Friday, November 25, 2011

The Piece O' Pie 5K

If you’re like me, you’re probably still thinking about all the things you’ve eaten this weekend that you “shouldn’t” have.

Although my new-found vegetarian lifestyle probably helped me shave off a few hundred calories during Thanksgiving Dinner, I still got my fill of appetizers, potatoes, wine and bread. Oh, and pie.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the “numbers” of running – for a change, not miles or pace or time. I’ve been thinking a lot about running’s calorie-burning powers.

Truth is I’ve probably been thinking about it because, well, I have been running a lot fewer miles lately. Fewer miles means fewer calories burned, which means tighter-than-usual clothes. And, sigh, a forced focus on the calories I take in.

I’ve never really thought of running as a way to control my weight. It was, rather, just a nice side-effect of a sport that I loved doing. As a result, I got completely lazy with my eating habits. I didn’t really have to think about what I was eating because I knew, at some point, my running would burn it off.

A second helping a dinner? Sure, without a second thought.

During my consistent training weeks of running and cycling, I figure I was burning around 4,000-5,000 calories a week. Lately, those numbers have taken a nosedive – almost to zero.

Despite what the fad-diet industry tries to convince us to believe, most weight loss or weight maintenance comes down to simple mathematics. We have to burn more (or at least the same) number of calories as we consume to avoid the extra pounds.

Let me put this into some real-world perspective. Depending on which expert source you believe, the average American consumes about 2,000-4,000 calories as part of the Thanksgiving festivities.

We burn roughly 100 calories per mile of running.

Do we want to do the math for that Thanksgiving meal? Yep, we’re talking 20-40 miles of running just to break even on Thanksgiving. Of course, we burn calories doing everyday activities – and maybe a touch football game with the family – so none of us would really have to run that far.

My point is, it’s sometimes sobering to think about how much we actually have to run to work off all of the extra treats, despite the fact that running is a very efficient calorie-burning activity.
I say all of this as someone who just finished a piece of (apparently award-winning) apple pie. It was good – but was it worth an extra 5K?

A slice of apple pie is around 300 calories. Or 3 miles.

May conversion of food-to-miles will become more top-of-mind as we go into the holiday season, where candy bowls and homemade cookie platters seem to be at every turn.

Kudos to all of you who got out there and ran or walked before indulging in the Thanksgiving feast. According to, 7,500 runners and walkers took part in New Hampshire road races on Thanksgiving Day. That makes it the single biggest day for road races in New Hampshire.

Congratulations to all of you. You earned that piece of pie.

Teresa Robinson is Community Relations Manager for the New Hampshire Union Leader. Her column appears every other week in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Her email address is