Despite all the miles we log, races we run, and fudge brownies we forego, runners can still gain weight. When we decide to shed those extra pounds, we typically track our progress by stepping on the bathroom scale. But sometimes seeing our weight flash up at us day after day can be more of a hindrance than help—especially if those figures have barely budged.
On the bright side, runners like numbers (think of all those personal records, marathon pace charts, and meticulously timed interval workouts). And there are plenty of other stats out there that can give us a more complete picture of our overall health and help us lose weight. By tracking numbers that gauge changes in our fitness level, heart health, nutrition habits, and body measurements, you'll not only slim down, but also take your running to the next level. So forget about pounds for a while and kick-start your weight loss by following these numbers instead.
Set realistic resolutions and you can shed pounds for the long run
Keeping tabs on your body composition can help you assess your weight-loss and fitness progress in a way that the scale (which measures only pounds) can't duplicate. These numbers will help you focus on losing fat, gaining muscle, and getting leaner — the best indicators of improved health and fitness.
Many runners get frustrated when they step on the scale after weeks of exercising only to discover they're the same weight. What they're forgetting is that they very likely have gained muscle and lost body fat — arguably a more positive health change than losing pounds. You can use inexpensive calipers like those from AccuMeasure Fitness to track body-fat changes. Take the measurement about one inch above your right hip. The calipers come with a chart you can then use to find your body-fat percentage. Levels for fit athletes range from about five percent to 17 percent for men and 13 percent to 24 percent for women.
Taking your waist, hip, and thigh measurements on a weekly basis will help you quantify exactly how many inches you've lost. And a smaller waist is not only a marker of weight loss but also decreased cancer risk; the American Institute for Cancer Research notes that men are at a higher risk of cancer when their waist is 40 inches or larger; for women, the number is 35.
Counting the extra belt holes you cinch up is an easy way to get daily feedback on your weight. "It was always a minor triumph when I realized my usual belt hole wasn't working anymore," says Jason Logue, a 36-year-old runner and attorney from Pittsburgh. In fact, many other runners interviewed for this article first noticed their progress when they had to pull their belts tighter — or buy a smaller one.
Holy Grail Pants
Take that old pair of jeans you wore when you were at your desired weight and try them on periodically. Once they fit, you'll know you're at a healthy weight. Shanti Sosienski, author of Women Who Run
, followed a similar approach. The Idaho-based runner used clothing sizes to measure progress. She went from a size 14 to a size eight — and dropped 15 pounds along the way.
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Okay, this isn't exactly a measurement, but it is a sign your hard work is paying off. Logue didn't realize how much he'd lost until friends started to tease him. "They called me David Byrne, after the Talking Heads singer with baggy suits," he says with a laugh. He bought new suits, new belts — and inspired a few friends to shed their extra pounds.