Monday, January 21, 2013

Racing Weight ...

What is MORE important for speed, Fitness or Weight?

The above chart shows my times in the four 5k's I have raced and what my weight was on race day. Admittedly, my fitness has improved over the years but my weight has also dropped. So that brings us to the question of what is more responsible for the drop in times and the positive gains in speed - The weight or the fitness? The answer is probably a bit of both and the chart above makes the case for each side of the debate.

BUT, If you asked my opinion ...

I'd say dropping the pounds is more crucial to enhanced speeds then overall fitness. And I am not alone in this thought process:

Matt (author of the excellent book, Racing Weight) and I could be completely wrong and overall fitness could be the ultimate trump card but we will find out on February 2nd in an upcoming 5k I am racing. My fitness is very average right now and nowhere close to the levels of 2011 & 2012. However, my weight is as low as it has ever been as an adult, wait for it ... 144.2 lbs.

So what we learned today is that my unscientific test of Weight vs Fitness is going to be forever answered in two weeks. Good, moving on ...

Surely you are now wondering, "How'd you lose the weight to get down to 144.2lbs?"

I will try and break it down. If you are a regular reader, you'll probably recall that I was really sick back in   September and October with a virus. After getting over the sickness I ballooned up to 163lbs and decided it was time to make some changes to the diet and went and saw a nutritionist. My BF% was over 17% (up from 11-12% in August) and I looked flabby, especially in the mid-section.

The nutritionist devised an eating schedule that included cutting out fatty proteins, adding tons of veggies, consuming water like a camel, and eating 5-6x per day. I also choose to dramatically limit my Wheat consumption (including beer). It has worked. I have not been perfect and actually had a couple of relapses like when we traveled to Memphis and when I went to Pittsburgh around Christmas but for the most part I have followed the plan and it has worked.

My BF% is under 10% now and I can really feel the difference in my running and cycling and will be entering the 2013 at a perfect Racing Weight for the first time.

Do you agree with me and believe weight trumps fitness or do you reside in the fitness trumps all camp?

Thanks for Reading,



  1. I think you're onto something. I have a 55-yr. old friend who is actually getting faster after years of racing. When you ask her the difference, she says it's the 13 pounds she dropped over the past year. I'm trying to like heck to drop some myself right now--I want that VO2 max boost! At my age, this includes increasing the strength work b/c I am fighting a battle at this stage to maintain lean muscle mass. Seriously, just don't get older!

    1. I have been thinking about weight vs fitness vs speed for a couple of years now and have read a gazillion articles on the subject. I always thought weight was a key factor but never realized how key until recently. When I was in the mid-150's I thought this was my "best/lowest" possible weight. Then I started going through all my logs since 2009 and the thing that stood out was on every occasion a PR or fast race happened my weight was at the low end of the 150's.

      With this data it became obvious that I needed to really focus on body composition and that is when Annie and I found a nutritionist.

  2. I gave up drinking 4 months ago. Weight loss? Zero
    I totally agree with weight loss. I am 195 and would love to race at 180 (or lower?).
    I am not sure how I am going to get there but I do know that the new full sleeve wetsuit I bought will not stretch out to a 195 pounder so I better get my act together.
    Maybe I will go vegan like Jason......

    1. Jason is vegetarian, BIG difference! You could do that to. Annie and I do not eat a lot of meat anymore and when we do it is very lean and small portions (5-6oz, Turkey Breast, chix breast and low fat fish). Give it a try!

  3. I completely agree with the importance of race weight and speed. It just makes sense... you are carrying around less and can move your body faster. Plus the impact on your body seems less.

    See, I'm gaining now so that when I have this baby and lose all the weight, I'm super fast. :)

  4. I agree and I have my goal weight to hit by May. I am really amping up the water intake, cutting cokes out and really trying to do my best to eat smartly!

    1. Cutting DOWN cokes? Need to cut them out completely buddy!

  5. We could write our own book with the changes that we have made in the past few months but clearly it is weight. This much is obvious and I will not debate it with anybody.

    The less you weight the less you carry the less stress on your joints = faster recovery. Faster recovery = more training. More training = faster time. PERIOD. END OF STORY.

    I am down to 146 from 148 just two weeks ago and I am doing what you are doing in the water department. I don't eat meat so that is not a problem but cutting out the wheat was a HUGE game changer. I haven't been perfect either but it is so much easier to recover from the slip up than ever before.

    I have also changed when I eat my carbs as you know. Tons of carbs in the morning just after my workout and then trimming down by dinner time. I find I am more in tune with my hunger queues which means I am eating when I am hungry and only then. That has also played a huge role in eliminating unnecessary weight.

    Oh, and my BF% is now at a slim like 8.6%. This shit works if you just do it!

    1. Very true Jason. Annie and I are going through 4-5 cartons of egg whites per week - it is ridiculous! But yeah, it works. I cannot wait to see how it goes when full IM training begins. Going to have to bump up the carbs and overall calorie intake to fuel the workouts but will also focus on not taking in too much junk in excess gels and sports drink.

  6. There's plenty of opinions out there. On boxing day I was browsing the sports shelf at Chapters and came across Waterlogged by Timothy Noakes who says that your finish times are dependant on how much you drink. So if you're writing a book, you need to have an opinion, but I would suggest that you weigh less because you worked harder to become more fit. You gain pounds in the off season because you aren't working out so much. Matt needs a well-designed study if he's going to be able to factor out the inherent correlation between fitness and weight.

    1. No doubt - it is hard to sort through all the ideas out there and find something solid. Sometimes trial and error using yourself as a guinea pig is the only way to get it done.

  7. while it is "not all about the weight"... it is probably the most important factor.

    my evidence:
    2009 3:43 almost perfect preperation and well executed to boot (weight 187)

    2010 3:37 missed a bunch of tempo runs..... raced like a dip$hit (wight 179)

  8. So not being a fat ass makes you faster??? haha!

    I'm still holding onto my winter weight. :-/ Hoping to drop it when it starts to warm up. I'll just live with being slow until then.

  9. While I agree that weight is a big factor, I think fitness is crucial. I mean, if you kept you weight constant and and let your fitness drop you may not be making your times. Actually, I really believe its both... hah, that's a cop out answer!

  10. I can't tell you how much better I feel and how much faster I am with less weight. I TOTALLY agree!

  11. I agree that weight is a factor. I keep trying to get a 5K PR in February when I'm carrying the most weight. I'd say my fitness is about equal so I blame it on the weight.

  12. I think fitness gets you to a certain point and then it's all about weight. I have a friend who is super fit and can put out ridiculous watts but being 200 pounds can't climb like a less powerful but lighter rider - when not doping, cyclists live and die by power/weight ratios. I've also read studies that show how incremental weight decreases allow for more running speed at a pretty shocking multiple.

    Racing Weight is a great book.

  13. I think you are absolutely CORRECT. Being leaner will get us to our best/fastest race times (within limits). Last year I blew away all my run and bike PRs - at age 45 - and I attribute that in large part to being 4-5 lbs lighter. It's not a huge difference, but enough to matter. Thanks for the reminder. I still have a few holiday lbs to go.

  14. I like talking about this, it is all about the science, for every pound on your frame, you have to use one watt more of energy to sustain a certain pace. For instant in 2009 for had to use 10 more watts of energy to sustain the same pace as as in 2011 when you weighed 10 pounds less. So in 2011, you were lighter and didnt have to use the same amount of energy.

    I should find that article I read, it was by Friel or Byrns

  15. looking forward to the report and result from the unscientific yet scientific test!
    I am one week away from being 1/3 thru plan (Fitz level 7 baby! you gonna do it again for IMFL?) so 7 weeks in and I have lost the added 13lbs thru training and about 75% eating correctly. But I have been at this weight now for basically three weeks already, its the same weight I did the last two IM's at. If I want to lose another 8 to 10lbs it looks like I will have to ratchet up to 97% eating right. Looks like the real hard work is about to begin! (after a Vegas recovery week:)

  16. Are we not looking at the fact that there will a point of diminishing returns? I'd say both come into play. You will find a point at which your weight is too low. You will not be faster because you are skinnier. You will just be super fucking skinny. And tired. I'd say that everyone has a weight at which point their fitness is most easily "showcased," if you will. Please don't everyone run out and turn all Dachau on us for the sake of running fast.

    1. Of course a point of diminishing returns has to be accounted for, I am not there yet, close, actually just a few pounds away. But most AGers are nowhere close to this even becoming an issue. Most, especially us Americans, are fat.

  17. This was an interesting read! I'm looking forward to your results. You better PR or I will be very disappointed in you. no pressure coach :)

  18. My diet starts Tuesday...I can't wait until I can see my ribs through my pecs, that's when I know I'm at race weight.

  19. I totally agree with you - it goes for the bike to I think.

  20. So how'd it go? I'd definitely say dropping weight helps, especially in the longer races. I always try to imagine carrying an extra 5 pound "weight" around and how much of a hindrance that would be.

  21. We should have another test case in three weeks...
    Im way behind on bike hours and have much lower bike fitness due to no spring here

    but over the last week I am hitting goal weight...

    see you in a few weeks!


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