running blog

Clive Whaley

Fit for Purpose?

Walked the half mile to the Leisure Centre on a very still, intensely fog bound, Friday evening. The Friday between Christmas and New Year. It is neither one thing nor the other, I can't label it. It feels like it has no purpose or designation. I didn't meet a soul on the walk there and it felt like everyone else had given up on the day and left me alone to the silence and the fog.

Not much busier in the Centre, but much brighter and more welcoming than outdoors and my fitness instructor Dan was just great. When I booked the session, they said it was for 30 mins … 2 hours later I was thoroughly Assessed, Re-programmed and Re-motivated by Dan. I think it helped that Dan and I know each other from a year or so back when he helped out with coaching at the running club. It also helped that it was quiet in the gym and I suspect that he didn't have much else to occupy his time. But I think the main thing was, the he is genuinely knowledgeable about fitness training and was thoughtful and encouraging in the way he put it across.

We started with the 'Boditrax' machine - a 21st century equivalent of a seaside 'guess your weight' machine. You stand on it barefoot, grab hold of 2 plastic batons, a mild electric current is sent through you and 'Hey Presto' you find out everything about your body you never previously dared to ask. (As I was holding the batons and being pleasantly electrocuted, I did wonder if this was one of the latest Government anti terrorist measures - why was Dan suddenly giving me an evil stare and asking me how long I had been a member of the 'so called Islamic State' and why was I planning a 16 week programme of activities culminating in a trip to the capital city in April and then taking in a route which passed several strategic government and historic sites? Put like that I'm beginning to feel a bit guilty myself.)

I got the impression from some of the things he said that Dan and his colleagues take the results of the mystical Boditrax machine with a healthy dose of salts but for the record and for those who love to read the intimate details of other people's bodies, here are a selection of the figures of my figure:

Age: 56
Height: 1 m 76 cm*
Weight: 69.4 kg
Body Mass Index (BMI) - 22.4
Impedance: 472.1**
Body Composition: 80% muscle, 16% fat, 4% bone
Basic Metabolic Rate - 1658
Visceral Fat Rating - 8cc.

* Didn't like that, I'm sure he's got me 2 cm short - or have I entered the shrinkage phase of life?
** No idea what this is but I can impress people on New Year's Eve with the size of my Impedance

Dan says that last measure (Visceral Fat) is a key one and 8cc is quite good and I will have to believe him, although if I was a car, I clearly wouldn't be going very far or very fast, although maybe my petrol consumption would be low. Looking at it more optimistically, if I was a pop group, I would only be 2 digits short of a series of hit singles and albums in the 1970s. The machine also produced a graphic showing my body type hovering in the area between 'Standard' and 'Thin and muscular' but also floating dangerously near to 'Thin' and 'Underexercised'.

All of this has a slightly unnerving grain of truth about it but of course what you tend to do, is remember and latch on to the measures you like and try and forget or ignore those ones where clearly the machine has got it wrong. My favourite of the lot is the fact that it judged my Metabolic Age at 41! This is 15 years younger than my actual age and, according to Dan, the Boditrax device will only award you a maximum of 15 years younger - how mean is that? So we may never know what my real Metabolic Age might be. I could be a Metabolic Toddler in a Late Middle Aged Skinsuit. This also has a slightly unnerving grain of truth.

I think the best thing of all is that it gives me a whole new vocabulary to use when out running. When well meaning dog walkers smile and say "Ooooh you must be fit!", I can shout back in passing, "Yes and my Basic Metabolic Rate is one thousand six hundred and fifty eight and rising … see you!" If a cheeky teenager goes for "Keep those knees up you old git!", I can riposte with, "Ha! My real Metabolic Age is at least 15 years younger than my real age. If the same applied to you, you'd be swimming in womb juice sonny." I think I need to work on these but you get the idea.

This account of my assessment is not exactly balanced. The magic machine component only took up about 15 minutes and the rest involved me and Dan moving around various exercise stations in the gym, carefully designing a programme of strength and conditioning for my London Marathon plan. The emphasis is on leg strength, core conditioning (basically the middle) and a much needed bit of flexibility.

As a result of this session and the time spent with Dan, I feel like I have gone from treating this gym work as a bit of a chore or necessary evil in a Marathon Plan, to something that I'm actually looking forward to and that might actually provide a bit of a breakthrough in my fitness level. The only drawback is that I only plan on doing this for one session per week - the running (5 times per week) has to take priority. Maybe I will occasionally find time to fit in 2 gym sessions per week, we will see.

The fog seemed thicker than ever on the walk back. I bravely strode through it, knowing that with an Impedance score of 472.1, nothing could stop me now.