Heavy Thoughts

I weigh too much.  Or rather, I weigh too much for the racer I want to be.  My weight, 120-122 lbs., is perfectly normal for a 5’3¾” female and make no mistake, I like my body just fine, you won’t hear me say it’s fat because it isn’t.  But it’s time to buckle down to a more runnerly weight if I want to do this thing up right.  I’m not talking scary skinny, just a modest 115, the weight I was at shortly last year during that cool growth spurt.

If I’m to be honest, I’m pretty certain that weight is the main culprit behind my plateau.  I’ve thought this for months, in fact, but didn’t say it aloud because talking about the power of a few lbs sounds silly and minor, but it isn’t.  I’d hoped that continued training would compensate for being heavier, and it probably has by equalizing it, but it hasn’t been effective enough to overtake it.

Despite eating clean – whole grains, tons of veggies and fruit – I snack when I’m not hungry and I’m also portion-challenged.  Worse still, is when my weight is heading downward, I sabotage myself with “I can eat this extra-mammoth bowl of pasta because I’m skinny right now” – which totally counteracts the loss.  It’s a childish diet defiance that amounts to shooting myself in the foot.

So enough with this loosey-goosey crap.  This weekend I plunked down some dough at Amazon for a super fancy Tanita scale that gives body fat% and even body water%, which will be especially useful, given my proclivity for thirsty hospital visits.  Supposedly it’s quite accurate as long as you’re consistent with when you take the readings.

I’m also pretty sure this new scale will reveal my current cheapy scale to be off by a couple lbs (something already suspected from doctor’s office visits).  If so, I’d like to get down to true 115, not the 117 I think I thought my 115 was.

Speaking of potentially false readings, I also own a hand-held bodyfat device from Omron that insists I’m 24% body fat.  I’ve nicknamed it “that piece of shit”.  I found some pictures online of what people look like at different bodyfat percentages (scroll down for the ladies), and please, I’m not 24%.  Anyway, I’m looking forward to what the fancy-schmancy scale says.

I also ordered Matt Fitzgerald’s Racing Weight book and have started back with measuring food and counting calories (1800/day), at least until I get a handle on portion sizes again.  I’ll still have fun food (mmm…pancakes) and enjoy those fab margarita dates with my pal Lara, but no more standing at the kitchen counter with a package of crackers in one hand, a tub of hummus in the other and no idea of how much I’ve just ingested.  Mindful: that’s the word from here on in.

Lastly, I did something entirely prepubescent: I found an Elite Masters racer who’s got a similar body type as mine (albeit thinner), printed off a couple photos of her and stuck them on the wall.  No, she won’t get those sweet kisses I once gave Bobby Sherman, but she reminds me of my goal and confirms that you don’t have to look like a tendon to be in the game, you can be healthy-looking, strong and beautiful.

Some Fun Links
Coupla things.  In a comment to one of his posts, my blogger pal Joe posted links to some cool slow-motion videos of elites at the Boston Marathon so you can see the variety of different landing positions.  From forefoot to heel-striking, everyone’s represented.  Check out the Elite leaders and Ryan Hall.  Also, watch Jack Daniels talking about footstrike.  Good stuff.

Another fellow blogger, Julie, started a new site a few weeks ago about women hoping to qualify at the Olympic Trials, called Houston Hopefuls.  So far she’s interviewed another blogging friend (and super fast chick) Jaymee Marty, along with a couple other fast babes, so take a look-see for some speedy female inspiration.

Oh yeah…my runs

Running was extraordinarily hot this weekend, 90 heat index at 6am, but I took it slow so it wasn’t that bad.  6 on Saturday, 14 on Sunday, rounding out a 59mi week.  The hamstring feels great!  The ankle feels great!  Today was 8mi with 12 x 30/60 hills (museum ramps).  A break in the morning temps made it fabulous.

27 thoughts on “Heavy Thoughts

  1. Karyn

    good luck with the ideal racing weight. i know we talked a bit about this when we were running and i think you have a solid head on your shoulders. i definitely look forward to seeing how those pounds lost translates into not just the races themselves but the actual training too.

    and hahah to that bodyfat device’s nickname. i definitely just snorted :)

  2. SteviH

    Flo-It’s kind of crazy how I look at you and see an awesome runners body. However, I totally relate to the desire to drop in weight.

    We are identical nearly in height and weight, but I am well….”soft”, while you are carrying some smoking muscle. Good luck and let me know how things come along. If I had more will power I would suggest a weight challenge for motivation, bus alas I know I would fail in the first week.

    Good Luck….and 24% is nuts.

    1. Flo Post author

      Stevi, I’m quite sure 10 of your lbs are in your boobs (lucky girl) – that’s good soft, for sure. Wish I had more of that. ;-)

      1. SteviH

        Heck I bet you are right, but as much as I am not interested in bearing a child at this point in time my hips and chest say different.

  3. ESG/Ron

    Nice post, Lard Butt. ;-) Seriously, thanks for an articulate expression of the difference between optimal “life” weight versus “running/racing” weight. The 2-3 extra pounds I’ve been carrying around since Boston are annoying, so I’ve thought about going back to the calorie counter on my iPhone . . . after vacation, that is. LOL

    Cheers, Ron/ESG

    P.S. Your boobs look just fine, at least from here.

  4. Lara

    Phew…you know I’m happy this won’t impede in our occasional margarita happy hour! This week it’s white wine & big salads, I think that’s perfectly acceptable. I need to lose some lbs myself…will make riding up hills a lot easier.

  5. Mark U.

    Agreed regarding the amazing benefit of losing weight in one’s running speed. Doing the numbers I’d found that – presuming I maintained my fitness level and training constant – over a marathon distance I’d be about 1-minute overall faster per pound of fat lost, which my subsequent races generally matched. While I have no familiarity with the Tanita scale that you just bought (I’d be curious to see your review) I also have no confidence in the various electronic body fat measurement devices particularly for the upper body. Pending your Tanita evaluation I feel that the old-fashioned caliper and calculator is probably the best determinant of one’s correct body fat percentage.

    Thanks for linking to the super slo-mo video of the 2010 Boston leaders’ strides! Indeed, the full range of heel to mid-foot to forefoot landing are represented, and by itself challenges the notion that forefoot landing is *automatically* the best!

    Nevertheless, over recent weeks I’ve begun following the Evolution Running DVD recommendations, and find that my somewhat shorter stride, quicker cadence and forefoot landing is less jarring (than my prior slower cadence heel landing stride), and – judged from my exertion level at a given speed on the treadmill – feel that it’s more efficient. I won’t know for sure, though, until I further build-up my running strength using this technique, and test it in Chicago. Who knows? Meanwhile, the videos have definitely got me thinking!

  6. AR

    Hey, we’re about the same size (You’ve got an inch on me and look much better based on the pics you’ve posted! Maybe I need to grow an inch… ;) ).

    And I’ve been this size (approximately) since I was a kid. And I’ve been frustrated by it because the numbers are NEVER want I want them to be. And I’ve yet to figure out how to lose much weight, despite trying a lot of things.

    That said – I’d be interested to see how you do on 1800 calories since for the life of me, if I’m trying to run a decent number of miles? I often can’t get run well on that amount. Which probably explains why I can’t lose weight. ;p

    The Fitzgerald book is one of the better nutrition books I’ve read, though there are a few things I’m not sure I agree with. But one of the things that I like is that at least he gets at the fact that not everyone has the same ideal weight, which is NOT something you always see. That said, try not to fall into the comparison trap because its an endlessly frustrating cycle. (Trust me on this one! Runners – male and female – drive themselves nuts with this kind of thing.) Especially because the longer you’ve been running, the longer your body has had a chance to adapt to it…which I think makes it a bit tougher to loose weight without driving yourself nuts. Your mileage may vary, but that’s been my experience.

    Also regarding the tanita scale: its most accurate in the AM with JUST your feet wet. If all of you is wet, you’ll get a lower reading. If you’ve eaten anything beforehand, it’ll also throw off the reading. In other words, its a good ballpark sort of figure but is still only as accurate as any electronic measure is going to get because its REALLY easy to manipulate the number. (Again, that’s been MY experience. Someone else may beg to differ. ::shrug::)

    1. Flo Post author

      Hey AR, I do fine on 1800, that’s how I lost the weight the first time. But keep in mind, I’m almost 49 years old, so my BMR is less than the rest of you whippersnappers. I’m also very sedentary aside from running, sitting at my computer for most of the day. Thanks for the tip on the scale! Can’t wait to get it.

      1. AR

        Do I still qualify as young being over 30? ;) (I know, its relative…I’ve just heard a lot about the “wall…”)

        Unfortunately I sit in front of a computer all day too. Yet get hungry way too often. Blah.

  7. grapevinerunner

    To put it in a national perspective, the CDC reports that the average American woman in her 40’s is 5’4” and 168 lbs. And of course that means that half the women are heavier than that. Scary!

  8. Joe Garland

    As to Fitzgerald’s book, its first two pages say that Armstrong became a different rider after he lost weight. There is no proof that he lost weight (I think he was different for other reasons) yet it sets up the entire book, i.e., lose weight/get faster. (It permeates the LetsRun interview.) But the nutritional guidance is worthwhile.

    As has been said, I think weight is quite individual. I’m quite heavy but it’s the way I’m built.

    GrapeVine: Only if the stats are the median.

    And Karpo, thanks for the link (and comment).

    1. grapevinerunner

      Joe, you’re right, average may or may not be in the middle of the pack (median is the middle). Realized my error after hitting send (I hate that!). In this case, good chance a few really large people may skew the stats a bit. Scary part remains…. Americans are reeeaallly fat.

  9. Joe Garland

    I took a look at Fitzgerald’s book and should clarify (and I apologize as well for becoming rather judgmental here). Although he begins with the Armstrong story and says there are “countless” other elites who have similar tales of improved performance from “changing their bodies,” but only cites Dara Torres who appears to have gained muscle mass. Otherwise, though, Fitzgerald says again and again that there is no universal “optimum” weight. It depends on the individual. How do you figure it? You run your best race, which he admits is kind of circular.

    At bottom, when you separate the psychological (I think I’m too heavy) from the physical, he seems to be positing that one should eat right. Eat smart, eat right. He says that elites vary in their diets more than they vary in their training, and his “typical” meals for various pros bear this out. I agree with AR that this is his core message.

    For you, Flo, you have a weight that worked for you. That’s what you should aim for.

    1. Flo Post author

      It’s very much on a per person basis, no doubt about that. FYI, 115 is still in the “normal” range for a non-athletic female, so it’s a generous weight if we’re talking “race weight”. I also have a very small frame (wrists are 5.5″), so really it ain’t no big deal.

      Back in my 20s when I went from being a bigger girl to a little thing, I got down to 106 for a while, but I like to eat too much to ever do that again. Plus at my age, you can’t get too skinny or you look haggard. Vanity wins. :D

      I’m looking forward to seeing the Elite’s menus in the book, just out of curiosity.

  10. Runnermatt

    I always thought I could squeeze a bit more performance out of a lighter frame but I found that this spring (when I was at my heaviest- probably ever) I ran very well- approaching the speed of my lighter years. I had been doing more core so maybe there is more muscle there. I can’t help but wonder if the speed vs. weight is more of a bell curve when you add in muscle.

    What I wonder is at one point the weight loss becomes detrimental?

    1. Flo Post author

      Muscle’s definitely good but consider the weights of Elites (the USATF bio page is fascinating) they are what they are, no “extra poundage allowance” for muscle. I, too have been working on core, so I look better at this weight than I did last year, but it’s still extra weight. The only way you can know about when it becomes detrimental is by trying it and seeing. The other thing is, when I lost weight last year (around 10lbs), I felt weak at the beginning because I was eating too little, so again…experimentation is key. But if you’re happy with your weight, then don’t change it!

      1. Runnermatt

        as is my usual reply to you- I did a show on this issue back in March of ’08. I referred to the Stillman weight to height ratios with modifiers.

        One thing I did note (that I liked when I re-listened today) was when you are running, you have a sense of how your body feels with regards to weight. If you “feel” the extra weight, you might want to look at losing some.

  11. Ewen

    You have a sensible attitude to it (aside from the elite hero photos on the wall), so that’s great. As Joe has mentioned, different athletes (of the same height) have different ‘ideal’ racing weights. There can be quite a variance, even amongst elite runners. For example, Solinsky is ‘heavy’, as is Mottram (around 70kg) whereas many 5k males are in the 55-60 kg range. Amongst marathoners, de Castella was ‘heavy’ at around 72kg, but that weight was light for his frame and musculature. So yeah, ideal weight for yourself is a good goal.

    I had a bit of a laugh at the portion-challenged line. That’s why (most) French women aren’t overweight – they eat rich and ‘fattening’ foods, but in very small portions ;) From what I’ve seen, the average US portion is humungous!

    1. Flo Post author

      OMG, about US portion sizes, you got that right! Quantity is a common selling point at cheap to midprice restaurants…”value” they call it. Doesn’t do us any favors, that’s for sure.

  12. Rebecca

    Okay. I’ve been avoiding the scale all summer, so I guess now it’s “time.” Ugh. Dread. Trying to lose weight stinks. And… thanks for the links! I can’t wait to check them all out!

  13. Julie

    As you know, I have struggled to lose fat since I started competing semi-seriously a few years ago. My lowest weight was around 127 (on a 5’5″ muscular frame) and I felt I ran well at that weight.

    I’m again trying to shed fat, although it’s difficult as I suspect I fall somewhere inbetween the endo- and mesomorph body type. I can build muscle like nobody’s business, but losing fat is extremely difficult. If I cut calories severely (which I tried for many months in 2007, eating around 1200 cals a day while exercising twice a day), I’ll lose muscle and hold onto fat. I am a metabolic freak of sorts.

    But I’m hoping that since I’m running relatively low mileage coupled with boatloads of intensity (and making sure I get adequate recovery, which I didn’t last year), my body will respond to the new demands and get on board with the fat loss.

    Since this is the year in which I am doing everything differently, my approach to weight loss is to:
    1. Track every damned thing I eat (in an iPod app called Tap and Track) and don’t go over the calories allotted for the day.
    2. Stop weighing myself. Whether I was up, down or the same, the number on the scale affected my behavior in a counterproductive way — and often affected my mood for the entire day.
    3. Eat little “meals” every 1.5-2 hours. I get hungry that often even if I eat normal sized regular meals. So breakfast, lunch and dinner portions are now half what I used to eat.
    4. Get on the wagon. I’m allowed two beers a week — and I have to allot for them in my calorie counting. That’s it. I buy really nice beer so I can enjoy them.

    I’ll weigh myself sometime in September, probably. If I haven’t lost significant fat by then I’ll go see a sports nutritionist. (Tracking everything is a somewhat defensive move, so that when nutritionist doesn’t believe that I don’t eat garbage or high calorie foods, I can give him or her the complete record.) In the meantime, my clothes are getting looser, so I think it’s working.

    Good luck.

    Also, those fat measurement devices are junk. At your current level, you can see if you’re losing body fat anyway.

    Also, thanks for the Houston Hopefuls shoutout. :)

    1. Flo Post author

      I agree that with your new lower-mileage higher-intensity workouts you will undoubtedly gain more muscle and lose the fat. Very excited for you. And damn girl, you were on 1200 calories? Of course you lost muscle, that’s the very least a non-athletic person could diet safely with – our BMR is 1200 and that’s just breathing and sleeping – glad you saw the light on that. You’re going to see some amazing gains this year, between the new coach and the tighter body, I can’t wait to follow your progress!

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