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Is There a Perfect Weight for Running Fast?

Originally appeared at: http://therunningbug.co.uk/training/food-and-weight-loss/b/weblog/archive/2012/10/12/is-there-a-perfect-weight-for-running-fast.aspx#.UHgKHqKFY6w.twitter

There’s no escaping it, you won’t see many overweight elite runners. We knowrunning helps you lose weight, but how much weight, and what sort of weight, do you need to lose in order to run faster? And is there a perfect weight for the best running performance? Fiona Bugler finds out.

The more you train, the more likely you are to lose weight, and if you train with a plan, and an eye on your goal (ie to be a better runner) you can boost your lean muscle mass, and your VO2 max (the less weight you carry around, the more miles per gallon you get from your oxygen supplies). This means you are more efficient and can become what Rory Coleman, a Running Performance Coach, ultra runner and extreme marathoner, calls “a lean, mean, running machine.”

However, if you lose weight quickly and without getting strong, you also run the risk of lowering your muscle mass, reducing your immunity, lowering your glycogen stores and your levels of hydration – all of which will have a negative affect on your running.

Read our article on running with eating disorders to find out more.

Unfortunately, amongst runners, eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa are more common than in the general population, as they often walk a tightrope between healthy and unhealthy in the quest for faster times. Read Julie’s honest and open blog about her eating disorder.

Theories and formulas on this subject are as varied as there are runners.

Here’s just five tips on what makes the perfect running weight:

1. Serpentine coach, Frank Horwill, lists the weights of successful runners and suggests that an elite runner should be between 10 and 15 per cent lighter than the median. For a 6ft man this would be under 11 stone.

2. According to Joe Henderson, for every pound you lose you will gain around two seconds a mile. So if you lose 10lb you’ll gain 20 seconds. Running a marathon with 10lb off could take nine minutes off your time!

3. For a handy online resource where you can check out how losing weight will make you faster, have a look at the Flyer Handicap Calculator, devised by a runner and physiologist from the university of Ohio.

4. Rory Coleman runs the Marathon Des Sables (MDS) with a back-pack carrying 6.5kg extra, and so has made analyzing excess weight a fine art. “Every extra kilo (2.2lb) will add on 25 minutes to your marathon time,” he claims.

5. The perfect running weight is one that fluctuates according to your training and racing season. Many elites have a race weight and a normal weight. Coleman says his body weight varies between 78 and 84 kilos. “I allow my weight to drop enough to take into account the 6.5kilos I’ll be carrying in races such as the MDS,” he says.

Need to get in shape? Here’s how to do it safely for your best running performance:

  • Include resistance training. Fat is dead weight but if you create more lean muscle you can be slim enough to run, and more efficient, too. Running-specific resistance training will boost lean muscle mass. “Try box jumps, walking lunges with weights, and core work,” suggests The Running Bug’s Personal Trainer, Matt Shore.
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