Greetings, and immediate apologies for starting another contentious thread (anyone remember the “Base Training Revisited
” thread ???)
For my part, my interest in this thread centres around examination of how to achieve the best athletic performance feasible, without starving yourself to death. That said, judging from purely anecdotal experience, it's clear that perceived and actual optimum racing weight for me differs by 12-14 pounds. This is somewhat scary, as I always believed myself to be on the lean end of the spectrum.
Biggest changes for me stemmed from a conversation with a training partner in which he revealed that the only significant difference between his ability to run a 32-min and a 35-min 10k was the fact that he was a stone lighter for the former. Upon closer examination, it turned out that the older runners that I was training with admitted to equivalent sins - for instance, the two V50 runners that I regularly train with have run 2:28 and 2:34 for the marathon (aged 30 and 35, respectively) and both admit to being 1-1.5 stone lighter than they are now (of course, they are also 1-1.5 decades older than they were then too!).
Nevertheless, the best V40 (soon to be V50) in our club claims to have run all of his best times after reaching the age of 40. He's clocked a 67 min half and a 2:24 marathon. He reckons it's all down to consistent training and weight control. I'd be inclined to agree with him. He'll turn 50 next year and I'm sure will clock at least one sub-73 half, that's tough to argue with!
As a consequence of the comments above, I decided to embark on a program of controlled weight loss during intensive training. I focused on a half marathon with a plan to peak in terms of athletic performance and weight loss on a specific date. This is how things have turned out so far:
belper 30k – sun 19 aug - 2:17:12 (5th) – 10st 0lb
lichfield 10k - sun 09 sep - 35:18 (4th, 1st V35) - 9st 12lb
leicester 1/2M - sun 14 oct - 1:15:02 (3rd) PB - 9st 8lb
natl xc relays 5k - sat 03 nov - 17:02 PB - 9st 6.5lb
markeaton xc (~10k) - sat 10 nov - 34:06 (24th) - ?
bergamo 1/2M - sun 18 nov - 1:13:08 (10th, 2nd V35) PB - 9st 5lb
Clearly, with these sort of data, the obvious temptation is to try and keep losing weight. But this would be a BIG mistake. There’s obviously a limit, and as a learned colleague has pointed out, once weight loss results in loss of lean muscle mass then a decrease in performance is inevitable. So I guess the central question when trying to determine optimum weight for performance is “what is the optimum weight to height ratio”. I have to admit, this gets me to a strange place, as despite my best intentions, I find myself, regardless of any preconceived differences of opinion, finally agreeing with Frank Horwill!!!
His article on weight-height ratios and performance seems to be spot on: Horwill being a nutter part 1Horwill being a nutter part 2