Last Call: Exercise, Eating, And You

After an entire lifetime (so far), I finally, finally understand the appeal of running. I get it! It doesn't always feel terrible and can actually feel slightly relaxing occasionally! It only took a global pandemic and a heretofore unknown desperation to leave the house to make me see it. I can now relate, in fleeting moments, to the idea that running can make you feel happy; I had always assumed that the 10K participants beaming at the finish line were only smiling because the damn thing was over.

Part of what always made jogging seem so daunting was that I happened to grow up with parents who ran for exercise, and they absolutely had to run first thing in the morning before eating so much as a saltine cracker. They insisted—and still do—that if they ran with anything in their stomach, it would result in feelings of nausea and sluggishness. I took this as gospel as a child, having no reason not to. And since I was pretty much constantly eating, any activity that required an empty stomach was a nonstarter.

In college, though, my friends on the cross-country team would often leave our table in the cafeteria after a big dinner to go for a sunset run around the track. Many of them claimed that running on a full stomach felt best, because your body was supplied with fresh calories to burn through. It seems obvious now, but it was the first time I'd ever realized that different bodies would respond differently to the same exercise.

My own running—the frequency, duration, and distance of which have all been given a boost by stay-at-home orders, a fact that makes me feel mildly guilty in a way I can't explain—can take or leave the pre-workout snack fuel, but coffee is a non-negotiable. As long as I have caffeine, it doesn't matter what else has been added to the mix. A banana? Sure. Pancakes? All good. It's exciting to know how versatile and amenable a body can be, and though the occasion to learn this about myself is a grim one, I'm happy to have learned it nonetheless. What about you all? For those of you who engage in an exercise routine, how does food factor into your regimen?