running blog

Clive Whaley


Fit for a Marathon?

Day 102 - Marathon Training - mixed 'tempo' intervals and 'marathon pace' session
Fitness Assessment on Boditrax Machine

Before I did my training run this evening, I walked back to the gym at the Leisure Centre in order to stand barefoot on the mystical Boditrax machine. Under Dan's guidance again, I wanted to see if there had been any noticeable or interesting changes since I first did this way back on 30 December 2016 - before I had started my marathon training programme.

Talk about an anti-climax. Hardly anything had changed. Now there are two ways of looking at this - I have just slogged my guts out for 15 weeks with no noticeable improvement in my health, fitness or physique - in other words it was a complete waste of time … OR (and you can sense which I might prefer here), I was already such a supremely fit human being and let's face it, it is difficult to add anything to perfection …

OK I will highlight the tiny changes and find some significance there. My weight fell from the giddy heights of 69.4 kilos to 69.1 kilos. It certainly wasn't any goal of mine to lose weight so that doesn't matter either way, although my fat mass has also dropped from 11.1kg to 10.9kg. So you could say I have lost a tiny bit of weight and that has all been fat.

It also records my 'degree of obesity' as falling from 1.9% to 1.5%, so I won't be graduating with that 'degree' anytime soon. In similar territory it says that my BMR 'score' has risen from 15 out of 24 to 17 out of 24. Apparently the higher the BMR score, the higher the body's ability to burn any calories or 'fuel' consumed. And finally my Impedance score has risen from 472.1 to 484.2. I think this is good but, as I've no idea what it means, it might be better kept to myself. I was thinking of having it printed on my running shirt for the marathon "HEY my Impedance is 484 and rising - WATCH OUT YOU LOSERS!" but if I later discover it is to do with reduced control over bowel movements, it may not be so wise to advertise it to fellow runners - especially if it was printed on the back of my shirt.

Overall, I just have to have faith that all the training I have done over the last three and a half months has been worthwhile and I am sure it has. Even though I ran regularly before, I am much more capable of running stronger and further than I was at the tail end of last year. Only in the last four to six miles next Sunday will I know if it has been enough.

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.

Booked a Fitness Assessment

This is weird for me. I have just been to the Leisure Centre and booked a Fitness Assessment.

I've used the Gym at the Centre for years, off and on (more off than on recently and almost not at all for a year or so). But I've always done my own thing and not really had a programme or any sort of assessment for many years. But as part of my London Marathon training I've decided to do it a bit more by the book and have a 'proper' strength and conditioning programme and accept that someone might be able to design that better for me than I could do myself.

It will also be good to establish some sort of benchmark for weight, body fat, blood pressure or whatever tests and measures they do there. It would be nice to see these measures improve or change in the right direction over a 16 week programme. I also like the idea of introducing a more 'holistic' approach to my running programme. It's all very well to plough on with the mileage - out running day after day - I can do that, I like that, I've done a lot of that. But it will be interesting to add something different to the mix - adding some specific STRENGTH to the standard runner's diet of STAMINA. Will my 56 year old bones and muscles respond to this or will they wobble and crumble under that strain - HA! - Probably!

Gym Revival

Marathon Training Day 26 - Gym session

Well, I went to the gym and spent about 45 minutes on a range of exercises. I was quite cautious and careful, so I kept the weights fairly low and did less repetitions on some machines. I cut out two exercises altogether - Russian Twists and Leg Extension - the one's I thought might be responsible for some of my back trouble. And you know what … I almost enjoyed it!

I came out of the gym feeling refreshed and revived. Not tense or strained. Not stiff or sore or painful. Bit of a breakthrough there … I hope. It will be at least a couple of days before I know whether I'm in the clear. If I am, that will be a real boost. It will signal that the back problems are over and also that I can return to the gym and gradually build up the strength and conditioning side of my programme.

I've had a bit of a lesson, a warning if you like, to take care of my back. I have started doing mobility exercises and stretches for my back when I come back from a run and I need to keep up this discipline. In the long term I may come to see this injury set back as a great learning exercise and one that resulted in a much stronger and healthier back. After all, I don't think it's a good idea to run a marathon when you are bent double with back pain.