Weight issues

Runners and their physique. Apparently most non-runners, and even a lot of runners, believe that this is what a 'real' long distance runner should look like:

Photo courtesy of www.paularadcliffe.com
By the way: Paula Radcliffe rocks! Okay, on to what this post is about...

Lean, skinny. Long lean muscles. Nothing too bulky. As one of my co-workers mentioned today: 'You know, the runner type of physique. Slender.'. Okay...

Well, if that's the case, that would imply that I'm not a 'runner'.


First of all, I'm not skinny skinny. Nothing skeleton-like about this body. At least, not anymore.

When I picked up running in January 2010, and was stupid enough to kick start it by running 16 milers / 25Ks from scratch, I did lose a lot of weight. And I wasn't even overweight to begin with. I was pretty skinny when I started. I lost 11 lbs within 6 weeks. Weighing 116 lbs / 53 kg at 5'9'. That weight was too low for me. I looked unhealthy. Plus, a size 0 was too large for me at that point. Not healthy, at all. But, my body did look like the body I believed a runner should have. So, I figured, that was what was supposed to happen. However, I did not look healthy.

Strange thing about it: I did eat well. Where I probably went wrong is sticking to approximately 2000 calories a day, while I was exercising a heck of a lot more than I did before. Those 2000 calories just weren't enough for me - apparently.

Then I started paying attention to my calorie-intake. I just needed more. I did stick to healthy options, though. And my weight got back up to 127 lbs / 58 kg again. And it still is. Even though my mileage is a lot higher than it was when I picked up running. Plus I'm faster than I was at 116lbs. And I no longer look skeleton-like. Slim, yes. Skinny skinny, no.

And this brings me to building some muscles.


Long lean muscles? Nope, never had those, never will. It's just not the way that I'm build.

I did gain a bit of weight by eating more and making healthier food choices. But, what really helped getting the weight back (and getting rid of the 'skeleton' look), is working those weights at the gym. Lucky for me, I don't mind working out, so spending a couple of hours a week doing core work and lifting weights, isn't something that would make me feel unhappy. ;)

The core work and lifting the weights didn't get me the long lean muscles I'd envisioned. Nope. Bulky is the word. I should have known this. Back in my competitive skiing days I had monster quads. I even wore two sizes up in pants, because of the size of those babies. Yep. So, bulky is what happened when I started working on those muscles.

And you know what? I don't mind. Stronger muscles will help prevent injuries (knock on wood!!!) - hopefully. The stronger core improved my running form. I feel better at my current weight. Plus, I look a lot healthier than I did. But, do I have long and lean 'runner' muscles? Am I skinny skinny? Nope. Not at all. And I'm perfectly fine with that.

What are your thoughts on 'the runner's physique'? Thoughts on weight and building muscles?


Beth said...

I also lost a lot of weight when I first started running, but slowly packed on more pounds as I ate to compensate and keep my energy levels up. Now I weigh more than I'd like and am lifting weights to get back down to my usual body composition. And I think muscle type (bulky or lean) is completely genetic and can't be changed much with different types of exercise. But whatever you're doing, its clearly working!

T said...

The thought of you as heavy is killing me right now! I completely think of you as having that runner's physique.

I, too, lost weight when I started running, but then life caused me to put it back on (and then some). Now I think between my slowing metabolism (love getting old!) and frankly not trying as hard, I'm not going to be there again.

I agree that it's genetic. Being smaller is obviously going to make you faster to a certain extent, though.

misszippy said...

Good for you! It's so important to have a healthy attitude towards weight. You sound like you are just where you should be.

I run with a group of women and I can tell you, the weight issue has affected several of them over the years. And these are tiny, fit women. It's a tough nut to crack for so many.

Tri-James said...

Light makes right. But most of us are not professionals. We do not do this for a pay check. Regarding lean muscle mass, as you age the more you have the longer you get to keep it. That is why I keep strength training in my routine!

Amanda@runninghood said...

Great topic. ONe I was just asking my husband about last night...the ideal race weight. I was talking to a new blog friend on the phone and she was saying how she is 5'4 and 109. I am 5'4 and I don't think I should go below 120. I have a lot of muscle from high school and college and i've always been a naturally lean muscle gal but 120 is really the lowest I want to be and I look pretty skinny...almost too skinny sometimes. The thought of being 109 for me sounds awful...I would look sick! I don't know where the 11 lbs would come from because it is certainly not coming from these tiny boobs of mine. Ha! Again, thanks for the great topic.

Jessie said...

When I lost all my weight I got a lot of those comments from people "your running too much, you look too skinny, you need to eat more". Now I wasnt Really skinny, but when someone drops from 190 - 126 @ 5'4 its a huge deal. Plus Ive always been about 175 since I was in my early 20's. This past January I got a gym membership and have been busting out the cross training. I actually would rather weight lift and do core work outs then get on the bike, swim, or elliptical. I still do them but I concentrate more on strength training and circuit training. Over the past month I have built up way more speed, I look healthier, I have minimal to no ITB or Piriformus issues (still in process of working on my booty/Piriformus). I went from 126 at the beginning of January up to 128 currently although I am measuring smaller. Im sure Ill start to see those numbers going up soon but right now Im working on my body fat ratio. Anyways I feel better and look better!! GREAT POST! I ALWAYS enjoy reading your blog and DM!

Jason said...

Paula is my favorite marathoner of all time. One year I was on the treadmill at the gym while she was racing NYC and I was yelling so loud on the treadmill for her to keep pushing (I had my earphones in) that the manager came to talk to me. I had no clue I was yelling. Thought I was in my house.....

Amber said...

If I could get to size 5 I would be ecstatic. Toned and not flabby is my idea of runners physique. I should do some squats now... :)

Char said...

A runner's physique is not all it's cracked up to be. I just spent last night with a friend - an elite runner - who has the right physique but has yet another stress fracture due to low bone density. She' in her mid 20s and has the bones of an 80 year old because her body weight was too low.

Unknown said...

Girl, you look healthy and strong! Elite runners are too scrawny. I get it - muscles that don't help you run make you heavier and therefore slower - but it's just not a good look for most non professionals. Either way, you look like an athlete!

Shellyrm ~ just a country runner said...

Runners come in all sizes. I never judge a runner by what they look like on the outside. In endurance running, it's the size of the mind not the muscles that matters!!

rinusrunning said...

Te licht is natuurlijk ook niet goed en vooral bij het hardlopen heb je wel kracht en body nodig!.
De sportschoo doe ik ook veel, maar dan voornamelijk lichte training van het bovenlichaam en buik en rug.Vooral de rug en armen krijgen wat te verduren met het hardlopen onderweg, dus prima te doen.
Overigens gaven ze bij mij aan dat ik overgewicht zou hebben??.
Toen de keuringarts naar mij keek was het duidelijk dat er meer spieren waren dan vet ;-).

Zo te lezen ga je goed en lekker doorgaan zo.

PunkRockRunner said...

Here’s what I know – I do not have a runner’s physique. Truth is I resemble a sumo wrestler more than I do a runner. I also know that I will never be in danger of winning a marathon and/or signing a million dollar sponsorship deal with Nike. My metabolism has slowed and losing weight in my 40’s is ridiculously harder than losing weight in my 20’s.

Taking all this into consideration I have concluded that if a person has the drive to lace up their shoes, get off the couch, and run then they have a runner’s physique.

Oh, and skeletons are not sexy or healthy.

Take care,


RunToTheFinish said...

oh man i've been struggling with this lately because part of me feels like I don't look like a runner because I am too stocky and yet WTF I am a runner! I do however want to become more fit which for me means more muscle so that's my preference over skelton

Silly Girl Running said...

Thanks, guys (and girls!), for sharing your thoughts! Every single one of you makes a great point! It's about a healthy lifestyle!

Levi said...

I hope I don't hurt anyone :D
1...but runners physique is not outside but inside, it doesn't matter how you look like. Muscles are working even if they look different.

2.Weight is not an issue at all, never was, for nobody. Body composition is. For man 3-8% body fat, for women 12-15%. For a competition you might go down to 10%, but to stay healthy and have a good hormon balance you need that 12-13%. For men it's not an issue.

3.IF you train hard and have correct nutrition, your body will develop to loke like a runner.

4.Unfortunately correct nutrition still means low fat milk, chicken breast, steamed veggies, with wholewheat pasta, although it's not.

If you want to reach your potential read this:
Nutrition and Athletic Performance - Douglas Graham
and the 80/10/10

After you'll highly likely revise your view on health.
I hope you'll read them.
Have a good Christmas, and enjoy your races.
I like to see people enjoy running.

Jo said...

Thanks for this post. I lost weight (26 lbs)this year and am training for my first marathon. Am just trying to balance increasing my food intake which is a bit scary at first. Really appreciate your thoughts and reminder to strength train!