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.
“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.
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.
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.
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!