Correct weight for height What is the “right” weight for distance runners

Running Breaks, Amanda, Paul, Jeff, Helen, Graham, Jim, Dawn and Steve.
The subject of adjusting weight to improve performance is a touchy one. It is however a subject which all athletes ask themselves at one point or another. The correct weight may only be obtained by trial and error, as we are all different.

Below however gives a very good indication that a runner should be about 10% under, what would be considered, ” normal weight” for a given height. As you may be able to see by the photographs, I am considered over weight. I shall attempt to lose weight over the next few months before I race in August 2010. I will be 18% under weight, which I think will be right.

No man six feet tall and weighing 176lbs (79.8kg) will ever win the London Marathon, and it is unlikely that a woman five feet six inches in height and weighing 130lbs (58.9kg) will ever do so either. Why?

To answer this we must consult Dr Stillman’s height/weight ratio table. He fixes the non-active man’s average weight for height with a simple formula. He allocates 110lbs (56.2kg) for the first five feet (1.524m) in height and 5 1/2lbs (2.296kg) for every inch (0.025m) thereafter. He is harsher with women, giving them 100lbs (45.3kg) for the first five feet and 5lbs (2.268kg) for every inch above this.

Paul’s racing over 7km, August 2008

Having established the average, he then speculates on the ideal weight for athletic performance, as follows:
Sprinters (100-400m): 21/2 per cent lighter than average (6ft/176lbs – 21/2% = 4lbs)
Hurdlers (100-400m): 6 per cent lighter (or 9lbs)
Middle-distance runners (800m – 10K): 12 per cent lighter (or 19lbs)
Long-distance runners (10 miles onwards): 15 per cent lighter (or 251/2lbs)

Matching the figures to reality
How do these figures compare to past record holders? Here is a list of some of them:
Emile Zatopek – 5’81/2′ (1.740m)/154lbs (69.8kg): same as the average man
Herb Elliott – 5’101/2′ (1.791m)/147lbs (66.6kg): 11 per cent below average
Kip Keino – 5’9′ (1.753m)/146lbs (66.2kg): 9 per cent below average
Seb Coe – 5’10’ (1.778m)/120lbs (54.4kg): over 20 per cent below average.

Steve Cram – 6’11/2′ (1.867m)/153lbs (69kg): 15 per cent below average
Linford Christie – 6’21/2′ (1.89m)/170lbs (77kg): 10 per cent below average
Wendy Sly – 5’51/2′ (1.66m)/113lbs (51kg): 11 per cent below average
Yvonne Murray – 5’7′ (1.70m)/111lbs (50kg): 18 per cent below average
Sally Gunnell – 5’6′ (1.67m)/124lbs (56kg): 5 per cent below average
Ingrid Kristiansen – 5’61/2′ (1.68m)/128lbs (58kg): 4 per cent below average
Tatyana Kazankina – 5’31/2′ (1.61m)/110lbs (49kg): 6 per cent below average
Greta Waitz – 5’61/2′ (1.689m)/110lbs (49kg): 17 per cent below average

There are one or two anomalies in these figures. For instance, Zatopek, who gained three gold medals in the 1952 Olympics (5K, 10K and marathon) weighs the same as the average man of his height. And Ingrid Kristiansen, who ran a marathon in 2:21.6, is just below the average weight for her height. However, note the staggering percentage below the normal for Seb Coe, who broke 12 world records in four years. If we take the average of these 12 world-class athletes, they weigh 10 per cent less than the average person of their height. So we must conclude from this that Drs Sheehan and Stillman had a point to make of considerable importance.

Every athlete has a best racing weight which should be elucidated by trial and error. But the starting point for this is to aim for 10 per cent below the average weight for height. It is a long-established fallacy that because one runs every day one cannot be overweight for competition. We require about 2500 calories a day to exist, and if we run 10 miles a day at a steady pace (able to converse while running) we will burn and require a further 1000 calories. Thus if we consume 5000 calories a day, say, we are in the process of putting on weight!

Taken from an article by:

Frank Horwill

It must be noted that Seb Coe’s best performances were, at a weight of 133lbs and thus he was not 20% under weight.

Assuming all other factors are not changed, the predicted effect of weight on an athletes time is: ( for the mile )

Running Breaks, Denia track, 2008
Running breaks, winners Amanda and Iris, 21 July 2007
Fitness Breaks Spain 2008
Running Holidays Ltd
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paul at

UK Athletics
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