by Amanda Leibovitz
Spring is here!! And I’ve noticed a trend — it’s also the time of year when everyone starts talking about getting back to “race weight” after a winter season filled with rich meals, indulgent treats, and a lighter and/or unstructured training regimen. The truth is, cutting ourselves some slack during the offseason is ESSENTIAL for our sustained physical, mental, and emotional well-being!
Before I dive into the controversial topic of “race weight,” I want to first explain what a person’s “healthy weight” actually is!
Your “healthy” weight is one that puts you at little risk for disease or illness, allows you to function well in life, keeps you feeling energized throughout the day, and is a weight you can easily maintain with your activity regimen and balanced “maintenance” nutrition.
SIDEBAR: Most charts (like BMI) do NOT account for the extra muscle and denser bones that you will develop through daily exercise and strength training. So, let’s please just all agree that BMI is BS and we ain’t got time for that!
Unfortunately, many people try to maintain and achieve a specific weight based on a look or number on a scale. What’s important to remember is that although your healthy weight might not be the one that you like seeing on the scale, it may be the best weight for you to maintain great health ALL year long!
Your “race weight” is the weight at which you can achieve PEAK PERFORMANCE. It’s important to note that your race weight may not be your healthy weight. Why? Because we don’t have to sustain our race weight throughout the year — as the name suggests, we want to be at that ideal weight/body composition for performance on RACE DAY.
What’s important to remember is that our BODY COMPOSITION can change even if our weight stays the same! What we put into our bodies and HOW we train (i.e., endurance AND strength) will gradually shifting the makeup of our bodies so that we have more lean body mass and less fat in a way to OPTIMIZES our health and the way our bodies function. How cool is that?! But as we all know — it also works in the opposite direction, too!
With all that being said, here’s the trick when it comes to race weight. There is NO WAY to know what your ideal race weight is until you’ve consistently performed at your BEST at a specific weight/body composition on MULTIPLE occasions... And performed worse when not at that weight/body composition. Case and point: It took me more than FOUR YEARS to dial in my race weight, and even then, it varied depending on if I was racing short course or long course!
What can we do?
Since there’s no REAL way to know our “race weight,” we have to embrace a scientist mindset — we can certainly note specific data like weight and body composition in race reports to reference when reviewing our season. But, most importantly, we need to be willing to experiment and PAY ATTENTION to how our body is FEELING and PERFORMING throughout the season!