4/3/15

Changing your perception of "race weight"



104lbs - 2006 IMFL
Kona qualified


113 lbs - 2010 IMWI
Kona qualified


116lbs - 2013 IM Lake Placid
Kona qualified


112 lbs - 2014 IMWI
Kona qualified

9 years and 9 Ironman triathlons completed.
Never have I had a "race weight" because I race with a body that is healthy, well-fueled and well-trained on race day.
A number does not define me or my athletic capabilities nor does it determine how well I will (or won't) succeed on race day.
I don't chase a body image when I eat and train, I chase a body that is strong, healthy and resilient.

I often hear athletes talk about their "race weight" and many of these athletes come to me asking me to help them get to their "race weight."

Some athletes feel that losing 10-15 lbs will help them reduce risk for injury, improve health and recover better after endurance training. A loss in body fat and an increase in lean muscle mass can certainly improve overall health and performance in this athlete so long as the approach for weight loss does not go against the initial goals of being healthier and faster/stronger.

Then there are the athletes who tell me that they have raced his/her best at a certain weight and now the he/she explains it is nearly impossible to get to that weight despite exercising more and eating less.

As you can see from my past 4-Kona Qualifying Ironman race weights (in my 5-foot frame), I have never been close to my first Ironman race weight and I have raced well nearly 10 lbs over that first race weight. Can you imagine the stress, struggle and possible sabotaging performances I could have placed on myself if I always felt that I needed to achieve that first IM race weight?

Since I (or Karel) don't weigh myself and these weights are from pre-race weigh-in's before each Ironman, the biggest take away is just because my body raced well at 104lbs, that doesn't mean I need to be at that weight in order to perform well and keep my body in good health for the rest of my Ironman athlete career. Chasing an image or a weight goal is just not how I want to eat or train. I absolutely love using my body and seeing what I can achieve and in order to do that, I have to love food, eating and sport nutrition.
It makes no sense to expect your body to do more if you are intentionally eating less than your body deserves/requires or not fueling appropriately around/during workouts.
Would you believe me if I told you that your "race weight" is a natural result of meeting your nutritional needs throughout the day, intentionally fueling before, during and after all workouts and following a well-designed, periodized training plan. I have no way of determining my race weight because every year my training changes. Life changes and my race schedule changes and thus, that affects how I fuel and train for triathlons. But I never, ever, restrict food to achieve an ideal body composition or weight.

If you take the time to understand your basic nutritional needs and continue to focus on how to best fuel before, during and after your workouts, come race day you will be at your "race weight" which simply means - racing with the body that you have used through months of previous training and that has successful adapted to months of training stress all because you met your daily and metabolic dietary needs.

If this post hits home to you, I need you to stop thinking that you need to be at a certain weight come race day. You can absolutely be focused on weight loss as an athlete and lose weight and boost performance/health but if you feel pressure to look or weigh a certain amount on/before race day or feel as if you don't look the "athlete" part, you may feel so overwhelmed with this perceived (or past) weight/image that you end up taking extreme measures in your diet/exercise regime that ultimately sabotage performance and health. 
Nobody said achieving race weight involves restriction, food elimination, dieting, cleansing, fasting, low carb or eliminating sport nutrition so stop sabotaging your health and performance as you train your body to get stronger, healthier and faster.
There's no point having a lean body if you can't race strong with it on race day.
As a sport RD I spend a great amount of time giving the athletes I work with, permission to eat and to learn how to love their body. Many times, athletes will thank me when I say it's completely fine and healthy to eat grains, drink milk or use sport nutrition products or they are in total shock when I tell them they need to eat more food (often times, more quality food).
There is a large disconnect in athletes as they want their body to look or perform a certain a way but rarely does an athlete give their body the credit it deserves on a daily basis by appreciating their good health.

It makes me sad to see athletes who have stopped eating certain foods that worked well in their diet because someone else said it was "bad" food or seeing athletes restrict food to try to lose weight to get to an ideal weight/image. 
If you are currently experiencing worries, guilty feelings or anxiety when it comes to eating or your body image, take a deep breath....wheww.... and thank your body for being awesome.

Thank your body for being strong, for being durable and for being so impressive with every workout.
That is the body that is going to allow you to race strong on race day. 

I give you permission to race with a body that you are proud of because it's your body and that body is going to perform amazingly well on race day.