Ideal Racing Weight and Body Image

Today is a beautiful taper day. Sleep in until 8:00? Check. Have a big breakfast? Check. Get out of my “Honey-Do List” because I need to stay off my feet? Check. Man there are a ton of benefits to the taper. I love to train, so getting up early and pushing to the red line isn’t a huge chore for me, but something I actually enjoy. But I am going to be honest — sleeping in is awesome. I didn’t even set the alarm this morning. I just woke up right around 7:45, rolled over and closed my eyes again. It really was an epic morning. This afternoon I have a massage with one of the best sports massage people I have encountered in a long, long time. I am not kidding when I say I have to tell her to be gentle with me. Last night I started my pre-race nutrition. I went to Rumbi and had the brown rice and shrimp with a little Jamaican Jerk sauce on it. Shrimp is a great protein source and man do I love brown rice for lots of reasons. That dish really is one of my pre-race favorites.

Remember there are only a couple of days left to enter the “Let’s Kick Cancer” contest. The fundraising is going really well right now and I have all of y’all to thank. Some amazing stories have been shared in the last couple of days. There are a couple that have really moved me. If you need to know the rules, click here for the contest details. If you want to go straight to the donation page, click here.

Racing Weight — Where should you be?

Before we get into this, let me start by saying we all come in different shapes and sizes. Personally, I think as long as you are active and practicing decent nutrition, you shouldn’t worry about what your body looks like. In my opinion, there really is no ideal body type for endurance sports. I hope we can all find a partner that loves us and is attracted to us for the way we are and not what they want us to become.

That being said, if you want to maximize your performance, there is an ideal racing weight. That does not mean we all have to look like we just got done with a 40 day fast. Remember Chris McCormack won Kona back in 2007 at 177 lbs. and his last in 2010 at 175 lbs., so he is no lightweight. What he did was find his ideal racing weight through trial and error. Even Thor Hushovd — who it could be argued that I have a small man crush on — tips the scales at 180 lbs. His results speak for themselves.

I am a huge fan of the book Racing Weight by Matt Fitzgerald. If you want to buy the book, you can click here to buy it from The book approaches the topic from several directions. It explains:

  1. What your ideal racing weight is based on body composition and body fat percentages
  2. Why approaching that weight can improve your performance
  3. How to achieve your goals through a five step long-term plan that will help you achieve sustainable results.

I highly recommend that if you are participating in endurance sports of any type, buy and read this book. It literally will change the way you perceive your weight. Instead of looking at your weight, you examine your body composition. That subtle shift means you will look at your body fat and use that number. The benefit is up to a point, body fat is extra mass that just slows you down. If you cut your body fat down to an optimal level, it is extra speed you are getting out of your body. Free speed is cool. Really cool. No need to buy that bike that is 10 lbs. lighter than the one you currently own — lose the weight and you get the same advantage. Buy the bike and then you are down 20 lbs. Amazing.

For me, my ideal body fat percentage is right around 7.0%. The last time I was there was right before Ironman St. George in 2010. I started that race at 168 lbs. and about 6.8% body fat. I looked skinny and that might have been a couple of pounds light, but I was glad for every pound of fat I had lost while I was on that hilly course. My goal for the Triple Bypass this weekend was to be at 175 lbs. and about 9.0% body fat. When I weighed this morning I was at 178.5 lbs. and 10.2% body fat. I am carrying more muscle right now because of the intervals and climbing I have been doing on the bike. Overall I am happy with my body fat percentage even thought I wish I could have pulled it down just a little more. I did have some really rich food on our Park City vacation last week, so I screwed that one up.

I think this is a very healthy approach to weight maintenance. Focusing on body composition instead of weight helps promote healthy living. As endurance athletes, we can’t cut all calories just for the sake of cutting weight. Having an apple for breakfast and a light lunch does not work for us because you won’t have the energy to complete your workouts. Eating “clean” should be our focus. The RD’s in the house can tell us better how to achieve that goal. My eating goals just include eating a balanced diet that has as little processed food in it as possible. While I do not always achieve that goal (ahh Coke how I love thee), I would say I do at least 85% of the time. If I did it 100% of the time I may go crazy. It is what works for me. If I would have eaten better on vacation last week I would be much closer to my goal.

So buy the book and read it. There is a graphic that I posted a long time ago that I am going to put back up to remind everyone that there is no ideal body type and whatever your’s is, love it and use the tools that you have been given to your advantage…

About the Author

I have been participating in running and triathlons for 10 years and love the feeling that training provides. You may not agree with me, but you know you just can't look away...