Some people start running because they want to lose weight. Other people run because they love it, and they want to know if losing weight will help them clock up faster race times – and it’s true that in most cases, a reduction in overall weight will lead to faster running speed. However, like all things, it’s not exactly that simple. Let’s take a look.
Gain weight, lose speed
In the 1970’s, a team of scientists placed harnesses on runners that increased their weight by 5, 10 or 15 percent. The subjects ran for 12 minutes, once with the weights and once without. Unsurprisingly, the extra weight slowed them down. On average, they lost 1.4 seconds per mile per pound. For example, if you carry an extra 10 pounds, you’ll add 14 seconds per mile to your run.
Lose weight, gain speed
A recent study took this idea and reversed it, by rigging up pulleys on volunteer subjects. The pulleys had the effect of reducing the runners overall weight by 5 or 10 percent. They were asked to run 3K with pulleys and without. The reduction in weight lead to an average of 2.4 seconds per pound per mile increase in speed.
There are plenty of discussions around the topic of body weight and its correlation with faster race times and we’ve noticed there is a generalised assumption that extra weight can cost between 1-3 seconds per pound per mile, and this is backed up by these studies. Of course, additional weight will create more resistance, leading the body to spend more energy in the upward lift phase of stride and this can potentially stopping you from reaching faster race times as your energy levels become depleted.
What the studies didn’t elaborate on was that simply ‘losing weight’ isn’t enough to determine attendant effects on speed. If a person loses muscle, they will also lose power and propulsion. If a person loses fat, they may see faster speeds – assuming they are carrying excess adipose tissue. Like all athletes, runners do need a minimum level of body fat to aid recovery and maintain good health.
If you feel like you have unwanted pounds to lose, adjust your dietary intake and keep an eye on your pace. You might find you’ll be pleased come race day.
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