Monday, March 28, 2011

Build muscle, burn calories

My husband and I recently celebrated our 15th anniversary at an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic. When we honeymooned at such a place, I came home 10 pounds heavier. As previously established in this column, I gain weight just by looking at food and I exercise, among other reasons, so I can eat. Though I have been through many quirky food phases, I have never been on a diet. I simply enjoy food too much.

So, in an effort to avoid piling on the pounds in the "all you can eat and drink" environment, I packed my running shoes and goggles and planned to stay as active as possible on vacation. With such noble visions in my head, we set off for our tropical paradise.

From the moment I set foot in the Dominican, all thoughts of exercising vanished as I reveled in the warmth and sunshine of the tropics. The sanctuary-themed resort, with its flowing white curtains and incense-scented air, inspired feelings of peace and tranquility rather than energy and motivation.

In honor of our anniversary, we were upgraded to a villa that included 24-hour room service and a stocked mini-bar and, thus, began our campaign of all-inclusive indulgence sans exercise.

We enjoyed breakfasts of made-to-order omelets and freshly baked pastries. Lunches and dinners were festivals of seafood, sauces, appetizers and side dishes, and were always followed by rich desserts. The frothy, beach cocktails began flowing at noon and, for happy hour, we drank beer on our private deck and feasted on nachos. During the five days we were there, we managed one long walk and played one game of pingpong. My running shoes and goggles never left the suitcase.

When, sadly, it was time to return to the real world of cold and snow and chores and regular workouts, I dreaded stepping on the scale. I don't make a habit of weighing myself regularly, but I do own a scale so I can keep tabs on my weight. With just eight weeks to go before my first triathlon of the season, I was terrified I'd find myself carrying an extra ten pounds on my frame.

To my surprise and delight, the scale hadn't budged! Despite the excessive calories and lack of exercise, I didn't gain a single pound on vacation. I have written before about my scale being "stuck" no matter what I do, but I was shocked to escape unscathed this time. While I'm certain a regular lifestyle of such indulgence would quickly catch up with me, I've decided to credit this short-term free pass to the regular strength training I've added to my workouts over the past six months. Since muscle tissue burns more calories than fat, even when you're at rest, I'm hoping it's extra muscle that helped me torch the additional calories even when I wasn't exercising.

Whatever the reason, I am happy to have enjoyed a guilt-free week of relaxation and indulgence, but you can bet I will be adding extra reps and sets to my strength-training routines in the weeks ahead.

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