The vicious circle reversed…
We all know it, once you have a drink, it usually doesn't stop at 1. Because that relaxed feeling, the intoxication, 'forgetting' troubles for a while, overcoming fears, falling asleep (you think) and all those other reasons to have another one quickly win out over common sense. This typical example of a vicious circle is now broken by many by participating in Dry January and I think that is a healthy development.
This healthy development has an extra meaning for me, because I have also started running for a few years and every Dry January I personally experience how much better, faster and easier I can run than during the periods when I do drink alcohol. Now it's no secret that your body has to work very hard to drain the toxin alcohol and that you therefore have less energy in other strenuous things. In other words, if you don't consume alcohol, your body automatically performs better. No alcohol in your liver means much more room for glycogen and let that be the most important energy supplier during high exercise. If your body does not have to dispose of alcohol, the transport of oxygen to your muscles is also a lot better. No alcohol also means less fat storage, which can lead to weight loss and also makes sports a lot tastier.
That all sounds nice and theoretical, but you can simply measure and experience it by, for example, starting (again) with running, cycling, swimming, walking, you name it. You spend the extra money you save by not buying wine, beer, whiskey, etc. on a sports watch or trendy smartwatch and then you immerse yourself for a while in the wonderful insights that such a clock provides you. In the course of such an alcohol-free period as Dry January, you see how your resting heart rate drops, but also how many fewer beats you need for a certain effort. In my case, my average heart rate during a night's sleep is about 13 beats less than if I did drink alcohol. In December I still ran half marathons with an average heart rate of close to 160 and in January I run just as hard with an average of around 145. So now I simply run faster at a higher heart rate or very comfortably and yet smoothly at a lower heart rate. If you want to follow some results on Strava, click here.
With that I also immediately explained why this year, just like last year, I will extend my Dry January until at least mid-April. On Sunday, April 16, I can start the Rotterdam Marathon again at the bottom of the Erasmus Bridge. I'm not a fan of Lee Towers, but when you're at the start of #demooiste and 'You Never Walk Alone' echoes through the streets of Rotterdam, I even get goosebumps. And believe me, both in the long preparation and after the finish you miss that beer like a toothache. For me the way to turn that old vicious circle into something positive. I am now 57 years old, but fitter than I ever was. And I realize more and more that building that fitness is only promoted and facilitated by the omission of alcohol.
Am I suddenly more Catholic than the Pope? Certainly not! I will probably be able to enjoy a good glass of wine or a foamy tripel sometime. But now I also know that I don't have to, I don't need wine to enjoy food, I can also go crazy without beer and I don't have to think about who is driving back tonight. And the fact that I'm still running PRs 'en passant' gives me such a wonderful feeling of fitness. No trip can beat that!