Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Low Down on Body Weight for Runners

This is the single best analysis I've seen yet that explains why I've gotten so much faster this past five months. And so much leaner! And it only took me nine (9) marathons to figure it out!

And this is good advice for every single person out, so it is not directed at any one person in particular or individual, especially you, who ever you are! I adore you just the way you are, and always will, no matter what!!

But if you are looking for a way to improve, to run a Personal Best time in a race or qualify for Boston, like someone else we know, it is well worth the read!

Although I am currently a little leg-tired, that is a result of me really pushing my weekly mileage and my pace in the Tempo Runs and the Hill work and in my Race Pace days. I am definitely NOT injured. I just have my nose pushed up againest the edge of Vince's personal performance envelope.

On May 1st, in the Vancouver Marathon, (3:53) I was 203 pounds, and the single biggest change in my ability - having gotten quicker - has come, I fervently belive, from the fact that I am now down to 181 pounds. I can not even begin to tell you on much easier it has been on my legs and on my recovery time.

I guess we'll know in about four weeks time just how much "quicker" I've gotten. Here's hoping 21 pounds translates into 23 minutes or better!

Vince "Boston or Bust" Hemingson


The late Dr George Sheehan, a prolific and highly regarded writer on
distance running, considered that weight relative to height was THE key factor in distance running success. He was also on record as saying: 'I've long since learned never to discuss a man's politics, religion or diet with him'

The subject of adjusting weight to improve performance is a touchy one. When an article on this appeared in a sports journal it brought an indignant reply from a nutritionist: 'It is dangerous to be signifcantly underweight for one's height'. It is also extremely dangerous to be overweight for one's height, a point that seemed irrelevant to her

No man six feet tall and weighing 176lbs (79.8kg) will ever win the London Marathon, and it is unlikely that a woman five feet six inches in height and weighing 130lbs (58.9kg) will ever do so either. Why?

To answer this we must consult Dr Stillman's height/weight ratio table. He fixes the non-active man's average weight for height with a simple formula.

He allocates 110lbs (56.2kg) for the first five feet (1.524m) in height and 5 1/2lbs (2.296kg) for every inch (0.025m) thereafter.

He is harsher with women, giving them 100lbs (45.3kg) for the first five feet and 5lbs (2.268kg) for every inch above this.

Having established the average, he then speculates on the ideal weight for athletic performance, as follows:

Sprinters (100-400m): 21/2 per cent lighter than average (6ft/176lbs - 21/2% = 4lbs)

Hurdlers (100-400m): 6 per cent lighter (or 9lbs)

Middle-distance runners (800m - 10K): 12 per cent lighter (or 19lbs)

Long-distance runners (10 miles onwards): 15 per cent lighter (or 251/2lbs)

Matching the figures to reality

How do these figures compare to past record holders?

Here is a list of some of them:

Emile Zatopek - 5'81/2' (1.740m)/154lbs (69.8kg): same as the average man

Herb Elliott - 5'101/2' (1.791m)/147lbs (66.6kg): 11 per cent below average

Kip Keino - 5'9' (1.753m)/146lbs (66.2kg): 9 per cent below average

Seb Coe - 5'10' (1.778m)/120lbs (54.4kg): over 20 per cent below average

Steve Cram - 6'11/2' (1.867m)/153lbs (69kg): 15 per cent below average

Linford Christie - 6'21/2' (1.89m)/170lbs (77kg): 10 per cent below average

Wendy Sly - 5'51/2' (1.66m)/113lbs (51kg): 11 per cent below average

Yvonne Murray - 5'7' (1.70m)/111lbs (50kg): 18 per cent below average

Sally Gunnell - 5'6' (1.67m)/124lbs (56kg): 5 per cent below average

Ingrid Kristiansen - 5'61/2' (1.68m)/128lbs (58kg): 4 per cent below average

Tatyana Kazankina - 5'31/2' (1.61m)/110lbs (49kg): 6 per cent below average

Greta Waitz - 5'61/2' (1.689m)/110lbs (49kg): 17 per cent below average

There are one or two anomalies in these figures.

For instance, Zatopek, who gained three gold medals in the 1952 Olympics (5K, 10K and marathon) weighs the same as the average man of his height.

And Ingrid Kristiansen, who ran a marathon in 2:21.6, is just below the average weight for her height.

However, note the staggering percentage below the normal for Seb Coe, who broke 12 world records in four years. If we take the average of these 12 world-class athletes, they weigh 10 per cent less than the average person of their height.

So we must conclude from this that Drs Sheehan and Stillman had a point to make of considerable importance.

Many years ago I had an athlete aged 20 who was running about 40 miles a week for the mile event. However his weight/height ratio was that of a non-active person, and his miling progress was limited. He went on a cyling holiday in Europe with the ambitious plan of cycling 100 miles a day for a month. On his return I hardly recognised him. He had lost two stone in weight.

Now, Cooper has postulated that 4-5 miles of steady cycling is physiologically equal to one mile of steady running, so this athlete had been doing the equivalent of 20-25 miles of running a day. More to the point, his mile time took a quantum leap of 16 seconds for the better. This convinced me that an ahlete's weight is something that neither coach nor athlete can ignore

Aim first for a 10 per cent drop

The first man we know of who considered weight-watching to be a relevant factor was Jack Lovelock (NZ) who won the 1936 Olympic 1500m in a world-record time. He was a medical student, and weighed himself immediately after every race (880yds, mile, two miles). He soon discovered that his best racing weight was 9st 61/2lbs (59kg); if he was more than this, he wasn't fit enough, if he was significantly under, he was stressed

Every athlete has a best racing weight which should be elucidated by trial and error. But the starting point for this is to aim for 10 per cent below the average weight for height. It is a long-established fallacy that because one runs every day one cannot be overweight for competition.

We require about 2500 calories a day to exist, and if we run 10 miles a day at a steady pace (able to converse while running) we will burn and require a further 1000 calories. Thus if we consume 5000 calories a day, say, we are in the process of putting on weight!

What's more, if we are big fat-content eaters we can even develop a paunch! (sounds like the old Vince!)

Dr Van Aaken is noted for his LSD (Long Slow Distance) theory. Many thought his views were outlandish, but he coached two world-record holders with his methods.

His view was that distance runners should aim to be 20 per cent below average weight for their height, and to achieve this they should limit their fat intake to 35 grams a day and run a certain mileage daily commensurate with their event in order to burn off calories.

He drew up a mileage table as follows:
400m runner, 4 miles;
800m runner, 6 miles;
1500m runner, 10 miles;
5K runner, 15 miles;
10K runner, 18 miles;
marathoner, 26 miles

Now this may look like a recipe for one-pace running. But he added a significant corollary: three times a week after these outings, run a section of your event at race pace, eg, 1 x 350 for the 400m athlete, 1 x 400 for the 800m runner, 1 x 800 for the 1500m runner, 1 x mile for the 5K specialist, 1 x 2 miles for the 10K runner and 1 x 10K for the marathoner

How to take it off

So weigh yourself without clothes and discover how you shape up to the Stillman table. If you weigh the same as the average person for your height, you can improve your performance dramatically by losing weight.

There will be many who will make excuses for not doing so. One favourite is: 'I'm bigger-boned for my size than the average'.

The truth, according to Van Aaken's anatomical studies, is that if you were to take two men both of six feet in height but one broader than the other, when their bones alone are weighed the difference is not more than six poundsIf you are in the overweight category, this is the procedure to follow:

1. Don't go without food. Every four hours eat meals that include the Basic Four - skimmed milk, lean meat, fruit, vegetables, whole-grain cereal and bread

2. Avoid the following high-fat-content foods: cooking fat, lard, etc (253 calories per ounce); margarine (218), butter (211), bacon (128), chocolate (148), pork (116), cheese (117), sugar (108), mutton (94), cream (325 calories per cup), excessive alcohol (spirits, 115 calories per oz, wines, 85 per 31/2oz, beer, 150 per 121/2oz).

3. Eat plenty of fruit, vegetables, fish, veal liver and fat-free beef

4. Do the type of running that burns fat. That is below 80 per cent of your maximum capacity, which is about 85 per cent of your maximal heart rate for less than an hour run and around 75 per cent MHR over this period5.

Add five minutes a day per week to your workload. If you are doing 35 minutes a day now, within six weeks you will be doing 65 minutes

6. Avoid mid-meal snacks. If you're desperate, eat fruit

7. If you are a teenager, ignore all the above advice! You are growing and need all the good food you can get, but that rules out crisps, sweets and takeaways.

Learn to cook vegetables and meats

8. If you drive daily, or use the bus or train, consider running or walking to your destination at least once a week.

Frank Horwill



Blogger Scooter said...

You are going to run Okanagan and be surprised. Even with some spottiness to your training, you are ready. The physical work you are doing is strengthening your upper body (and indirectly, your legs). Your arm carriage will be better than ever. Your posture will stay good thoughout. Mark my words, Boston is in your near future. Doubt is normal, but it must be expunged. You will succeed on race day.

As a show of your powers and ability, why not take that long pole you are painting with and attempt to take the landlady's temperature, and NOT ORALLY! From your description, I take she bears a strong resemblance to Mimi on the Drew Carey Show.

8:41:00 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

Great post Vince-San! BTW, how tall are you?

9:43:00 AM  

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