Life/ Marathon Training/ Recent/ Running

My approach to alcohol in marathon training (and life)

I didn’t have my first taste of alcohol until I was 25. I grew up in Utah and was raised Mormon so it’s not something that I was around much. And I get asked a lot (mostly on Instagram) if I drink during marathon training, especially after my post about what I eat in a day. But the answer to “do you drink” is a bit of a longer answer than yes/no. To fully address it, I think it’s helpful and important to share my background with alcohol.

Mormon rules around alcohol

Mormons don’t drink alcohol or coffee as part of their Word of Wisdom, a set of health “rules” they follow. I left the Mormon church (officially known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) in my mid-20s for various reasons and started drinking about the same time. Wanting to drink alcohol is not why I left the Mormon church. We can blame coffee for that; I wanted coffee. Juuuust kidding. Sorta. 😉

When I started drinking

When I started drinking, I loved the taste of red wine, bourbon and gin from the get-go. I always hated sweet wines and still do. I distinctly remember my first taste of alcohol. It was a gin and tonic at friend’s house and LOVED it. Then, I had a glass of cabernet sauvignon another time; again, I loved it.

I drank throughout my mid- and late-20s, pretty regularly, but RARELY heavy and never hard. I think I’ve only had three bad hangovers in my life where I threw up. And I consider myself lucky that I didn’t do the typical college drinking that most people experience. (I went to Brigham Young University where I got a Business degree with an emphasis in Corporate Finance.)

During some phases in my 20s, I had a glass of wine with dinner almost every night. But,  I rarely had more than 2-3 drinks in a single night and that was typically when I was out to dinner with friends. And I could always wake up early and run the next day, no problem.

I visited a lot of wineries, went to Sonoma, and ran a half marathon through Oregon wine country. I absolutely love the whole culture of wine and love learning about it. And I absolutely LOVE the taste of a full-bodied red, a crisp, dry white or a buttery chardonnay. And a perfect wine pairing with a good meal is one of my favorite things in life.

 

When I cut back & why

When I moved to Charlotte a few years ago, I started drinking much less. It wasn’t really intentional but more an attempt to feel more settled. I was out of my comfort zone, in a new place, uneasy at times and I wanted all my senses sharp.

Some people like to drink to take off the edge. I generally prefer to not drink to keep my edge. So, when I’m stressed, I am inclined to drink less rather than more.

I also started having more severe gut issues around that time (not uncommon with increased stress, and a move certainly brings that), so I reduced alcohol trying to help with that as well.

When I moved back to Winston, I still just didn’t drink that much. I’m not saying I quit drinking. Not at all. But it just became less and less of a habit, to where I drank only 1-2x a week. And I think as a result, my tolerance decreased. Half a glass of wine and I could feel it.

I REALLY hate the feeling of being tipsy, especially in social settings. It probably stems from my liking to control everything in life. 🙂

What about alcohol now?

I’ll now go weeks at a time without drinking. I still love the taste of red wines (petite syrah is my favorite), bourbon and gin. And man, if stouts didn’t wreck my stomach, I would be all in with those.

I’m much more intentional about when I drink, thinking through if it will enhance rather than take away from my evening. For me, what I’m eating, the ambiance, the situation and yes, my marathon training, all factor into the decision.

Last night, for example, I had a gluten-free beer with friends at dinner before a concert. I had finished my long run, I was only going to have one drink and I knew the alcohol content was low so I wouldn’t be destroyed. And then I drank water the rest of the night and was perfectly content.

alcohol marathon training

Often times, drinking makes me more anxious so I’m not really a person to have a glass of wine to relax. Plus, I tend to not sleep well when I drink, which makes me tired the next day. And unnecessary fatigue is hard to justify when I’m working so many hours right now. So it’s just not really worth it, most of the time.

I can’t think of a single time I’ve regretted not having a drink but there are plenty of times I have regretted it – even if I’m not not drunk. I had just one glass of wine at our wedding and stuck to water and kombucha the rest of the day/evening. We even had a kombucha cart!

What about drinking during marathon training?

I approach drinking during marathon training slightly differently than my regular approach. While I don’t totally eschew alcohol during training, I am VERY judicious about when I have a drink. I probably have one to two times a month during training. And it’s only on Saturday nights, after my long run is done and I know I have a rest day the next day.

I’ll typically drink more often on vacation, when I tend to relax more about my schedule, but I still have to consider where I am in my training cycle. When I was in NYC last December, I drinks with friends a few nights in a long weekend. However, I barely touched alcohol on bothtrips to Palm Beach this year and didn’t have one drink in Wilmington.Marathon training had officially started and it was a mindset shift.

I think it’s a very personal decision, especially since everyone tolerates alcohol differently. For me, I love a good run more than a good drink. But you can bet I’ll have a great glass of wine to celebrate finishing the Boston Marathon this year, just like I did last year.

mormon rules

Managing social pressure to drink

I was never pressured into drinking, ever. It was my choice. And for that, I consider myself VERY grateful. I think the most pressure I get is now, ironically, in my mid-30s, at social events — with adults, mind you. Yes, people sometimes give me crap for not drinking. But I think that says more about them than me.

So, when I’m offered a drink, I just say no thank you. If someone presses, I typically respond with “I’m not drinking tonight” or “I just don’t want to.” If people really press, I reply with “I have a long run tomorrow.” That typically ends it.

Instead of alcohol, I’ll get a sparkling water with lime and I drink a LOT of kombucha. It’s expensive, but so is wine.

How do you balance alcohol with your running goals?

 

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  • Alison
    at

    Loved this so much. Very honest and well stated.

  • Steph
    at

    Thanks so much for this! I have never really had an all or nothing philosophy and agree you need to enjoy things in life. I’ve always said if running makes me miserable I’ll stop. Lately my husband and I feel like our relationship with alcohol has become unhealthy and are currently abstaining. I work part time in the industry (bourbon mostly) so I’m choosing to focus on the intellectual side and saving alcohol for special occasions. I appreciate you representing how athletes can partake in a balanced way.

    • Teri [a foodie stays fit]
      at

      Thanks for your comment! It’s really nice to enjoy real conversations without alcohol and then enjoy alcohol more when it’s a special occasion!

  • Christine Whittingtonw
    at

    What most wine professionals and wine educators (and I am a CSW, Certified Specialist of Wine from the Society of Wine Educators) have in common with you is that, although we may drink more than you do (and probably not training for Boston either), we always, always, always go for quality or maybe a grape or spirit we have not tasted before. We do not drink to get drunk or tipsy (I also hate that), but because we love the magical alchemy of wine, beer, or spirits. If you are drinking a glass or two a week, make it the BEST wine or your favorite craft beer. Learn about it and learn how to enjoy it. For inspiration, I love Eric Asimov’s book “How to Love Wine.” He is the wine critic for the New York Times. Good post! Cheers!

    • Teri [a foodie stays fit]
      at

      ooh I want to read that book! I would love to have GREAT wine without getting tipsy! I never know how to find ones that are the best quality other than looking by price and maybe that’s not the right approach. Thanks for the suggestion!

  • Hillary
    at

    Loved this honest post, learned a lot about you! 🙂

    I know you’ve mentioned your gut troubles and choice to eat mostly gluten-free, but have you written particular posts about your gut (i.e. if and how you’ve been diagnosed… and with what?)… or is it still unknown and hard to pinpoint? Sounds like it still bothers you regularly… what makes it feel better? xo

    • Teri [a foodie stays fit]
      at

      I had colonoscopies and endoscopies years ago and was diagnosed with IBS which isn’t really a clear diagnosis and celiac wasn’t commonly tested at the time. But based on my family history, other symptoms I exhibit and what I’ve learned with elimination diets, my doctors feel confident I have celiac. I’m just grateful I don’t have crohns, addisons disease, type 1 diabetes, alopecia, lupus — all of which my siblings have 🙂