastrous. I’ve got a pretty strong stomach, and I was able to ride it out. But it was so … unnecessary. I mean, I can’t control the weather. But I ought to be able to control my diet, especially given how much it influences my comfort level on a run.
The dangerous thing about a run like this, for me, is that because I was ultimately able to overcome the difficulties and turn in a pretty decent performance – I kept thinking about how Michael Jordan once turned in one of his best playoff performances when he had the flu – this lesson might go acknowledged without actually resulting in changed behavior.
Yes, as a recreational jogger I can probably get away with scarfing six cookies before a run. But if I want to run a marathon, I ought to quit relating to the gluttonous dimwits portrayed in Super Bowl commercials and focus on the preparation that goes into playing in one.
Pro athletes have their events, and I have mine. How we treat our bodies affects our performance, which affects our happiness. So in that respect, maybe we’re not so different after all.