The other day, my friend Cindi blogged about a worksheet she had been playing with that had been created based upon Jack Daniels training principles. It looked so fun to plug in your best race times, get equivalents, training paces, etc. She kindly e-mailed me a copy and I started playing with it over the weekend. Fun, right? Yes! I love geeking out on numbers and thinking about what could be possible. Well, it was fun pouring over the numbers until I hit the section on weight.
Why? Because essentially, according to this spreadsheet, the author thinks I need to lose THIRTY pounds to hit my best race times. The spreadsheet suggests that long distance runners should weigh 15% under their ideal BMI weight to run their best. WHAT?!
Seriously? No way. I read it 4 different times. But yup, I should drop thirty pounds. Thirty. 30. THIRTY! I was shocked. I Googled around a bit too and saw this same percentage (actually I saw 15-20% underweight) thrown around in support of an ideal race weight.
Now, for those of you who haven’t met me in real life, I am at a healthy weight. I don’t think if you ran into me you would consider me overweight by any stretch. That said, I am certainly not underweight like many of the runners – particularly marathoners and Ironmen racers – that I know. I also fully understand there is a big difference between being a healthy weight generally and dropping those extra last lbs to get into ideal race weight. In fact, I am commonly heard saying during training that I have to drop a couple of pounds to get to an ideal race weight. To me, that would be 5 or 8 pounds (that I always put on during the month I rest post-marathon). Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t.
This is in large part because I don’t diet or pay too much attention to my weight because I had an eating disorder in high school and early college. So I know better than to focus too much on it.
But I certainly want to stack the deck as favorably as I can to have a great race. And I know extra poundage slows you down. So each season, I will be extra conscientious to avoid the candy dish at the office (this is actually hard for me), skip out on adult beverages, and opt for more fruits and veggies. One season I even tracked what I ate for a month through caloriecount.com. That was a very interesting experiment because I really learned how many calories some foods had, and the nutritional value of others (it doesn’t just track calories – lots of other nifty things too like sodium, vitamins, minerals, etc.).
Needless to say, however, this season I will not be attempting to drop 30 pounds, no matter how desperately I want a shiny new marathon PR (which I do). In fact, I think that would be ridiculously unhealthy if I was 30 pounds lighter. These types of percentages can’t possibly be a one-size-fits-all type of number.* I also think it is dangerous to throw percentages like that out there – particularly for young runners and beginning runners. There are better ways to judge prime fitness than simply a number on the scale.
Tell me what you think. Do you go by the numbers, or how do you determine when you are at your best race weight? For me, I am definitely more confident when I feel rock hard, strong, and fast. It is not a reading from any old scale. Please weigh in with your thoughts (pun intended). :)
* The chart also said my peak potential for the marathon is 2:15:25 (2:19:17 age graded). Look out Kara Goucher. Ha!