Athletics and Weight

This is a very heavy post.  So I’m not sure if you suffer from any sort of eating disorder or any sort of problem of that nature if you want to read it.  I promised I would be realistic with my blogging besties and here I am.  Being realistic. Sometimes I have to write a couple of serious posts to counteract my other shenanigans but really I have a lot more to say about my 5k race than what met the eye.  No pictures today but I’ll make up for it on my long car ride tomorrow.  🙂

As many of you know I raced a 5k on July 4th.  I ended up finishing in 20:32 which is an okay time for me.  Not the greatest at all but not the worst I could do by far.

During the 20 minutes that I as actually racing though a lot of factors laced into my mind.  I think I did more thinking during those 20 minutes than the entire week combined and I’m taking an online class.

Anywho, I’ll preface this because I don’t know how many people read from my DM, regular subscribers or have read my blog for the last year. (I love you all by the way) Basically I’ll catch you all up to speed so it will make more sense.

Being a two sport college athlete, it is extremely mentally tough.  It’s tough because I’m not doing indoor and outdoor track, I’m not doing two sports that generally work the same muscles or are the same thing.  No offense-but if you do indoor, outdoor, and cross country while yes you are a 3 sport athlete but you are generally doing about the same thing all year round.  Swimming is about a 10 month single sport just as running kind of is.  Swimming and running, however, are 100% complete different.  I mean sure they are both cardio based but that is about it.

With that-there are two completely different body types that excel in both sports.  With running, the smaller you are the general faster you go.  Not all the time and there are plenty of exceptions.  But it is a general case.  With swimming, it is more important to have meat on your bones so that you will be more boyant and generally do better.  When I swam my best times in high school, I was never a rail.  In fact, I was about the highest healthy weight for a 5’7 female.  As I grew older, my body changed (like antipuberty or something).

But long story short-My swim coach and cross country coach have both brought up the topic of weight and how it affects sports with me.  My swim coach, point blank told me I would not do well in swim season if I didn’t gain 10 pounds after cross country last November.  I was not underweight during cross country (and never have been).  We just had a long talk that gaining about ten pounds (healthily) would be best for my swimming.

So I did.

Now-my cross country coach has mentioned a few times that maybe it would help my running to go back to where I was preswimming and preNovember.  No-he is not forcing me to lose weight.  No-he is not telling me to be under weight.  No-he is not pressuring me or telling me I should losing weight is the only option and blah blah blah.  He is merely telling me facts.

 People that are not athletes often forget that your body is what gets you through your sport.  Not everyone loses weight for a body image.  I have been obnoxious and confident in every stage and body proportion of my life and that isn’t a problem. 

The reason I was hesitant to put this on the blog was because I don’t want people to think that anyone is forcing me to do anything, making me feel uncomfortable or triggering any sort of eating disorder. 

Because quite frankly-I’m at a point in my life that I can talk about weight rationally to my coach, to my friends, to my parents, to my blogging besties, DMers whatever without feeling like it is triggering something in me.

Anyways, that race just made me think long and a hard about swimming, running and weight.  All in 20 minutes.  I really don’t need anyone to tell me I need to lose or gain weight because that isn’t what I was getting at.

What do you think about athletics and weight? 

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  1. I think performance is the ultimate measure of whether or not you are in shape for your sport – not weight or whatnot. I also think that if you are training, fueling, and hydrating properly, your body will best adapt to the sport you’re training for at the time. So you might lose a little weight during CC season and gain a little during swim season as you adapt to the training. Probably not a lot, though.

    1. I do agree Victoria, my body has adapted well. However, I think not gaining the extra ten pounds in swimming would have caused me to be even slower. I just felt so much stronger in the pool when I added the ten pounds. Similar to feeling lighter and free moving when you are running.

  2. Hmmm, I’d go with swimming cuz then I could gain 10 lbs. Just kidding. I get where you are coming from and respect whichever decision is right for you for a healthy life and competitive stance in the sport of your choosing.

    But I gotta tell ya girl, 3 miles in 20 minutes is Ah-mazing!

  3. Interesting!! To be honest, I did actually think swimming and running were very similar (both being CV sports) so I didn’t know you needed different ‘figures’ to be better! I personally HATE the talk about ‘racing weight’. It’s such a fine line between being the optimum weight and being thin to the extent that it actually harms your performance! ED issues (especially in us girls!) give athletics a pretty bad rep, so I think coaches need to be more careful in what they say and advise. I think it’s great that you’re ok with your coach telling you that, but I don’t think I would be really! Anyway, so what did you decide? To lose the weight or not?

    AWESOME post! 🙂

    1. I can’t decide actually and I’m not too sure if I will actually share that decision online because I know it will stir up trouble either way. I am really close with my cross country coach and value his opinion so much. I love how he approached the topic without telling me what I HAD to do or made me feel like it was necessary.

  4. I think weight and body comp have a HUGE influence on athletics. I noticed this always when I was swimming. Ive gone thru many weight fluctuations and have performed differently at diff weights. Ive also noticed in running when I feel/am fitter vs heavier I perform bettef. Also I did have a coach who pressured weight loss for the wrong reasons (so his swimmers would look a certain way even tho most of us were performing great at the time). And actually my freshman yr I did a research paper on the pressures of weight loss amongst endurance athletes. Its def a very ineresting topic.

    1. Holly! I knew our twinnie minds would think alike. 😉

      I actually also had a coach in high school, that pressured HS vulnerable girls to lose weight so our team would look the most fit. She was fired and I have never been so happy ever.

      You should share some of the key points about your paper. That would be so interesting! 🙂

  5. Hmm. Everyone tells me I have the perfect body type for swimming – tall, (very) broad muscular shoulders, strong legs, etc. However I don’t think I am built for running whatsoever. It doesn’t come naturally to me and it’s really hard for me actually. I’m sure I’d be a faster runner if I dropped a good 20 lbs but I know it would for sure hurt me in swimming if I lost that much weight! I agree that these are two completely different sports, in fact I was talking about that just the other day with my friend who does ironmans! She’s built so much better for biking or running and not at all for swimming. We’re opposites.

    Anywho, I’m glad that you dont tie emotions with weight- that you can talk about it rationally for what it is. Not about appearance or dieting or insecurities. Sometimes it really is just a matter of athIetic performance.

    1. How tall are you Jamie? I wish I had broad shoulders but sadly I do not. It would have supported me swimming so much fly back in the day (not anymore…all I can swim is freestyle). I hate how stick thin runners are but I guess it makes sense. That is why I loved swimming so much in high school….there was no pressure for anything.

  6. I love your insight hollie. I completely agree…people should be able to talk about weight without automatically assuming the worse. Weight has become such a taboo especially in the blog world that even when you’re discussing it rationally, people start freaking out. And that’s just wrong. Weight is nothing more than a representation of the mass of our bodies. THAT’S IT! It doesn’t make a person, define them, or make them any less or more special.
    I love your frank approach to this topic and I know just from your writing that you are completely clear headed and right minded regarding your health, weight, and all that jazz. You are truly a roll modem hollie! Love ya girl!

    1. Thank-you Kaila, that really means so much.

      I agree completely. I was just talking to a friend about how taboo it is in the blogging world. I have posted a few blogs about weight and it has normally lead to a few email freakouts and all this jazz.

  7. Being both a swimmer and runner like you Hollie, I 100% understand where you are coming from! When I weighed more in swimming I did better but when I am more thin I run a lot faster. Also, like you I have had swim coaches tell me I should gain weight but never a coach that forces me to lose for cross country. So what I am trying to say her is that I understand where you are coming from and you don’t view weight as body image, you view weight in terms of sports- for good reason.. You’re and athlete! Good post 🙂

    1. Thank you Allie. That really means so much. It is certainly hard to think about but I think eventually my body will realize what it wants to do and that will probably be after college.

  8. I think you can find the equilibrium between weight and performance in both disciplines. You are the only one who can find this equilibrium, you will feel it as soon as you get there. In some aspects is better listening to your body, not your coach! Just keep healthy as you’ve always been and keep hard working. In my opinion that’s the best you can do!

    1. Thank you Armando! That is seriously great advice and it means a lot that you read this. 🙂 I think listening to my body is certainly the best way to figure things out really. 🙂

  9. Oooh that’s conflicting! Just do what you feel is right…you know how to look after your body so whether you decide to drop a few pounds or not, as long as you’re doing it healthily (which I know you would!) then it’s fine! 🙂

  10. This is really interesting Hollie — sorry if this sounds ignorant, but I would think that being thin would be helpful with swimming too — that shows how much I don’t know (and how much time I spend not swimming!)

    I think it is great that you are thinking about this, instead of just going along with what your coach suggests.

    3 miles in 20 minutes is amazing!!!!!!

    1. Oh no don’t worry Holly. A lot of people actually think that. When you have a little more fat and meat (not ,muscle but actual bulk) you stay more at the surface. The best female swimmers are not size 0 or 2 or 4. They are seriously all complete role models.

  11. Hey

    I completely get where you are coming from. I was thinking about this the other day too (though in a slightly different context: more just thinking about how your body type is different if you started sports when you were young versus started them when you were older). Weight/body shape does effect your performance more than people realize. I mean, you don’t have to do much more than simply look at the athletes in the sport:
    Runners – really thin
    Swimmers – lots of upper body, not anywhere near as thin

    I am glad to hear that your coach is giving you facts rather than saying something harsh and criticizing. It sounds like you’re in a both mentally and physically tough spot, but hopefully you can find some sort of balance that works for you.

    1. It is like that for a lot of sports seriously. People don’t realize in running that it is a proven fact (within reason of course) that smaller runners and even shorter runners can move faster. I am so glad you completely agree and I’m so glad my coach isn’t forcing or being irrational because god knows that would put many peoples panties in a bunch.

  12. I agree with you!! Swimming is cv, but NOTHING like running. Swimmers are usually strong and may have a few extra pounds(not overweight though). Swimming helps you running(xctrain) and running helps the swimming. But, I don’t think that all xc or track runners need to be skinny. You must be strong to climb the hills and be able to do 6 1mile repeats. Being little is not going to get you fast. I used to think the skinnier I am, the faster i’ll go. Well, it ended up with a ed and a weak runner. I think that running is more mental than anything. If you have a strong mind, than you can do anything no matter if you are skinny, muscular, or even a few extra pounds. Running takes heart and that’s why you rocked your 5k! Good job!

  13. Omg stop. You are SUCH a speed demon, seriously. And you are beautiful no matter what. Your coaches ARE just telling you facts, and I respect you for being able to see them as such and handle it like a serious athlete. Each sport is hugely different, which I have learned from going through cycles of cycling obsession and running obsession. They both strengthen, but in completely different ways. Plus, when you’re training as a runner, you want to start off weighing more so that you strengthen yourself, and slowly lose weight in the last few weeks before a race to get to “race weight” where you quite literally fly. Well not really. Anywho. I lahve you, and if you ever wanna chat about this call me mmk?

    1. Katelyn,

      They are telling me just facts. I wasn’t saying I was going to lose any weight or anything I was just bringing up a valid point. I will still be eating more pancakes than anyone you know or I know ha. 😉

  14. wow what a lot of stress to put on a little lady. To gain weight for one sport and then suggested to lose it in the same year. weight really does effect sports, so I understand why they say it. but that is a lot to thinik about in a race! I usually just think about the finish or what I am going to eat the day since Im burnign a ton of calories haha

    1. It all just kind of hit me because in the top 10 females I was the largest and that is honestly never ever ever the case if you pull a crowd of ten females. It made me feel slightly strange I guess. I always think of pancakes the majority of the time. Or I’m rapping lyrics in my mind. ha. 😉

  15. I feel like weight definitely affects running- well at least it did for me. When my weight started going up during my ED, many people kept telling me that weight has no effect on running and that I would run the same. Now, I’m 20 lbs heavier than I was in XC, and it wasn’t weight that I needed. During training runs, I run over 1 minute per mile slower. Some people are probably jus going to tell me, “it’s all mental” or “you’re probably still anemic” but I know it’s not either. It’s like wearing a weight vest.

    However, the situation is different if a runner is underweight or not eating enough. Then, the extra weight will make that person a stronger runner. I definitely wouldn’t worry too much about your weight- 10 lbs isn’t much, and it will definitely come off if it needs to or if you want it to.

  16. first off: congrats on your race

    and on the weight topic. I’ve put a lot of thought into it. Whats a ‘normal’ weight for non-athletes is WAY different than for athletes. I’ve read “Racing Weight” and its certainly given me alot to think about. Also, I had a chance to run on the Alter-G (anti-gravity treadmill) recently and was amazed at how much easier it was for me to run when it was weight adjusted to take 15 pounds off. Anyway, I have no answer for you (or me yet), just wanted to say its been something on my mind as well and I’m nowhere near a competitive runner.

    1. Thanks so much Tricia!

      I really think people who are not collegiate athletes or very very serious athletes-it is very hard for them to understand and you are right. I have been wanting to try an alter G treadmill but there aren’t any near me. blergy blerg.

  17. I’m not an athlete so i dont’ hve much to say about it personally, but a lot of the complications for me with weight and athletics are girls who are NOT confident like you are, and who are told to lose weight sometimes to an unhealthy extent because it may “make them perform better” possibly at teh expense of their long-term health and happiness. OR athletes who are told to lose a moderate amount of healthy weight and end up goign way overboard because it DOES trigger some kind of disordered eating that ultimately can ruin their lives and their athletic performance. I think a lot of people have trouble looking at it totally objectively the way you seem to, and it becomes more caught up in feeligns of self-worth and becomes really destructive.
    My one experience with weight and athletics was with crew. I rowed as a lightweight and while I didn’t have much trouble staying under the 130 mark (actually they kept making megain weight lol) there were girls who resorted to some seriously unhealthy measures to lose the weight just to stay lightweight even when they were probably too tall for it anyways. Sometimes it wasn’t a full-blown eating disorder but I know one girl was subsisting on like 1300 calories a day with ~3 hours of practice a day. Pretty sure she probably burned that many calories just during practice.

    Anyways I’m totally babbling and not sure what my point is, but I guess the overarching thing for me is that people should be careful about weight changes in athletics and ensure that whatever weight is lost/gained is HEALTHY for that person because if it isn’t it may ruin thei rlife past their athletic career or even interfere with their performance. And I admittedly do gt a litlte annoyed with any coach telling people to lose weight but that’s because I know I would be super sensitive about it and probably go overboard because I’m insecure that way 😉

  18. I kind of love you. Seriously. I love that you aren’t afraid to post about this. It’s really hard as a runner to have so many people telling you “oh you need to gain weight!” but know that for your sport, that’s where you are supposed to be. Especially at the end of the season. I always start off heavier and peak lighter, it’s just the nature of the sport and I go back through that cycle every season. My coaches have never brought weight into play, but I’m also only a high school athlete and everyone in our top 7 is pretty much at the same place I am. I’m sure it’s difficult to have conflicting sports like you do, but thank goodness it doesn’t bother you. I bet some girls can’t sleep over their weight when it comes to performance. I say as long as it’s not detrimental to your performance it’s generally healthy, because once you bridge into the unhealthy zone your performance suffers anyway. Hmm this was pretty much stream of consciousness… sorry about that.

  19. Cheers to you for being confident and able to handle weight without the drama.
    I also know that even as you (its sounds like you will) drop some weight for your speed’s sake you will do it healthily and also eat pancakes if you want them (0:

  20. Great post – I am a three season runner but love to use swimming as cv cross training. I agree with the person above me – your confidence of your weight regardless of the sports’ “norms” is really admirable. As a collegiate runner, I understand the stereotypical “thin” image of cross country and distance runners. However, thin does not equal faster, nor does bulkier equal faster in swimming (just guessing here). I have seen skinny runners win races, but I’ve seen stronger, wide-shouldered girls win races as well. I swim and lift because I know upper body is crucial to powerful running, especially in xc. Let your body figure itself out as you go from season to season – like the first person said, all you have to do is train and fuel yourself properly – your body will do the rest for you! Congrats on your 5K, especially in the humidity!

  21. I would throw your scale out the window and absolutely forget about anything that has to do with weight. Don’t try and lose any- you looked way too thin in the pictures you posted yesterday as it was honestly Hollie. Let your running dictate your weight as there really is a point where it will make you faster but then too low will just crush you. I just read a great article about the Ironman Champion Chris McCormack- the heaviest guy to ever win Kona… and he’s done it twice. It was a great article where when he was too light he couldn’t even finish the race. I think you awesome- ignore anything about weight

  22. I love this so much because it takes the pressure OFF weight in a weird way…like to show that although we are used to it being only seen in vanity and as a sensitive issue it can instead be just talked about for what it is-weight. Weight is such a touchy subject but if it were thought of more in this light (and as solely a health issue as well) maybe people could feel less pressured about it. Idk if this makes sense…just super interesting to read and I like how your confidence isn’t the issue…your performance is. Wild you rock

  23. Ok now my comment sounds weird..I just like how you are thinking of performance only…and can feel comfortable no matter what.

  24. First off, I absolutely LOVE your blog! Found you a few months ago and can completely relate as I swam competitively year around from 4th grade through college and have since become a runner. I was just thinking about all of this the other day how one’s build affects their performance differently in different sports. When I swam I was never overweight but always stayed to the higher end of my healthy weight for my height. Now that I no longer swim and I run more, I am more towards the middle of that range as running as caused me to lean out more and bulk less (esp. shoulders and arms as I was a flyer). That being said, when I ran my first 1/2 marathon I was at the low end of my healthy weight and noticed that my performance changed drastically from when I was 15 lbs heavier and swimming, but in even better shape due to swimming. Thanks so much for posting this and being real! I know many don’t understand the weight thing in terms of athletic performance, and I’m glad you can think about it objectively and not let it affect your body confidence, which is stellar btw! I will be praying for you and all of this, as I know it must be alot to process! Love you girl! <3 Anna

  25. Swimming and running?! You are a monster! I grew up a swimmer and will always consider myself a swimmer. I was bulky and very powerful growing up but a swimming injury led me to start running (err sort of I’m not really a runner), now I have a leaner body which I’m trying to put weight back on. I think you should be a weight that you feel comfortable with your performances in either area. Great job on the 5k by the way!!

  26. I remember how hard it is being a multiple sport athlete, and I honestly don’t think I truly put my whole mind and soul into field hockey until I quit everything else. The same goes for running now. Is it a reality to choose which one could be your “heart and soul?” If you make that choice, all the other choices that come with it make come a little more easily…

  27. I think weight is one of many factors you consider when doing a sport and it doesn’t have to be emotional or an issue like you said. It’s a number, a contributor and something you can handle in a matter of fact sort of way. I run faster when I’m lighter. It’s a fact. So, as long as I’m healthy about it, I can work to move my weight to get the results I want. Great thought-provoking blog post.

  28. Of course athletics and weight go hand in hand. I was actually just thinking of this… well, it’s on my mind often that I was thinking of getting the book Racing Weight.

    What are you going to do now that your coach told you that?

  29. This is really interesting topic hollie and I’m glad you posted it. Because I’ve never really thought about this. But I’m sure weight does affect performance!
    You are an ATHLETE and I think some readers probably don’t understand that when they freak out over some of your choices, but I think you are handling this very well. I believe you are in a healthy place no matter if you decide to gain, weight, maintain or lose.
    I admire you!

  30. This is a wonderful post…considering my dad and I had this very conversation today over coffee. I do cross country and he does half marathons & marathons. I completely agree with you on when you mentioned that not everybody loses or gains weight just because of body image. So many people don’t understand this.
    haha I rambled a bit, just to introduce myself my name is Isabelle and I’m new to your blog. I’ve only just got mine up and running all I need now is to publish my first post!

  31. So interesting! I just started reading your blog tonight! It sucks that this could be such a taboo subject because I think its really important/interesting. I’m a professional dancer and acrobat and growing up I was a competitive swimmer and soccer player. I got a lot of grief and continue to run into issues here and there with muscular thighs but as an acrobat an aerialist, I put on a good 15-20 pounds training. And I needed it, it served me well. Then I got a job stilt walking and leaned out via running and scaling back on weight training and now my current contract is ending and doing aerial/acrobatic work is harder because I’ve lost muscle! But it all goes along with the activities I choose and am lucky enough to do. Your post is a great reminder that weight and mass and body composition doesn’t have to be about asthetics but about the activities you want to excell at, because they make your life happy.


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