Saturday, November 27, 2010

Measuring fitness

How do you measure fitness?  Endurance, speed, marathon pace, weekly mileage, race results?  As a group, runners probably don't think about this much.  We are runners, ergo we are fit.  We run marathons or races of some kind, which gives us a license to eat what and how much we want. Not so.  There are many runners who suffer from underlying (poor) health conditions mainly because of bad dietary choices.  Borderline obesity, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, the same diseases that affect the general non-running public, can and do affect runners who do not pay enough attention to their diets.

You would think that vegetarians or vegans who exercise regularly would be even less likely to suffer from these 'couch potato' diseases.  Probably so to a degree, but not entirely.  Fat vegetarian is unfortunately not an oxymoron.  And vegans don't all have the body composition of waif-like teenage girls. Alec Baldwin is but one high profile vegan who is rather beefy, shall we say.  You only need to look around you at a vegan Meetup to realize that an ostensibly healthy diet does not translate into a trim, fit body. 

So what is one to do?  It would be wise to start with an annual medical checkup.  This is where problem areas first identify themselves.  Didn't know that you were pre-diabetic?  The results of a fasting blood sugar test will make you sit up and take notice in a hurry.  So would a realistic look at your blood lipid composition, cholesterol levels and many other indicators.  Just as important for us older 'athletes' is a colonoscopy or at least a flexible sigmoidoscopy at age 50 or even earlier depending on whether there is a history of colon cancer in parents and siblings.

And finally, you could invest a few dollars in an inexpensive fat caliper such as the Accu-Measure, to make a really honest appraisal of how 'fit' (or fat) you are.  If you are anything like the average American man or woman, your body mass index is likely too high.  I know mine is because I checked it this morning.  A whopping 25 percent.   Which for my age is in the 'overweight' category.  Yes I have some excuses, notably not being able to run as much as usual due to a balky knee, but clearly there is more to it than just the running.  Despite not eating any meat or dairy products and very little extra fat, my 'calorie in' and 'calorie out' balance is not right.  The remedy?  Start calorie counting with immediate effect and limit my daily intake of calories to 1800 until I can get the BMI down to 12%. I will be making a few more visits to the gym as well. Starting today!  

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