Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Impact of Weight

I've been pretty lucky so far. Over the past 12 months, while rapidly ramping up my triathlon and ultramarathon training, I've managed to stay injury free. This despite increasing my running volume from around 25 miles per week in late October to a high of nearly 70 miles per week in early January, far too fast by most conventional wisdom. But I've often wondered how close I've been to an injury, and how much my relatively high running weight increases the risk of injury.

When I started training for my first sprint triathlon last July, my weight was around 205 pounds at six feet tall, well above the ideal triathlete and runner weight. I figured I'd lose quite a bit of weight moving from exclusively CrossFit and strength training and eating lots of calories to much more endurance work. And I did lose weight...for a little while. I dropped to about 195 within a few weeks, but have since stuck there despite increasing endurance volume training for a half iron distance triathlon and then ultramarathon. It's been a bit perplexing that the weight loss didn't continue.

That being said, I don't have any strong desire to lose weight. I'm happy with my current body composition and am carrying more muscle than I ever have in my life, aesthetically a nice thing and helpful when I have to pick up a heavy box. Yet, I do wonder how much less stress I'd put on my body at a lower weight. And at the Skydive Ultra, my biggest limiter was incredibly sore feet. The soles of my feet were in agony by mile 28, when I switched from fairly minimalist shoes to high cushion Altra Olympus. That helped some, but I still dealt with tremendous discomfort the rest of the day. This seems like it's almost certainly a function of weight.

I Have A Problem

Umm...yeah. That's a nutella bacon sandwich.
The thing is, I love to eat and I love some decadent foods. Yes, food is fuel, but food is also a joy in life. I'll forgo some of that joy, but not all of it. In fact, much of the reason I exercise regularly is to be able to enjoy some of those decadent foods with less worry. Simply put, I'm not giving up some food luxuries just to get to an ideal running and triathlon weight.

But I am willing to improve my eating. I don't need to eat decadent foods with every meal. I can certainly eat less or eat better. I've already started this by moving my breakfast to a calorie-packed, but very nutritious, smoothly instead of any old junk I can find before heading out the door.

Will It Make Me Faster?

Another thought I have when I consider weight is would losing 10-15 pounds make me faster? I'm not delusional. I'm not a competitive triathlete and runner, and I never will be. I do these things for fun and to see how far I can push myself and as an example of healthy living for my children and always with the specter of my father's far too early death after living a life free of exercise. But being faster is fun and it is pushing myself a little farther. So I would like to be a bit faster. And I'm pretty sure some weight loss would definitely help my speed both in biking and running. It seems like a worthwhile goal, particularly if I am able to control the weight loss to be mostly fat loss and minimized muscle loss.

180 Pounds, Perhaps

So, I'm thinking the target is about 180 pounds. That's still well in excess of ideal racing weight, and I'm fine with that. Just those 10-15 pounds less being carried around for the thousands of miles I'll run and bike is almost certain to reduce my risk of injury, possibly significantly. Hopefully, that lower weight will allow my feet to be a little happier during ultra distance running. I will appreciate any small speed gains that weight loss brings. And I'll accept the bit of muscle and strength loss that comes with the reduced weight. Hopefully, those will be minimal if I keep up strength training and properly balance my nutrition.

Doing It On The Cheap

And this post really wouldn't be a Cheaply Seeking Fitness post if I didn't bring up the cost concern. Eating healthy can be expensive! For several months, my wife and I participated in a meal delivery service in order to try to eat healthier, but the cost was too much to swallow (and the food wasn't very good, either.) Since then, I do believe we've been eating relatively healthy, excluding a few indulgences such as Yasso Sea Salt Carmel bars and nutella bacon sandwiches and ordering sushi and thai food a bit too often. So, it seems just by cutting portion sizes slightly without any major changes to my diet otherwise will lead to both a bit of weight loss and saving a little money.

And it's time to get started. Nothing major, though. Just a little less on the plate at every meal. Perhaps drop a snack here or there. The tricky part is overcoming constant hunger. I'm always hungry when training. Even when I'm clearly eating at equilibrium, I feel hungry. I can only imagine how much hungrier I'll feel when at a small calorie deficit. It's time to find out.

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