Carrying less total weight can absolutely affect your cycling performance, which is why many cyclists aim to have the lightest bikes and the best riders have very lean bodies. Some gear junkies go as far as weighing each gram of equipment to get their setup as light as possible. Products from bikes to sunglasses typically list their weight in grams to show which items are the lightest. ‘Weight Weenies,’ as they are known in the cycling community, are willing to pay extra for these lightweight items. Investing in light gear is an easy (although expensive) way to buy speed, but there is another option: your body!
Type of Effort
The type of riding you do can influence whether or not you need to focus on weight loss for performance. Flat roads and sprint finishes do not see a significant improvement from a change in weight status. However, in situations like long hill climbs and sprinting out of corners, being lighter reduces the energy output needed when comparing a heavier cyclist to a lighter one. Using data analysis, such as Best Bike Split, can show you exactly how much your times can improve on a particular ride at various weights.
Power to Weight
This is known as the power to weight ratio; a marker of cycling performance. In this ratio, when weight decreases and power increases or even stays the same, your performance on the bike is better because you are essentially doing less work to have the same outcome. To find your ratio, simply divide your power by weight in kilograms. For example, a 50kg cyclist who can hold 300 watts has a power to weight ratio of 6 while an 80kg cyclist holding 300 watts only has a power to weight ratio of 3.8. That 80kg rider has to put out 300 watts to keep up with the 50kg rider doing only 190. While losing weight is a great way to improve this ratio, improving power is also critical. Cyclists who drop too much weight or lose weight without maintaining fitness will see their power drop, which is not beneficial.
Muscle vs. Mass
An important note is that power to weight is based on total body mass. Whether you have a super a lean body or extra fat isn’t part of this equation. This is because that weight is still weight you have to use energy to haul around. Having more muscle mass might make you a better sprinter or stronger overall, but it will still work against you in weight-based situations like the ones mentioned above. Of course muscle burns more calories, making it easier to maintain a leaner body. Having more muscle on your frame can also help improve power outputs and reduce risk of injury. The more excess weight you are currently carrying, the more you should focus on total body mass or BMI. Once a healthy weight is obtained, more gains will come by looking at body fat measurements and working toward a toned, lean and strong body.
The more weight you have to lose, the more significant impact weight loss can make on your performance due to health gains associated with obtaining a healthy BMI, such as decreased shortness of breath, less pressure on joints, improved glucose metabolism and more. Getting to a healthy weight for your height should be step one. For cyclists already in great form, losing more weight will continue to have performance benefits as hauling even a pound less makes the effort easier.
Of course, many cyclists can take weight loss too far. Reaching a BMI that is too low can increase risk of injury, delay recovery, reduce power output, increase fatigue, increase risk of nutrient deficiency and disrupt female athletes’ hormones. Being ultralight might make you faster, but if you’re injured, tired and malnourished, you won’t be a better athlete in the long run.
Reducing weight from your bike and body can help you be a faster, more competitive athlete. Weigh your gear and look for lighter options if you’re able. If you have excess body weight, focus on losing a few pounds. Aim to clean up your fueling choices with a diet that includes a variety of whole foods and balanced meals. Losing weight in a slow, steady way while still working on fitness will keep you from losing power as you drop pounds. Working with a sports dietitian can also assist you with making these improvements.
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Jackie Veling is a past Senior Editor at ACTIVE.com. She’s passionate about overall wellness and body positivity, and her favorite way to stay active is through running. You can follow her on Twitter.
10 Fall Sports Options for Kids
The beginning of a new school year is just around the corner and with it, the fall sports season begins. Soon parents will be tasked not only with buying the annual haul of school supplies but also with signing their kids up for their favorite fall sports. Whether your child prefers to play the same sport year after year or is more interested in trying something new this fall, the following sports are among the great options offered.
A wonderful choice for young kids who’ve never played on a team before, soccer is a popular introductory fall sport. Younger children typically play on co-ed teams and learn the fundamentals of the sport without the stress of competing against one another in games. As they age, players are generally divided into same-sex teams and play against each other in half, and eventually full field, games.
Cross country is a sport that is generally introduced in middle school, though youth running leagues do exist across the country. The sport is great for any child with a love of running, as teams and individuals race outdoors over varied terrain and in all kinds of weather in an effort to cross the finish line the fastest. Cross country is considered both an individual and team sport, as runners are judged on their personal times as well as team times.
A fall sports classic, for many people football marks the beginning of the change of seasons. In most school districts, football is offered as an afterschool sport beginning in middle school, though there are many youth football leagues for kids who want to get started earlier than that. Generally, the youngest footballers start off playing flag football before moving up to full contact tackle football.
If your child loves the ice, ice hockey is a fast and fun sport that takes place during the fall and winter months. The sport is usually played indoors on an ice rink, and the purpose is to place the hockey puck in the back of the opponent’s goal. The sport has many similarities to soccer, but ice hockey players move the puck using hockey sticks (as opposed to moving the ball by kicking it) and dart back and forth on the ice on ice skates.
Cheerleading is a sport that takes acrobatic talent (flips and stunts), as well as the balance, timing and grace of dancing. While the purpose of cheerleading is to support other sports squads, cheering is also a competitive sport. If your child is drawn to high-energy pursuits like tumbling and dancing, cheerleading might just be the sport to try this fall.
The oldest sport native to North America, lacrosse is easy to pick up and is growing each year in popularity. In fact, over the past twenty years it has been the fastest growing team sport. On the lacrosse field, each player has a stick with a net on the end that is used for catching and throwing a rubber ball. The purpose of the sport is to put the ball in the back of the opposing team’s net and score a goal. Though women’s lacrosse is a non-contact sport, contact is allowed in men’s lacrosse, requiring additional protective equipment.
Depending on school district, golf may be a spring or fall sport. No matter when the game is played, golf requires the ability to concentrate and maintain mental and physical balance while striking the ball with a golf club toward a distant target. Aside from the social and physical benefits of the game, another major upside to golf is that your child should be able to competitively play the sport late into life.
Field hockey is a sport that dates back to the ancient Greeks and is one of the oldest team sports in the world. While field hockey has predominately been a women’s sport in the United States, the sport is popular with both male and female athletes around the world, and men’s field hockey has been gaining popularity in the U.S. in recent years. Field hockey is played on grass or turf and is much like ice hockey without the ice. If your child is signing up to play at school, field hockey is usually offered beginning in middle school.
If your child is looking for a team sport that’s big in action but low in injury, volleyball is a great option. Girls’ volleyball is offered as a fall sport (boys’ volleyball usually takes place in the spring) and is played in intimate teams of six who work together to keep the ball airborne on their side of the net and grounded on the opposite team’s side. Like golf, volleyball is a sport that can be played and enjoyed well into adulthood.
Water Polo (boy’s)
Boy’s water polo is played in the fall (girl’s is typically played in the spring) in a swimming pool. The purpose of the game is to throw a buoyant ball into the goal of the opposing team. Athletes need both speed and strength to keep their bodies above water and engaged with the game, and the sport is a great cardiovascular workout. For kids that are drawn to the water but prefer a team atmosphere, water polo is a great sport to try.
READ THIS NEXT: 10 Reasons Rec Sports Are Great for Kids
How Far Should You Run?
New runners are quite fortunate: They have their entire running career in front of them. Starting this new journey is an exciting time, and we want you to get you started on the right foot.
One of the most common questions that beginners have is, “How much should I run?” It’s a tough question. Depending on your fitness level and goals, the following advice can help.
How far should I run on my very first run?
If you’ve never run before, and don’t have much experience recently with other sports that involve running like soccer or basketball, you should start gradually. Your first run should be 1 to 3 miles at most. The goal isn’t to “get fit” or run fast, but rather to see how your body responds to running with the smallest risk for running injuries.
Run as comfortably as possible; keep the pace easy, and stop before you’re really tired. You’ll likely be sore so you don’t want to make things too hard on yourself.
If you consider yourself an athletic person and have played sports or stayed active recently, you can be more aggressive with your first run. Aim for 3 to 4 miles at a comfortable effort. Just like a total beginner, you want to make sure you’re not too fatigued.
How much should I run each week?
Beginning runners should start with two to four runs per week at about 20 to 30 minutes (or roughly 2 to 4 miles) per run. You may have heard of the 10 Percent Rule, but a better way to increase your mileage is to run more every second week. This will help your body adapt to your new hobby so you don’t get hurt.
After a few weeks, you should focus on adding 5 to 10 minutes to one of your runs so that once per week you’e doing a “long” run. This is the best way for new runners to gain endurance and become a faster runner overall (even if you’re training for a short race).
Those who have a background in sports can be more aggressive with their mileage increases, but it’s still helpful to increase volume every two weeks rather than every week.
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