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Elise's Fitness Fun

Size vs. Determination

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by , March 8th, 2009 at 06:01 PM (1828 Views)
Between 2 P.M. and 4 P.M. on Sunday afternooon is what I call "Siesta Time in the Rural South." After getting up early on Sunday morning to go to Sunday School, church, and then Sunday dinner with the family, by 2 P.M. many folks have hit the bed or couch for some nap time. Taking a nap Sunday afternoon is very much a part of the culture.

Thought I would take advantage of Siesta Time and go for a bike ride. Took the no-aero-bars bike out for a steady state ride of 20 miles. What a beautiful day to ride! Sunny with temps in the upper 70s. Saw very little traffic and no dogs. Guess the dogs were taking a siesta with their owners.

Info about ride:
Rode solo
Rolling hills
Total time: 1:03 (19mph)
Average HR: 160
Out-and-back course

Going out, I had to ride into a headwind, It took me about 34 minutes going out and only 29 only coming back. I do take a few minutes to spin at an easy speed when I start, so that probably accounts for some of the difference coming back.

Came across the below article last night. I'm sure this is obvious to many, but still interesting to read. I was talking to somebody I know that was big into runnning and they said that the ideal running weight for men was double their inches and for women it was double their inches minus 20 pounds. So, to be at my ideal running weight, I should weigh 118 to 120? If I got that skinny, I would hope my husband would be considering committing me. I wonder how good my 50 fly would be at that weight? Not!

I'm between 5'9" and 5'10," and the last three years, my weight has generally been between 140 and 150, although it has dropped as low as 134. I did my best triathlon at 140. Any lighter and I seem to lose my biking power. I've noticed that most of the elite female triathletes are around this weight if they are as tall as I.

Anyway, when I read articles like the one below, it always makes me ask myself why I am bothering to run.

Bigger Is Better, Except When It’s Not
Filip Kwiatkowski for The New York Times

Published: September 27, 2007
LOOKING back, Dr. Michael Joyner thinks he chose the wrong sport when he became a distance runner. He should have been a swimmer or a rower.
Skip to next paragraph Tim de Waele/Corbis
Levi Leipheimer, 5-foot-7, 136-pound cyclist. He was third in this year’s Tour de France and won this year’s United States pro race.

Enlarge This Image
Al Bello/Getty Images
Michael Phelps, 6-foot-4, 195-pound swimmer. Seven gold medals and five world records at this year’s world championships.

Dr. Joyner, an anesthesiologist and exercise researcher at the Mayo Clinic, was fast — he ran a marathon in 2 hours 25 minutes. But, at 6-foot-5, and 175 pounds at his lightest, he was simply too big to be great.
It turns out that there are rules governed by physics to explain why the best distance runners look so different from the best swimmers or rowers and why being big is beneficial for some sports and not others.
That does not mean that parents should push their children into a sport based on their body type, exercise physiologists say. Most people who run or swim or do other sports, even competitively, do it because they love the sport, not because they are aiming for the Olympic Games. Many also choose a sport because they discover they are good at it.
For example, Dr. Niels H. Secher, an anesthesiologist, exercise researcher and rower at the University of Copenhagen, started rowing when he was 14. He always was big — he weighs 205 pounds — and he immediately loved to row and went with it. “If it works well, you think you are great and you follow up on your success,” he said.
But understanding why body size matters in certain sports can open your eyes to other possibilities, exercise researchers say.
“I’ve told people: ‘You’re tall. Why not try swimming?’” Dr. Joyner said. “Anything worth doing is worth doing well and anything worth keeping a score is worth posting a good score.”
The rules of physics say that distance cycling and distance running are for small people. Rowing and swimming are for people who are big. The physics is so exact that when Dr. Secher tried to predict how fast competitive rowers could go, based only on their sizes and the weights of their boats, he was accurate to within 1 percent.
At first glance, a big rower (and elite male rowers can weigh as much as 250 pounds) may seem to be at a disadvantage trying to row hard enough to push a boat through the water. But because water buoys the boat, weight becomes less of an issue compared with the enormous benefits of having strong muscles.
Their bigger muscles allow bigger people to use more oxygen, giving them more power. It’s like having a bigger motor, Dr. Secher said. Bigger muscles, with their larger cross-section, also are stronger. And bigger muscles can store more glycogen, their fuel for short intense spurts.
The same reasoning explains why elite swimmers are big. Great male swimmers often are 6 feet 4 inches tall, and muscular. And because of the advantage that large muscles give for sprints over short distances, the shorter the distance an athlete must swim, the greater the advantage it is to be big.
Tall swimmers also have another advantage: because swimmers are horizontal in the water, their long bodies give them an automatic edge. “It’s the difference between long canoes and short canoes,” Dr. Joyner said.
Distance running is different. Tall people naturally have longer strides, but stride length, it turns out, does not determine speed. Running requires that you lift your body off the ground with each step, propelling yourself forward. The more you weigh, the harder you have to work to lift your body and the slower you will be.
The best runners are small and light, with slim legs. “If you have large legs, you have to move a big load,” Dr. Secher said. “The smaller you are, the better you are.”
Of course, there are a few exceptions to the scaling rules. There was the Australian runner Derek Clayton, who weighed 160 pounds and set a world marathon mark in 1969.
And there is Tom Fleming (my coach) who won the New York City Marathon in 1973 and 1975. He is 6-foot-1, and while he ran his fastest marathon, 2 hours 12 minutes, weighing 159 pounds, he ran the Boston Marathon in 2 hours 14 minutes weighing 179 pounds. “I tell people that’s the fat-man record of Boston,” he said.
The tallest elite marathoner today, Robert Cheruiyot, is 6-foot-2. But he weighs only 143 pounds. Most elite male marathoners, Dr. Joyner notes, are between 5-foot-7 and 5-foot-11 and weigh between 120 and 140 pounds. In distance running, he said, “you just don’t find many big people.”
The situation is more complicated for triathletes, who must run and cycle and swim. The size that is best for running and cycling is not good for swimming. Yet in general, swimmers have an advantage, Dr. Secher said. It is easier for a great swimmer to learn cycling and running than for a good runner or cyclist to learn to be a good swimmer. Swimming, he says, is so dependent on technique that it is hard to become proficient as an adult.
The decision for high school coaches, said Hayden Smith, a cross-country coach at Albion College, is whether to say anything when a young teenager seems set on the wrong sport. He said he kept mum when he was coaching in high school. But, he added, the best high school athlete he ever coached initially went out for football. The football coach refused to let him join the team — he would not give the boy the equipment.
“He told the kid, ‘You’ll be a great runner,’” Mr. Smith recalled.
The coach was right. The boy started running and ended up one of the top 10 in the nation.
No one ever told Dr. Joyner not to run. Injuries, though, finally forced him to look for another sport. He chose swimming, knowing that his size would be to his advantage.
Dr. Joyner got a coach, worked hard on his technique, and recently ranked 15th swimming a mile in a United States Masters swimming championship race (for people over age 25) . He started too late, he said, to know what he might have been as a swimmer.
But that is O.K., Dr. Joyner said. He loved running. And there is more to performance than simply having the right sort of body for the sport. There is hard work and rigorous training, and, of course, there is motivation.
“I always remember something the late Bill Bowerman said at a clinic I attended in the late 1970s,” he added, referring to the legendary distance running coach. “Sometimes what matters is not what dog is in the fight but how much fight is in the dog.”

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  1. flippergirl's Avatar
    Great blog Elsie. So an average dog with a lot of fight can have a lot of fun training and trying....
  2. The Fortress's Avatar
    I've read that article before! Dr. Joyner is a friend of Jaegermeister.

    Lots of people pick sports they're not technically suited for. My 5'4" sucks for a sprinter. (I remember Ande telling me I'd never know my full potential because I'm short ...) Happens all the time.

    As for women runners, the best are definitely skinny with very narrow hips. When the hips become curvy, the injuries start because the hip bones are no longer under the knees as much. Stinks. Doesn't mean you can't compete in sprint tris.
  3. jim thornton's Avatar
    It has always bummed me out that I cannot compete at the Kentucky Derby because of my body. Two hooves good; four hooves better.
  4. quicksilver's Avatar
    My two older girls are around your same height elise....5'-11-1/2" and 135. They were track and cross country stars in high school. Unfortunately there were no pools for them out our way until recently, so they never got the chance to swim competitively.

    Running and volleyball were the only options. So that's what they did, and they got very good at it.
    It's too bad, they are both natural swimmers.

    Speaking of height in swimming....there was a guy at a masters meet several years ago ....seeded with a :20 point and :45 for the 50 and 100 free. A few of us were expecting Matt Biondi to appear. Anyway this Tom Cruise look alike shows up to the blocks in a full body suit.

    He may have been 5'-8" tops. He swam like a Tazmanian devil. It was so impressive.
  5. elise526's Avatar
    Thanks, flippergirl! I guess what really matters is how much somebody enjoys participating in the sport.

    Fort - Thank, I guess on the tris, as the song goes, "Two out of three ain't bad." Guess I'll train enough so I don't have to walk the run.

    Jim - Too funny!!

    Quicksilver - Hearing about your daughters gives me some hope for a tall gal like myself. Do they still run?
  6. quicksilver's Avatar
    Do they still run?
    To answer your question, no. They both had academic scholarships.
    But my 23 year old now enjoys recreational swimming.

    My youngest is the swimmer. She can take down every 8th grade boy in an arm wrestle.
    The irony is that she's very feminine.
  7. elise526's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by quicksilver
    To answer your question, no. They both had academic scholarships.
    But my 23 year old now enjoys recreational swimming.

    My youngest is the swimmer. She can take down every 8th grade boy in an arm wrestle.
    The irony is that she's very feminine.
    Impressive bunch!! That's cute about your youngest. I bet the boys love her! You're going to have your hands full in a few years swatting the guys away!!
  8. quicksilver's Avatar
    So far so good.
    She's scaring them off really well.