How to Determine if You Are at a Healthy Weight
by Tina Muir from RunnersConnect
The new year is not so new anymore, and spring and summer are not so far away. For many of us, it’s time to start thinking about our summer vacation and, more importantly, our beach body. Eating a healthy diet is a big part of this. A look in the mirror tells us that the way to our perfect summer figure won’t be easy. We have to change our diet and exercise routine. And we swear that things WILL be different this year – we’re going to reach our ideal weight.
Do you really need to lose weight?
Before you begin down the path of a crazy, calorie-restricting, 3-hour-a-day training plan, consider how much you actually need to lose (or gain) to be at a healthy weight.
There are many factors that need to be taken into account when considering your ideal weight. Unfortunately, there is not a “one-fits-all” answer to this. Some factors that affect the ideal weight for runners include:
- Weight history
Even if all of those are not falling in your favor, it is possible to maintain a healthy weight, although it may be more difficult. For many of us, the excess weight we want to lose is vanity weight. It is the 5-7lbs/2-3kg that is not really going to help us as a runner or make us any healthier, but it is the weight at which we believe we will feel satisfied with our bodies if we get there. Unfortunately, most of us never reach that ideal weight, and if we do, we want to strive for perfection even more. This weight is not usually a healthy weight for our body, so the weight will come back on (or fall off).
Have a look at your body fat percentage…
So, how can we determine if we are at a healthy weight as a runner? How can we know whether the goal weight we have in mind is realistic?
The easiest way to do this is to look at your body fat percentage, and see if it falls within the recommended range. Most doctors’ offices have a body fat measuring tool, but if you are unable to see a physician in the near future, it is possible to calculate your body fat percentage from home using a body analysis scale.
… or your Body Mass Index
If determining your body fat percentage is too complicated and confusing, there is an easier way. Body Mass Index can also be used to estimate whether your weight is in the correct range for your height and bone structure.
For adults 20 years and older:
- Less than 18.5: Underweight
- 18.5 – 24.9: Healthy
- 25 – 29: Overweight
- 30 and more: Obese
However, before going on, it should be noted that BMI is not as accurate as body fat percentage in determining your ideal weight. Most runners know that muscle weighs more than fat, and this means some runners may receive a BMI putting them in the overweight category, despite being pure muscle.
Unfortunately, there is no easy way around this. You just have to be honest with yourself whether this is the case for you or not. If your BMI places you in the normal range, you are at a weight that is healthy for your bone structure, and will allow you to accomplish your goals as a runner while fueling your body correctly for the rest of your life. If your BMI indicates that you are under or over the limit, don’t panic. Listen to your body – do you need to gain or lose weight to be healthy? Maybe it’s time to make some lifestyle changes.
How does your weight affect your running?
Many runners assume that the lighter you are, the faster you are, and this is mostly due to looking at the elite runners who have fine-tuned their bodies for maximum efficiency. They have nutritionists to help them get there, and every morsel that passes their lips has a purpose. But the point is that these are runners whose livelihoods depend on them running their best.
For most runners, this is unrealistic and unhealthy. I believe even this is changing, that runners at the front of the pack are becoming stronger. We are seeing all shapes and sizes emerging at the elite level, which shows that running at a weight that is healthy for your body is what is most important, not being as light as possible.
If I have not convinced you that lighter does not equal better, maybe this will help. Studies have found that when it comes to injuries, a relationship exists between stress fractures and BMIs of less than 21. Those with a BMI of under 21 incurred a higher rate of injuries than those weighing over 26. That being said, being overweight is often an overlooked factor when it comes to injuries. You are putting more stress on your body with the excess weight, and this can lead to more frustration if your body would be healthier a few pounds lighter.
Listen to your body
I understand that this post has likely not been the answer you were hoping for. Unfortunately, there is no simple way to determine the ideal weight for your individual body, but this has given you some guidelines to follow to see which range you fall in.
The best way to determine your healthy weight is to think back through your adult life to a time when you felt healthy and strong. Your body will find a weight that it is most comfortable with, and when you are deep into your marathon training schedule for your goal race, your body will naturally progress to the weight at which it is most comfortable. If you find the same number on the scale tends to come up over and over as the years go by, that is likely your healthy weight.
However, if you struggle to think of a time when you felt this way, or you know that you are not at that weight (remember to keep in mind that vanity weight is not going to make a difference here), then your safest bet is probably to use either the body analysis scale or BMI to calculate a healthy range for you.
It is important to not become addicted to the number on the scale. There are many factors that affect the number we see, and basing your food intake on the number you see in the morning is likely to take you on a dark path. Try to limit weighing yourself on a scale, and when you do, keep in mind what you have consumed in the day and hours before.
Deep down in our hearts we know when we are at a weight that allows us to accomplish our running goals, live a healthy lifestyle, and feel good. We just need to get better at listening to what our bodies are telling us, especially when we have technology making it so convenient to take the easy way out.
At the end of the day, you and only you know your body. You just need to find where you feel happy and confident that you are where you need to be.
Tina Muir works as a Community Manager and Elite Runner for Runners Connect. This platform is a community of expert coaches that provide custom and dynamic training plans tailored specifically to your abilities, pace and goals to help make you a smarter, fitter, and faster runner. “We’re fellow runners and experts in one thing only—improving your running”, says Tina Muir.