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Author Topic: Optimal Weight and Running Speed  (Read 25571 times)
Lybi
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« on: March 21, 2012, 12:54:52 am »

Hey guys!  I recently started running again after a long break in which I gained weight.  Embarrassed As I am getting used to running again, I am surprised at how my pace is gravitating toward a much slower "easy pace" than before.  So I was wondering, has anyone ever explained the relationship between weight and speed, like 5 extra pounds will slow you down about 5% or something like that?  Obviously weight slows you down, but how much?  I thought maybe we could get some really experienced, consistent runners to make an experiment of running the same course on different days with the same effort, and taking a backpack or something with weights in the pockets to see about how much 5, 10, 15, 20 lbs. affects pace. 3 miles should be enough to get some data. Ideally, heart rate would be about the same each time, so heart rate monitors would be awesome.  What do you think? Anyone want to furthur the science of running? This could be an important tool for motivation for runners who have some pounds to drop (which probably excludes YOU, dear reader, but still.)  Thoughts welcome!

Lybi
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allie
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« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2012, 08:02:44 am »

very interesting. i have a weighted vest with removable weights -- i'm going to try this...
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Jake Krong
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« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2012, 11:04:12 am »

I think there are actually a handful of scientific studies that have been published on this topic. I know I've read something along the lines of a 1% decrease in body mass (esp if its mostly excess body fat) will result in a 1% increase in running speed. Less mass = less oxygen needed = improved efficiency. I've also heard the old rule of thumb that every excess pound adds ~1 second/mile. Of course there is a point of diminishing returns and when you cross that point even by a tiny amount, the results can be disastrous.

This would be a cool study for a ex-phys student to take on!
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dave rockness
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« Reply #3 on: March 21, 2012, 04:19:04 pm »

I've read up to 2-3 seconds per/mile per/pound.  Wish I can remember where.  Certainly it depends upon optimal weight- some can't afford to lose more and improve.  I'd also be interested in feedback from others. 
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Lybi
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« Reply #4 on: March 21, 2012, 05:38:08 pm »

Thanks, Allie!  A weighted vest is a great idea!  I can't wait to see your results. 
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Nate Page
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« Reply #5 on: March 22, 2012, 08:02:49 am »

I like the idea of a weighted vest to get a general idea of the effects of weight.  Something I think might play a large roll in weight and running is the metabolic requirements of the extra tissue you are carrying around.  Any extraneous fat and muscle is going to require a portion of your cardiac output. You increase your cardiac output to some physiological maximum during exercise and there is a shunting of blood to skeletal muscle (via vasodilation of arterioles in skeletal muscle and constriction in other tissues) but fat, skin, and other "non-running" tissues are still going to be getting at least a little blood flow.  So I think that the extra mass is the most important consideration when thinking about weight and running, these little physiological things may add up
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Lybi
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« Reply #6 on: March 23, 2012, 03:48:38 pm »

Wow, Nate, nice vocab. So you are saying that not only is extra energy required to move the extra poundage, but also, the extra tissue is a bit of a drain on the blood and oxygen needed for the running muscles, right?  Which do you think is the more important influence
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Kam
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« Reply #7 on: March 24, 2012, 01:45:31 pm »

From an 8th grade physics standpoint, Work = Mass x distance.  The more mass you are carrying around, the more work it is going to take to cover the distance.  If you are running heavier, you are doing more work, i.e. using more calories, generating more heat, not to mention increasing the force on your feet, legs and joints.  In longer runs, a calorie deficit and overheating can be disastrous...
Along with you, I can't wait for allie to publish her results.
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Nate Page
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« Reply #8 on: March 26, 2012, 09:19:01 am »

Lybi:  Yes, That's the jist of what I wrote but in the end I think that just lugging around the extra weight itself is the biggest issue.  I'll be excited to see what allie comes up with
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Andrea North
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« Reply #9 on: April 05, 2012, 10:43:33 am »

Here's a very recent article on this topic - http://sweatscience.runnersworld.com/2012/04/how-much-extra-energy-does-it-take-to-run-when-you-gain-weight/
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allie
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« Reply #10 on: April 05, 2012, 11:06:08 am »

this is exactly what i was thinking about when i was running with the 5 extra pounds on monday. while doing an experiment such as this can provide some interesting data on how your HR and pace are affected by adding extra weight, it is not equivalent to carrying extra weight that you can't simply "unstrap" when you are done running. one is an instant change to your body, while another is put on gradually over time.
if i strap on an extra 25 lbs. and take off on a run, i think it's safe to assume that it would be much harder on my body than if i slowly gained 25 pounds over the course of a year or two but continued to run every day (at least in terms of HR and pace -- my garmin doesn't measure the energy cost of running or mechanical work output). the other issue is the unnatural weight distribution when you are wearing a backpack.
« Last Edit: April 05, 2012, 05:33:03 pm by allie » Logged
Michelle Lowry
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« Reply #11 on: April 26, 2012, 04:14:48 am »

I am wearing a weighted vest but I can't take it off! 
What is interesting is that I have not been at my lowest running weight (which is about 123 and I am 5'6", theoretically it should be even lower but I haven't been able to go lower for a sustained period).  At about 5-7 lb heavier, I just ran a PR type race (it was an odd distance).  I do believe that I am carrying around more and could race better with less, but at the same time, this last training cycle I did not focus on eating like a champion and I think the removal of that psychological stress helped me in other ways.  I would like to get back to 123, but not if it means medium-grade psychosis.
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Adele Kimbrough
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« Reply #12 on: April 26, 2012, 10:47:02 am »

Michelle, congratulations on the recent pr; you're an awesome runner! (And I think your "substantial" breakfast on race day helped provide some good fuel for your race.) 

Runner's World magazine had a recent article on "disordered eating", and the effect anorexia can have on running.  http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-241-285--14203-F,00.html is a rather long article, but it chronicles a runner who went from 158 lbs down to about 130 lbs in an effort to get faster, then decided he was being neurotic about his diet and went back up to around 150 lbs.  It's important to realize that everyone has a different body type, and that some body types don't respond well to overly restrictive diets.  The article also implies some runners might be more at risk of stress fractures if they don't consume enough nutrients. 

BTW, I'm not an elite runner (more like an old slow lady) and have found that if I'm trying to lose weight and don't take in enough calories I have zip zero energy (I can still run, but I'm not motivated and am really slow with no real improvement). But if I focus on eating lots and lots of healthy fruits, veggies, lean protein & dairy, and show moderation in eating treats (ie, 1 or 2 brownies instead of 1/2 the pan of brownies), I feel great, enjoy my runs, and still usually lose about a pound a month!
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Bonnie
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« Reply #13 on: May 15, 2012, 07:19:23 pm »

I think that there is some sort of "cut-off" in terms of normal for runners that are running at their optimal weight and when they are carrying too many pounds ... but what is "optimal" for some might not be optimal for others; even those that are in their best shape.  I personally don't think this has anything to do with bone mass either. 

Even though compared to most elite runners I would be considered heavy when I have been running at my optimal weight, now that I am down 11 pounds (and counting), I have to say I don't feel any faster.  I think I have an ideal weight that is on the "heavier-than-some" range (like Nick Symmonds and Chris Solensky).  It just so happens that my "I feel healthy" weight is smack dab in the middle of the ideal range for my height ... now that I am on the lower end (which is healthy for some of you), I don't feel as good.
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Michelle Lowry
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« Reply #14 on: May 24, 2012, 08:52:46 pm »

Great article Adele.  I definitely see some of the disordered eating in me, and it's a good reminder to be balanced and mindful.  A good rule of thumb is that if you are thinking about food all the time (whether fantasizing, planning how to restrict, or elsewise) then you're a bit off kilter.  That's me  Undecided
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