I was talking to my grandmother (she’s 98 1/2) on the phone the other day and she mentioned that I look too skinny. Sweet (I thought to myself)! As Spring approaches (maybe), I am trying to get back into racing shape. This begs the question, what is the ideal weight for racing?
Clearly, I’m not the only one who has thought about this topic:
In fact, Matt has a Racing Weight Calculator on his website.
As a general rule, runners move most efficiently when they’re at the low end of what’s considered a healthy body mass and body-fat percentage. “Running is really just a form of jumping. You can’t move forward without moving up, and the more you have to lift against gravity, the more energy it requires. Imagine running with an extra 5 pounds strapped around your waist.” – Matt Fitzgerald
BMI, a Performance Parameter for Speed Improvement found the optimal BMI for 800m runners is between 20 and 21, while it is between 19 and 20 for male 10,000m and marathon runners (my BMI is 21.5).
If you do lose [unnecessary] weight, how much faster can you get?
2 seconds per mile?
1 minute per pound for a marathon?
Of course, the answer is, it depends.
According to Fitzgerald, impaired performance is usually the first sign that a runner has dipped into dangerous territory. “It’s the canary in the coal mine – your body’s signal that it’s under too much stress.”
To keep your weight loss from becoming detrimental, the American Council on Exercise recommends maintaining a BMI that stays at or above the normal weight threshold of 18.5 and a body fat percentage above 14 percent for women and 6 percent for men. According to Rasa Troup, a certified specialist in sports dietetics and a former Olympian, some elites dip below these guidelines, but it’s not recommended without careful monitoring.
According to Fitzgerald, the time to prioritize weight loss is the four to nine weeks before you start ramping up your workouts, while you’re building your base. “You can’t maximize fitness gain and weight loss simultaneously.”
In closing, the best practice is to improve your diet by making it healthier. This generally means more vegetables and fruit and less refined sugars, meat and dairy. You don’t want to simply restrict calories while you continue training – you will get a stress fracture (or worse).
For more on this, check out Runner’s World.
Have you found your ideal racing weight? How did you do it?