Thursday, March 10, 2011

Fine Line

Before I get to today's post ... I thought I was getting "faster", but I just read Kara Goucher's post from yesterday and she said she did a 10 mile tempo run at 5:22/mile, and then 7 miles after that - as part of 120 mile week!!!  Safe to say she's "Chicked" a few dudes! You go girl!
WARNING: Sorry in advance to go all "chickish" on you today with body talk! But like most runners, I struggle with the ideal body weight for running.  Drop too many LB's and I get light-headed at the end of a run or during the day after my morning workout.  But eat enough to have adequate energy for a week of 75 miles, crunches, planks, 3 upper body workouts, and 2 leg workouts ... and I gain 4-5 pounds, which slows me down (at least psychologically).  It seems like it's a constant balancing act!

Me before my last marathon ...  yes I look just like Evander Holyfield!

Amby Burfoot talks about the "ideal running weight" in this 2007 Runner's World article.,7120,s6-242-304--11903-0,00.html  Amby makes the case that less weight = faster running ... to an extent, but also focuses on Body Mass Index (BMI), and the type of race you are running.

According to Bob and Shelly Glover, in "The Competitive Runner's Handbook," runners need to have a "light chassis, strong engine, and most of all, good health."  I've always felt like I have a "strong engine" and am fairly healthy, but my chassis seems to be the problem. 

I'm not HUGE, but fairly big for a runner who usually finishes in the top 10-20% of  my races.  It seems I'm usually about 20-30 lbs heavier, and a little taller than most of the runners finishing around me.  I'm 6'2 and typically about 181, with about 20% body fat.  But that's by closely watching what I eat and running everyday.  When I'm in a rest period, or not racking up mileage, I can EASILY drift to 190 without even trying.  For years I stayed at about 205 which felt pretty healthy.  But I feel like I'm fastest & fittest when I'm 178-180 ... that's about a skinny as I can get.

The Glover's also offer this formula for "Ideal Running Weight" ... For men it is two times your height in inches plus 10 percent. Your range should be about 13 to 15 lbs. above or below this target. For women the target weight formula is slightly different. The baseline is 5 feet 6 inches and 120 lbs. For every inch above this height, add 3 lbs., and for every inch below, subtract 3 lbs. Your range should be about 10 to 13 lbs. above or below this target. These figures are only estimates, based on competitive runners.

I'm not sure I agree with this formula.  For me that would be a weight of 165-170.  Man, I just don't think I can get down that low.  I would look like a skeleton.  Like Ryan Hall or something (no offense Ryan) ... but maybe being that skinny is the key to running faster!

I also notice a big difference when I'm working out my upper body a lot.  Adding muscle seems to add weight as well.  Not just purely from the muscle, but added  muscle seems to add fat, at least in small amounts.

I guess what frustrates me the most is it seems like it shouldn't be this difficult.  There are a ton of different theories on more carbs vs. more protein.  Meat vs. veggie.   For me it's all pretty confusing.  To be at my best, both in performance and energy level, I have to scrutinize everything I consume, which can be a little overwhelming.  Some people say, "Just ignore the scale!", which is probably good advice.  But I'm not a disciplined eater and feel like I have to "micromanage" it.  Plus, I have a few specific upcoming personal running goals (that I'll share with you if I make them) that will require me being in better shape.  But I know the whole weight/body fat/BMI thing is all relative to the type of athlete you want to be.

Okay, back to being a dude!  I guess in the grand scheme of things it really doesn't matter.  For years I struggled to get down to where I am now.... and we're really just talking about a few pounds.  It's just that I'm always looking for a way to run more efficiently, and thus more effectively.  But I guess the most important thing is that I'm running!
... be great today! 


  1. I run my best in the described range. Now, is that because of the mileage required to get to that weight? Anything over it tends to be baggage for me, not the useful lean tissue needed for endurance running.

  2. I find myself constantly worried about weight. Unfortunately I have never been on the light headed side because I had drop too many lb's though :)

  3. My husband is 6' and I can't imagine him much below 175 - he was really lean at that height and weight...but he felt "small" - He didn't feel strong at all...he didn't like it.

    6'2" at 165 seems sooo light. But I guess you could always try it and see how it improves your running.

    Are you sure you're 20%BF at your current weight and height? It doesn't seem like you are...

  4. Great post, alot of info

    I do not believe in BMI at all, personally, I think it was invented for insurance agencies to charge people higher rates (a scam in my mind), I personally believe in body fat percentage is a more true measure.

    Makes me wonder, if our idols and magazines, like Runners World or Triathlete, are the reason why we obess over body image, we look at the pros, and they are all super skinny, and we look up to these pros, kinda wish we can race like the pros, I dunno, I kinda think it does, over the fact, we are doing things that are healthy and excercising, racing races that less the 0.2% of the world has done, we should be proud of that

  5. I obsess over my weight all the time but then I am a "chick!" I know where I need to be for my health so that is what I am working towards.

  6. I tend toward the muscular side so that formula for me would put me well on the emaciated side. It is an ongoing battle if one lets it be. I just don't care enough I guess.

  7. BDD – much of what we do has very little to do with health. No one races a marathon or ironman honestly believes that these endeavors are health.

    45 – 60 minutes a day of moderate activity with a moderate diet is healthy.

    That being said, I believe a good rule of thumb on the run is every pound lost is worth 2 seconds a mile. I’m trying to gain 10 - 20 seconds right now.

  8. I still need to come down 20# to get to the top range of that scale, which is my goal for my fall marathon. I'd really like to see what my potential will be at that weight...great post!

  9. I am so glad to read this post. I am going to pass it on!

    I can't help comparing, but my hubby is 6' and 200- built like a football player..My dad in his 20's was 6' and 140.

    My point is, I think there THE ideal racing weight for THE ideal runner....and then there is individual ideal racing weight. YOUR ideal racing weight.

    Some are just built to carry a lighter load- like you said about the chassis. We just work with the Chassi we are given. Sounds to me, like you know about what your chassis can get down to and are getting pretty close.

    Also...SO hard for men to Strength train and NOT gain weight.

  10. According to that one article, at 5'9", I should be the very max. That would be crazy skinny!

    I think with weight, the difference lies in whether you are an elite or a competitive. Elites have to maintain scary skinny bodies. Competitive runners, like you, should be at their racing weight, but not scary skinny. You have to be healthy and happy :)

  11. Thanks for this post Jim! I feel like I am always one of the "bigger" or "heavier" runners when I'm at the starting line... In just about every race, I'm considered an "athena". It honestly makes me feel pretty crappy. But at the same time, I know I'm pretty much a brick house (I used this to teach my students about metaphors this week- Mrs. M is a brick house.) and I know I'm strong. No doubt if I lost some weight, I could probably run faster. but I'm not to a point where I want to be so crazy about what I eat...

  12. Great post. I must admit it is refreshing that guys think about these topics too. I think a lot depends on build. My husband is 6'2" and is 155-160 and eats everything in sight. Personally, I don't agree with the Glover's formula...pretty much because the last time I weighed 123 (I'm ~5'7") was in 6th grade. I don't think I could go that low without landing myself in the hospital. I say stay healthy, enjoy the run, and eat well.

  13. I love this post!! I LOVE that book!!! I referenced it today too!!!

    Do you have any other books you think I might like?

  14. I have the book by the Glovers. it's good stuff, even someone who's not necessarily competitive like me can gain (and has gained) a lot from it.

    Those ideal body weight formulas are crazy. My ideal running weight would be in the 150s. That's ridiculous. I have a brother who is about the same height as me (5-10), he doesn't run but is in excellent shape, very fit and tone and he weighs in the high 160s. He doesnt have 10 pounds to lose, and neither would I... I mean, I do have 10 pounds to lose now but not if... you know what I mean :)

  15. My ideal running weight has me at 145. I haven't been that light in 20 years. I have been stuck at 168 for the past 3 weeks.

  16. Welcome to what consumes my daily thoughts... Seriously. I feel like I have to be a chemistry major to understand all the calculations that are out there. It's a constant battle for trying to find the ideal weight for racing vs. living and being happy... :)

  17. Well good thing I never want to be competitve...ain't no chance I'll ever get to that weight!

  18. Aw, man. I'm not at IBW. No wonder I can't sustain less than a 9 minute mile.

  19. Just found your blog! Good luck in Boston. I hope to be able to make it one day. My mom lives close to Missoula, I had that marathon running around in my mind! No pun intended :-)

  20. Nice post :)

    I'm within the so called "ideal running weight" and my goal would put me spot on, but it definitely depends on the person I think.

    Vanity wise though, I do like to have a little more "shape" than most of the elite runners.

  21. You said it. The most important thing is that you are running and...really running very fast! Also, you say are are "fairly" healthy. I think you need to give yourself more credit than that. I don't know many that train as much as you do. Interesting blog post.

  22. Excellent post. I struggle with weight because one of the reasons I run is so I can eat. I'm not running 75 miles a week but the 30 miles means that I should be able to eat the homemade cookie or have a glass of wine. I haven't been strict with this running training cycle and my weight is higher than last year but I probably also won't binge as badly as the last marathon either.

  23. I came over from Small Town Runner. Interesting formulas. I always wonder about what weight would give me the best running advantage. The women's formula would put me at 99-123 pounds. I haven't been there since Jr. High... My BMI would range 17.5-21.8. Either way, I don't think I am ready to make the committment to get close to those weights. For now, my goal of 130 seems appropriate. Thanks for the post!


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