VeloPress has emerged as the preeminent publisher of books about cycling. That the publisher is doing stellar work isn’t surprising, but the fact that they have so little competition from other publishers is.
Matt Fitzgerald’s new book Racing Weight: How to Get Lean for Peak Performance is the only title I’ve ever encountered that addresses weight loss for endurance athletes. Rather than just a manual on how to shave pounds from your frame, it addresses the larger issue of how to right-size your body.
It’s a question I’ve considered many times over the years. After all, there’s more to being fit than just have a single-digit body fat composition. So just what is a right-sized endurance athlete? More pointedly, what is right-sized you? It’s an intriguing question and one I never really found an answer to for me, personally, in all the different training manuals I’ve read over the years. Yet, in Fitzgerald’s book, finding an answer is easy.
The book weaves a very big-picture, integrated perspective on not just weight loss, but sport-specific considerations, diet evaluation, when you eat, dealing with hunger pangs, fuel sources and dietary supplements. Think of all the facets of fitness that relate to your weight and your performance and Fitzgerald has covered it. The title is nearly overwhelming in its thoroughness.
Even more impressive is Fitzgerald’s mastery of the underpinnings of the science. He cites study after published study showing how the human body behaves in response to any number of conditions. The sheer number of studies he cites is staggering. His mastery of the science involved allowed him to weave a sort of scientific narrative, where each new study is brought to bear upon the story of achieving a proper weight the way a bricklayer selects bricks according to the composition at hand.
At best, I would have imagined you might devote two, maybe three, chapters to weight and weight loss in a book on training. I’d never have believed anyone could compose a thought-provoking volume of more than 280 pages on the subject. Every now and then someone writes the giant-killer text, the volume that becomes the bible of a subject. Ten years from now most of us will be wondering how we managed before this book came along.
For my part, in the last 18 months I picked up more than 15 pounds thanks to a honeymoon and an injury that kept me off the bike for longer than I thought possible, like holding my breath for a day. All the old tricks didn’t work through the summer. And if a cyclist can’t lose weight during the summer … clearly new strategies are necessary. Nine pounds later, I’m on my way and can say this book taught me some important lessons.