Is There an Ideal Running Weight?

Q I am curious if there is an ideal running weight that I should shoot for and if so how do I calculate that weight?

I am a 44-year-old male, weighing 88kg at 188cm and would call myself an intermediate runner. I have run multiple 5Ks, 10Ks, 15Ks, a half-marathon and a full marathon. My schedule only allows me to run about 40-64 kilometres a week (on a good week) with some bike rides mixed in.

I want to improve my running times and feel that my weight may have something to do with it. In races I average about an 5:09 pace and seem to be stuck. – CONN


A I am never sure how to answer ideal weight for running questions. My gut feel is that an ideal weight for running is near your ideal body weight for height. The medical recommendation is to maintain a Body Mass Index (BMI) in the 19-25 kg/m2 range. Your current BMI is 25 and you are at the top of the range. BMI can be fooled by muscle mass, so if you are very muscular, you may be at the right weight. If you are smaller framed you may be on the heavy side and weight loss may help your running times.

You can calculate your BMI using our BMI Calculator.

Men store fat first inside the belly in the omentum, and then around the middle (resulting in the “beer gut”). I think the pinch test works pretty well. Pinch the fat fold next to your naval and then the fat fold about midway between your wrist and elbow. If they are the same, you are about as lean as you can easily be as a male.

What is your ideal weight for running? It is the weight at which you have enough energy stores to run strong and support the energy demands of the body and your running. If you go to the start line of an elite and sub elite race at the distances in which you compete, you will see some pretty lean runners, and at citizen races you will see all body types in the start corral and at the finish line, in addition to those very lean elites. As long as you enjoy the journey from the start to the finish, body type does not seem to make much difference. However, when you add speed into the mix, lighter is probably better if lighter means reducing total fat mass; it does not apply if “lighter” means reducing lean body mass or cutting into essential body energy stores.

So there is not an exact answer for your question, but if you are a typical Australian 44-year-old, my guess is you could drop a few kilos and possibly run a bit faster. Any extra fat weight, beyond what your body needs to stay healthy, is additional baggage that you carry from start to finish. Think back to your high school graduation weight and that is likely your lean body weight. Eating a little less with your current exercise program should gradually reduce your weight a few kilos. – BILL

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