I saw the following post on my Facebook Memories the other day and it reminded me how I used to justify my drinking, even when I was trying to stay fit. The Facebook post, from nine years ago, reads:
“Just finished Kokoda Grunt – a 13km run (7km uphill) with 26 challenges. The whole thing took more than four hours. Worse thing was I only decided to do it this morning so had drinks last night! Glad I did it though. Recovering with an ice pack on my knee and a glass of wine. Such an athlete!”
It amazes me that I ran a four-hour obstacle course after a night of drinking, then celebrated afterwards with a glass of wine.
At that point in my life I was doing a lot of running, competing in half-marathons and triathlons. Not at a high level – in the bottom half of finishers rather than those who broke through the finishing tape – but it was the way I kept fit and healthy.
I never considered that my regular wine habit was at complete odds with my goal of being fit and healthy.
Higher fitness levels = greater alcohol consumption
It seems I wasn’t alone. A recent study showed that higher fitness levels were significantly related to greater alcohol consumption among a large cohort of study participants.
The researchers suggest that it may be due to the ‘licensing effect’ – that phenomenon where when we do something ‘good’ we can allow ourselves to do something ‘bad’.
I ate well and exercised regularly so my rationale was that wine was ‘my one vice’. I looked at it as my naughty little treat and, in doing so, increased its value.
Instead of seeing it as something that was impacting my fitness and health – which of course it was – I saw it as a reward for being ‘good’.
Justifying the healthy / unhealthy behaviour balance
It’s interesting how we view our behaviours to justify why we make certain decisions.
At that point it would never have crossed my mind to even consider that alcohol was not doing me any favours.
Even though the evidence was there – trying to exercise the morning after a night of drinking was much harder than normal and often I didn’t exercise at all due to a hangover.
But if I had any niggling thoughts about that, I’d ignore them.
I’ve written about this in a previous blog: Beer yoga is now a thing – is nowhere safe from our expanding drinking culture?
Now that I’m choosing not to drink I realise that I don’t have to ‘treat’ myself for exercising.
The exercise itself is the treat – I get the feel-good endorphins without any side effects.
The runners’ high is real and it’s a lot better for you than other highs!