Sonia O’Sullivan: Eat less, drink more water, and sweat

With all fads we can forget that cleansing body from inside out is great way to feel good

It’s a lot easier to sweat when you’re running and  a little more difficult when you’re walking

It’s a lot easier to sweat when you’re running and a little more difficult when you’re walking

 

Sometimes it’s good to sweat – a line that has stuck with me these past few days. And meant strictly in the literal sense. 

It came after a meeting in Monaco last weekend, and my role on the IAAF Road Running Commission, a sort of think tank of like-minded people from around the world looking at ways to improve road racing. 

It takes discipline to manage your health and fitness. It also takes good choices, finding out what works for you.

It’s one of several commissions and advisory groups set up last year by Seb Coe, after he came in as IAAF president, designed to assist the delivery of a fundamental programme of change to the sport’s global administration. Part of our challenge is to engage with the mass of global road runners as well as connect with the fastest elite road racers on the planet. Not a straightforward task, but there is certainly plenty to go on. 

While our discussions and advice will be passed on to the IAAF competitions group, it’s the conversations that you have between meetings that can often have the greatest impact and get you thinking more. 

Once a runner, always a runner – and so it proved for those of us in Monaco. Once running is in your blood, it never goes away. If you can’t run, you walk – or at least do something to get the energy system moving each day, with the added benefit at this time of year of also getting warmed up. Even in Monaco.

When you are with a group of former athletes, the conversation soon arrives on where you are at with running. There are naturally varying levels as the years pass by, although no matter what, everyone packs their runners just in case.

Health and fitness is still a priority for us all, and while we were discussing the various diets and foods and fads that so often bombard the media, one of the more traditionalist amongst us reminded us that it’s good to sweat – to get out there and eliminate the toxins, cleanse the body from the inside out.

It’s a lot easier to sweat when you’re running; it’s a little more difficult when you’re walking, can take a bit more concentration and effort – unless of course you’re walking at Rob Heffernan’s pace.

Eat less, drink more water, take more steps in your day and when the opportunity arises push the boundaries and feel how good it is to sweat.

Challenge

If I can’t run, cycling and swimming are the next best options, although not so convenient when travelling. So walking is sometimes the only option: the challenge is to make it sweat. 

On the Sunday morning, I decided to see how far up I could walk up the mountainous backdrop of Monaco, known locally as the Tête de Chien (or Dog’s Head). A few of the women on the commission had planned to run up, so we had worked out a general direction to get to the trailhead. 

It was still dark when I set off at 7am, well wrapped up in a long-sleeve top and hoodie. It was a very pleasant walk along the Cap-d’Ail coastline, although still it was a cool six degrees Celsius, and it was taking a while to warm up.

It didn’t feel like I’d be sweating much at all, and I was beginning to question if walking was enough, or was I just taking the easy option. The setting and outlook was certainly more attractive than the black line of the bottom of the local swimming pool. 

After about 2km, it was time to start heading uphill, weaving through the quiet streets, the local village still sleeping, crossing some main roads but all the time following the handy pink arrows sprayed on the road at each intersection.

Before I even knew it I was properly sweating, and peeled off my hoodie and tied it around my waist. And I was still only at the base of the climb. There was no doubt it was going to take a lot more effort to reach the top.

It’s good to sweat, it’s also good to be hungry.

We are constantly being reminded about the problems with obesity in society, especially in young children, and what can we do to change the trend. To me, it shouldn’t actually be very difficult to do, although it seems there is a difficulty in getting the message out there.

I often hear it from my own children, as they open the cupboards or the fridge, looking for something to jump out at them. “I’m starving,” is often the statement they make.

I think starving actually is a long way off, I’m not sure they even know what it’s like to be hungry.

In recent years, it seems, young children are more easily soothed with something to eat or drink. You can’t leave the house without a choice of snacks and drink. It certainly feels like a long way off from the days of only eating at mealtimes.

Breaking out the snacks

I know I’m often guilty of this myself, but often wonder do people really weigh up the levels of energy expended, before breaking out the snacks?

It takes discipline to manage your health and fitness. It also takes good choices, finding out what works for you. Once you get on the right path, it’s easy to keep walking past all the distractions along the way, looking up at the peak, knowing how good you will feel when you accomplish what you set out to do.

As I crested the Tête de Chien, one of my colleagues, Sarah Rowell, the former British marathon runner, was coming in the opposite direction. We were similarly surprised to see each other, had a quick review of our path taken so far, both pleased that this was indeed a loop, and we could continue on and reach the bottom without having to retrace our steps.

Three hours later, after covering close to 10 miles, the village shops were opening up and I couldn’t resist stopping to buy a few mandarins to boost my energy for the short walk back along the coastline. I was definitely hungry; if there was a visible fuel marker, I was probably close to the red zone.

Mission accomplished, and there is always something satisfying about getting out early in the morning, exploring a new place, stepping out of the comfort zone to challenge the mind and body.

There is always something around us to be explored, always a new direction and path to take. Running is the most time-efficient form of exercise, the quickest burner of energy and the most easily satisfied, although it’s not always the most practical. Time is often the challenge, to measure the hour against cycling or walking or whatever else it is.

But it’s not a complicated formula, balancing the input and the output each day. Eat less, drink more water, take more steps in your day and when the opportunity arises push the boundaries and feel how good it is to sweat.

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