So if you lost weight and got slower … what would that tell you? If you’re an uphill athlete, less weight should translate to faster speeds, right? So what’s the hang up?
Okay, we’re done speaking rhetorically now; the rhetorical subject is me, and the situation described above is my own from the year 2011. In the summer of 2010, my wife and I had our third child, and that fall I lost 6 pounds. That may not sound like a lot of weight to you, but when you drop from 136 to 130, that’s 5% of your body weight–no small thing.
So why did I get slower on the bike? By almost every metric, I showed up slower and less powerful at the races.
So let’s add some more thinking here: The previous winter, I’d managed to build up to a pretty regular resistance-training regimen, and it paid off in my climbing (despite the insistence of so many cycling exercise physiologists that it shouldn’t help). I won a cat 5 hill climb (which was a dream come true), and I would’ve been competitive at my A race but for a couple of mechanicals. It should also be noted that I didn’t gain any weight during that process.
The winter of 2010 to 2011, I couldn’t lift weights. I’d wind up grumpy and sore, and then I’d grouch at someone. That should’ve been a clue right there that I was losing muscle. So I didn’t lift in 2011 at all, really. And I still managed to get the flu and a nasty sinus infection to boot. Someone in all of those weight loss articles forgot to mention the fact that losing weight leaves your immune system vulnerable.
Now, there’s been a lot written about cortisol, and I can’t help but wonder if some of it is folklore rather than fact. Cortisol gets blamed with all sorts of ills, despite being a pretty important part of the inflammatory process. But recently, I read that excessive cortisol, which can result from excessive stress, can cause your body to prefer muscle as an energy source over other sources. That was pretty insightful, since I’ll have to admit to having experienced a lot of stress after my third child was born. I’ve also done an informal poll and talked to a handful of body builder/athlete dads who’ve told me they lose weight when their wives get pregnant–a pretty stressful time.
Despite having spent a lot of my time in weight rooms during my high school years, I’ve never really been good at putting muscle on, whereas I’ve always been pretty talented at losing weight. I s’pose that’s part of what makes me a good endurance athlete, and I realize that most big guys (Ironman® triathletes in particular) tend to bulk up pretty easily. But, that said, I’ve really come to believe that I’m the sort of endurance athlete who needs to be resistance training.
Keep in mind, I’ve come to that conclusion after seven years of training with and without resistance exercises, and I have no doubt from my own experience that I’m a better cyclist with resistance than without. I’m just sometimes led to question that experience by foolish chatter on the internet. So that’s my prerogative now: to avoid getting talked out of resistance training by some ex-phys know-it-all who’s determined to curtail my progression.
Glad I got that off my chest.