A Weighty Issue

One of my athletes made a comment to me this past week on the topic of body weight and equipment (shoes) – it really stimulated thoughts about athlete behaviors – specifically runners and cyclists and their focus on the lightest equipment to make them faster.

The shoe and bike frame marketing wizards catch everyone’s attention. First-time buyers of minimalist shoes are up. But according to one industry insider, repeat sales are not. Certainly one reason to pursue minimalist shoes is the promise of injury-proofing yourself (something that has not been substantiated.) The other reason I hear numerous runners claim is they are light weight and those 6 ounces saved on their feet will make them faster. Cyclists succumb to the marketing too, finding new frames that shave 12 ounces from the bike weight. And it is to these viewpoints that I want to make people think about.

The “average” American is overweight. The CDC states “About one-third of U.S. adults (33.8%) are obese… and  indicate that an estimated 66 percent of U.S. adults are either overweight or obese…” There are a number of ways to calculate fatness. BMI is the CDC’s preference. [If you get a chance check out the US fatness progression map.] They do acknowledge that heavily muscled athletes have higher BMIs without being fat. They go on to state, “Although some people with a BMI in the overweight range (from 25.0 to 29.9) may not have excess body fatness, most people with a BMI in the obese range (equal to or greater than 30) will have increased levels of body fatness.” The bottom line on all this is for the huge majority of runners and cyclists – BMI is plenty accurate enough to determine our fatness.

Most individuals who describe themselves as “average” have extra pounds on their frames.  Here’s one brought to my attention: runners and cyclists often describe their physiques in online dating sites as “athletic” or “thin” are in fact, what we used to call “average”.  Reality is that we are not as lean as we could be.

A runner or cyclist will trim ounces from their equipment and even boast of the lightness of it all. Meanwhile, that same person carries 4, 5, 10 or more pounds of extra fatness on their bodies. So, what about taking your hard earned money and saving it. Why not focus on corpulence? Cut out the extra deserts. Stop relaxing with that beer or wine each evening. Stop super-sizing your servings and eat appropriate serving sizes. You do not need a restrictive, fad or extreme diet. But, habits do need to change. Dropping pounds is cheaper than buying your way to saved ounces.

The final element to introduce is most basic. Get in shape. Training smarter, doing the right workout intensities and mixes will get you where you want to go. VO2MAX – an important measure of fitness is affected by body weight since the calculation is measured as milliliters of oxygen used in one minute per kilogram of body weight. Therefore a decrease in body weight yields an increase in your VO2MAX. Cyclists will gain more from practicing better aerodynamics and increased power through smarter training. Take care of yourself before pursuing fewer ounces from your equipment. You cannot buy your way to faster times.

My point is not that your goal is to be skin and bones.  I am not addressing the 5’2″ – 95 pound gal or the 6′ – 140 pound guy. But, if you carry 5 or 10 extra pounds then regard it as running/cycling with a 5 or 10 pound weighted vest. A few ounces off your footwear isn’t going to compensate. The key point for all runners and cyclists to consider is to look first at themselves and do the hard thing – lose the fat, train smarter and get in shape – before looking to fads, equipment and such to shave time. Unless of course you like succumbing to the marketing mavens and doing your part in the country’s economic recovery.

Caveat and disclaimer: No comments here are intended to encourage dysfunctional eating habits, dieting, or eating disorders.


About Dean Hebert

I’m a mental game coach, author and speaker. I work with individual athletes, parents, coaches, and teams on sports performance enhancement. Beyond my academic post-graduate work in sports psychology - the psychology behind athlete performance – I am a certified Mental Games Coaching Professional (MGCP) and certified hypnotherapist. I’ve authored several books and hundreds of articles. “Coach, I didn’t run because…” (2008) is a seriously light-hearted look at making excuses not to workout and how to overcome them. “Focus for Fitness” (2009) and “Screw the Goals Give me the Donut” (2010) are two of my eBooks on mental game approaches for the everyday athlete. I wrote these because I believe that everyone can benefit from the powerful mental techniques that the world’s best athletes use. I have been cited in Runners World, Best Health magazine (CN), SWEAT Magazine, and the Washington Examiner amongst many other publications. I have been a featured mental games coach in Runner’s World and for the internationally acclaimed trail running resource - trailrunningclub.com. I also regularly appear on sports and fitness talk shows such as LTKFitness, Runnersroundtable and for more than three years I have co-hosted a weekly video series with Coach Joe English for Running-Advice.com. I specialize in mental toughness training. My clients include tennis, synchronized swimming, golf, race-kart, soccer, motocross, volleyball, MMA, cycling (road, off-road, time-trialist), running, duathlon and triathlon, basketball, football and baseball athletes. I have coached world-class athletes and athletes internationally. I have a passion for working with youth athletes and helping them apply mental game skills and techniques to all areas of life. Most importantly, my aim is to have people enjoy sports and life to their fullest through peak performances.
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2 Responses to A Weighty Issue

  1. Mike Kichler says:

    I fully agree, but damn if my Trek Speed Concept 9.9, Zipp wheels and aero helmet don’t look awesome in the race photos … cheers mate!

  2. Aric Keith says:

    Excellent post. But people are like that with other things related to weight loss, too. They’ll look for any gimmick to lose weight but won’t simply balance their calorie in/calorie out equation. All the other stuff is of tiny importance compared to that. So it’s not surprising that they’d rather buy lighter gear, and cut back on “processed foods” (in itself a good decision, mind you) while still consuming the same amount of calories overall and wondering why they don’t lose weight. Anyway, that subject is going to be a blog post for me very soon.

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