You’ve probably been deafened in the past by colleagues loudly announcing they’re giving up booze for #DryJanuary and, if you haven’t given it a go yourself, you likely rolled your eyes. But as far as bandwagons go this is not a bad one to jump aboard and, if you choose to take on the challenge, you’ll be reaping more rewards than most as a runner. Here’s why:
You will run better
Thirty-one days of booze-free early nights? You’re going to be laughing when you turn up at your club sessions bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Alcohol affects our ability to exercise by reducing the activity of key hormones that play an important role in our ability to perform and also our recovery. Alcohol likewise reduces the body’s ability to absorb and store nutrients, vitamins and minerals, leaving you feeling less energised. “For runners one of the biggest problems is that alcohol reduces the function of B vitamins,” says Women’s Running Fitness Editor and PT Anne-Marie Lategan. “These vitamins are important in converting carbohydrates into energy.”
Alcohol is exceptionally high in calories – a large glass of white wine equates to around 160 calories – more than two chocolate biscuits! As you lose pounds you’ll be putting less pressure on your joints, muscles and connective tissue as you run. You’ll also find yourself running with better posture and technique, helping you to run more efficiently. Moreover, you’ll be helping to reduce your risk of developing heart disease, among other health problems. “When your body breaks down alcohol it is converted into fat and is transported via the bloodstream and stored in the liver,” says Anne-Marie Lategan. “This raised fat level in your bloodstream increases your risk of developing heart disease.”
You’ll boost your health
According to Alcohol Concern, the national charity which coined ‘Dry January’ back in 2012, with its inaugural campaign, just one alcoholic drink a day can increase the risk of developing cancer – and the risk increases with every drink. Long-term health risks associated with alcohol misuse also include high blood pressure, stroke, pancreatitis, liver disease, depression, dementia, sexual problems and infertility. Taking a month out will help you to take a step back and consider these health implications more seriously. You’ll be supporting your immune system, too. Long-term alcohol misuse and regular drinking can weaken your immune system, making you more vulnerable to serious infections and infectious diseases. Ditch the alcohol and you’ll be helping your body ward off illness.
An extra few hours of shut-eye a night will also help to boost your immunity. We all know that alcohol disrupts our sleep patterns, preventing us from falling into a deep sleep, resulting in us waking up groggy (and grumpy!), but it can disrupt our immune systems, too. Alcohol-free evenings will not only help you to keep your body’s defences up, but mean you feel better rested both in training and at work.
Start the New Year off right
With our fridges free from buffet food and our training plans firmly stuck on the front of them, many of us are eager to throw ourselves back into training, working towards our 2017 racing goals. But a quick tipple on the odd evening could see you falling into bad habits, shortening your long runs and skipping those mid-week sessions. Start your year off right with a month of fully ticked off training sessions and you’ll be right on track for the rest of the year.
Enjoy more weekend runs
We’ve all gone into work on a Friday morning with high hopes of a parkrun PB on Saturday and a long run under the belt before sunrise on Sunday. An after work glass of vino – or three – later you’re skipping your parkun for a lie in and still feeling the effects on Sunday morning. Get your parkun in the bag and you’re free to enjoy the rest of your day guilt free.
Give something back
If you’re enduring four weekends of red-wine free Sunday roasts, you might as well do it for charity! Alcohol Concern encourages those taking part to raise money and support the charity in tackling the harm caused by alcohol to individuals, families and society. Cancer Research UK also runs a ‘Dryathlon Campaign’, inviting participants to ditch the booze and help fund its life-saving research.
You’ll be surprised at how much you slash your spending – and weekly shopping bill – by giving up booze for a month. What better excuse to treat yourself to a new pair of trainers or, for the more frugal runners, a hot chocolate and piece of cake after a chilly training session? Or how about a nice meal out to beat the January blues?
Change your relationship with alcohol
You may feel a little different when 1 February comes around – in more ways than one. Where your Friday nights used to be spent partaking in a post-work beer, you may find yourself having a film night or doing a yoga class with your partner – and you might want your Friday evenings to stay that way. Whether you’ve discovered a new booze-free activity that you enjoy, or have come attached to your hangover-free Saturday morning runs, it’s likely a ‘Dry January’ will change your relationship with alcohol. Give it a go and kick off a healthier 2017!