How To Hit Race Weight
Whatever endurance race you are training for, your “race weight” is exactly that: the amount that you weigh on the day of the race. Between races, it will necessarily fluctuate gently to keep your body healthy and to make sure you can maintain form throughout the racing season. This makes hitting your ideal race weight a delicate balance and one that often requires a lot of trial and error. But use these tips to get you off to a good start and to find your own perfect balance by the time you reach the starting line. Your ideal race weight will depend on many factors, including your own physical dimensions and the race you are competing in.
How To Measure Your Ideal Weight
Each person’s body is different from the next. If you are naturally bigger, then you will find that you have more weight to gain and lose before racing and that your body’s adaptation times at these weights are longer. If you are naturally smaller, then you might find it harder to maintain a healthy weight above your leanest race weight. Take the time to grow or reduce your weight, and give your body time to adapt. Check your times at that weight and how you feel physically. You can then decide whether to put on more weight or take more off. As the infamous Ironman triathlete Chris McCormack experienced, putting on over 9 kg over a “hibernation” off-season period actually helped him to stay healthier and then put in some of the best times of his professional career.
Where To Start
Although you can take measurements and make predictions, the only way to know for sure whether you have reached your ideal weight is functional, that is to say by actually reaching it. Once you reach a certain weight where you feel strong and nimble, and then go out and smash your best time, you have probably reached optimal racing weight. But wherever you begin, your weight on the day of an endurance race will ideally be lower than for the rest of the year. Feeling light and without unnecessary weight will help you reach the finish faster.
Since you cannot do much about your bone mass and you want to retain muscle for strength and power, what you need to lose to hit your race weight will be fat. Use callipers and a bioimpedance score to calculate your current body fat. For endurance athletes, and triathletes in particular, there are set ranges of optimal fat to store in your body depending on your age. Although each person will differ, they are a good starting point to begin calculating what you need to do to hit race weight, please see below.
Optimal Body Fat Ranges, By Age
20-29 3-10 %
As you can see, the ranges are actually quite large, so you can find a suitable body fat percentage for you within the range according to your age (although you might find trimming the final percentages a challenge!)
If, for example, you are a 29-year-old male weighing 78 kg with 14% body fat. You want to reach your target race weight with 3 – 10% body fat. Because you are new to this game, you aim for the upper 10% limit, to begin with, and proceed from there. How will you know how much you will weigh when you reach your 10% target? Follow these three steps:
#1 Calculate your body fat mass. Body fat mass = current weight x current body fat percentage. Here: 78 kg x 0.14 = 10.92 kg.
#2 Calculate your lean body mass. Lean body mass = current weight – body fat mass. Here: 78 kg – 10.92 kg = 67.08 kg.
#3 Calculate your goal weight. Goal weight = current lean body mass/goal lean body mass percentage. (Your goal lean body mass percentage is 1.0 – your goal body fat percentage expressed in decimal form.) Here: 67.08 kg / 0.9 = 74.53 kg.
Give it a try for yourself!
Different Horses For Different Courses
There is a strong-held belief in endurance sports circles that lighter is better. This is particularly true of running, where a lighter upper body is much less strenuous on the lower body accounting for the effects of gravity. But if you intend to compete in an Ironman event, the lighter you are, the less you will have left in the tank come the latter parts of the race. It is therefore essential to also consider your goals before deciding on your ideal race weight. This will, again, be a matter of experimentation, so there is no time like the present to start measuring and recording!
Take Home Message
Ultimately, your race weight is determined by a lot of painful trial and error, but you will get there and you will be able to feel it when you get there. Don’t get caught in the trap of believing that lean and skinny is always better – it might actually just make you sick! Take the time to experiment long before race day, and try to hit race weight about three weeks before and see if you can smash your PB!