What’s Your Fitness Age?

Birthdays begin as pure celebration, but as time progresses people resent the implications of growing a year older. While there is no fountain of youth, and Picard has yet to discover the Ba’ku, it is possible to reverse the affects of unhealthy habits we obtain over the years. Fitness age, a term developed by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, is the distillation of your habits on your overall life expectancy. Essentially, if it is lower than your actual age, you’re healthier than the general population at your age; if it is higher, well then you have some work to do.

I strongly recommend checking it out here: World Fitness Level

My fitness age back in January landed me somewhere around the mid-40’s (yes, really). I have since shaved off two decades off that number to have a fitness age of under 20 (due to study constraints, mainly sample sizes of people under that age, the university does not try to pinpoint the exact age).

It relies upon weight, height, age, waste circumference, maximum heart rate and resting heart rate, among other factors. The real fun part is next: VO2 Max is then calculated to determine your maximum potential to process oxygen (the more accurate test is done on a bike in a lab for a price). This measurement was made famous by high endurance athletes, most notably those competing in professional cycling. Bradley Wiggins, the 2012 Tour De France winner, and its first British champion, is probably the most likely of the current top contenders to have actually raced clean. His successor on Team Sky, and the 2013 Tour De France winner, Chris Froome, is much harder to believe, given his super-human levels of ascension during the most grueling mountain stages. Bradley is therefore someone view worthy to reference, especially given his outward disdain for cheating and his own fallible performances over the years.

Wiggins has a VO2 Max somewhere in the mid-70’s, which suggests a terrific, but not supernatural, ability to feed his body the oxygen it needs at its peak performance. At 35, Wiggins clocked in with a fitness age of under 20 (some ballparked it at 16). My current VO2 Max is 57, but six years ago, when I was in peak shape, I estimate that I landed at 67. That was without interval training.

Come late July or early August of this year, based upon this same information and my current training program, I should hit a VO2 Max of 65. The wild card will be my Resting Heart Rate. I have always had a low resting heart rate, and right now it is at 52 (even at my unhealthiest this past January, I would rarely see it higher than 58bpm). Spring semester of my sophomore year in college, my resting heart rate was consistently between 44 and 46 beats per minute. My estimate for this coming July / August time frame is based on a 50bpm resting heart rate, which I have hit intermittently recently. I think that estimate is conservative, and I hope that there will be further gains, but given that I am no longer in the coveted prime years (18-25) I can expect a reduction in overall potential of about 1% a year. The same goes with my maximum heart rate, as our hearts slowly decrease their capacity over time.

I have no idea whether I squandered my absolute potential at this point, but I think I have a chance over the next several months to get as close as possible. I regret the fact that for three years (age 23 through 25) I allowed myself to be lazy and have the fitness age equivalent to a person in his mid-40’s during my prime. However, I’m thrilled though that in the course of four months, I have negated so much of those poor decisions. Now it’s time to see where I can go with this success and what my potential is today.



Forty Pounds Gone


Through one hundred and twenty six days, I have lost forty pounds, or over 20% of my starting weight!

At this point, I am only a month away from hitting a “healthy” weight, as determined by the Body Mass Index. I also recently began tracking my Body Fat Percentage, just to be safe. This measurement will become increasingly important as I start to maneuver through the healthy range to an ideal / optimal fitness prior to switching to maintenance. I’m incorporating this second measurement mainly to calm any concerns of overdoing it or relying too much on BMI, which I think is unfairly criticized.

It’s true that if you are a professional athlete, you probably land on the margins where the BMI is not an accurate representation of your fitness. This circumstance is due to the BMI’s somewhat crude negligence of lean muscle weight. However, as a member of a rather stationary corporate profession, I do not think I am the next LeBron James. I’ll be sure to be careful, but I honestly believe that if you work at a desk most of the day yet you disbelieve your own BMI, you probably just don’t like its implications.

For myself, the above tracker is a great reference to see how far I have come, but I am open to adjusting that end target (which I plan to). It is the absolute limit I will allow myself to lose, not the range I want to maintain. I recognize though that the range I want to maintain, if five to ten pounds more, is where I would stop, just the accumulation of water weight (as a result of no longer continuing deficits) would push me higher than that target. So I imagine when I am five pounds or so away from the end goal, I will then shift into smaller and smaller calorie deficits to account for the additional water weight in my efforts.

Anyway, in terms of other indicators of progress, I now run around four or five miles each day at an 11:30 minute pace (plus five minute warm-ups and cool-downs) during the weekdays. I have been busy with my job and studying for the GMAT, so my workouts are pretty confined to the hour mark Monday through Friday. It has its positives and negatives: I now am at a point where there is no pain pushing such a consistent pace for that continuous amount of time, but I have had to moderate how much I can expect to eat in the day due to declining expenditures.

The main reason is that my Basal Metabolic Rate has dropped significantly, given the weight loss. While it is true your metabolism rises with more exercise, it also in aggregate will fall as you shed pounds. The result of substantial weight loss is that the body needs much less energy to function, and at the end of the day calories are just stores of potential energy. I expect to hit some pretty hard walls in July if I attempt to achieve a thousand calorie deficit on a weekday.

Friends and coworkers have provided suggestions for switching to lifting and other non-cardio exercises. I am inclined to give such activity a shot, but not at the expense of continued improvements in my running form. Having come from a complete hatred of running to moderately enjoying it (while incredibly addicted to it – I have no idea how such sentiments co-exist with one another, but they do for me.), I really want to make substantial gains and not taper just yet.

As for my real passion, biking, I have made the ride between my parents’ house in the suburbs and my apartment in the city fairly routine, and something I do without much preparation or thought. It’s much more enjoyable than running, but at my current pace, a good two and a half hours one-way. It eliminates the need to drive or take the train to see my family, while delivering a good workout and an excuse to hop on the bike. It’s a weekend activity, for sure, but one that resets my efforts and feels much more like a reward than any other exercise I do. In part, I believe it is because I am 100% autonomous when using the bike to commute the thirty miles one-way and the effort is put towards an actual productive task, rather than aimlessly running (or biking for that matter) the same loop.

On the aesthetics front, I am now a size 33″ at the waist (previously a 40″ not too long ago), and my neck fits a 14 1/2″ dress shirt well (previously a 16 1/2″). Polos used to be larges and now I’m somewhere between a medium and a small (no I do not do schmediums). My biking kit probably needs to be replaced at this point and my abdominal section is maybe two months from being legitimately flat. I understand males tend to store fat in the stomach, which also tends to be the most dangerous place for fat to exist, so I expect to be in for a fight to really shape up that last area.

Also, fitting into a dress shirt is fun now, mainly because I don’t have to account for the sides of the shirt to feel way too tight. No matter what I used to do, it always felt I essentially needed the baggiest of shirts available, otherwise I’d feel constricted in the mid-section. I am still hesitant to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe, given that I have continued progress exactly as I had expected / intended. Instead, I am slowly rotating out a few shirts here and there to bridge my current physique with where I will be in a couple of months.

Regarding the blog: I renamed it since I completed the Broad Street Run. Tempo and Cadence is the name, and I’ll see how long it sticks. I just love cycling and for that reason I feel it is a decent name that is not too cliche. I will keep blogging, although as you can tell (if you read as I update), the general rate at which I post has declined. I have plenty of old draft posts that I debate posting, but I realize it’s not my best work. They were more to help me continue when it was hard to get out in the snow to the gym, or when my legs would be sore from running just fifteen minutes. When the weather is terrible, it is much more difficult to find the motivation to think about fitness.

The recent real spring weather has helped, as more and more people get outside to exercise. Generally it is this time of the year when I would start to frantically realize I had not done anything to get in shape with hardly any time before regular trips down the shore. It is a nice feeling to know I am ahead of the curve (finally) and that for bicycling season, I have had my best start ever. The negative for the blog (not really) is that I have less reason to sit inside and write.

Last thing to mention: a few weeks ago I had a column for WHYY that you should check out! Why I Run Broad Street

Success at the Broad Street Run!

Yesterday was the one hundred tenth day of my fitness program, but more importantly, it was the culmination of my original goal: to get in shape to do the Broad Street Run. More to the point, I did not want to struggle through the race. Rather, I wanted the race to feel good and be something I could enjoy.

Mission accomplished.

The run was so much fun because of the involvement of the various Philadelphia communities. Mayor Nutter gave high fives, Episcopal churches sang praises, Catholic churches cheered along, Temple’s football program joined its band and mascot on the sidelines, dogs gave high fives (yes, really), the elderly peeked out of their windows to smile and wave, and jazz bands played soulful music. The run was the fun part, the moment where I realized I was in the shape I needed to be to actually take in the sights and sounds without much difficulty.

We ran under the two hour conservative estimate. Back in January there was little chance I could make it even close to the two and a half hour cutoff, just knowing how painful it was to run at all. I was prepared to run a 1:30 (and our initial pace indicated that effort), but it was important to run together and in the process I understood that supporting my teammate was exactly what she would have done for me if the roles were reversed.


The day really started the night before, as I attempted to get to bed by ten (but ended up not really falling asleep until eleven). For six hours and nineteen minutes, I had a pretty decent sleep, with the only concern being the overall hours. My Deep sleep, Light sleep, and REM (dreaming) all were within normal, healthy ranges. The number of tosses and turns were low relative to my usual habits to all culminate in a sleep score of 80%. I normally have a low to mid 90’s sleep score most days, but the need to wake up early Sunday meant that hour the evening before when I could not fall asleep was the difference:
We were out the door within the hour of waking up and headed to the subway stop in Center City. The walk itself was nice, and the weather was chilly but comfortable. The subway was packed as it raced to the Olney stop on North Broad Street. When we got to ground level, we could not locate our team’s tent (Back on My Feet), so we made our way to the designated corral. The race was to start at 8:30, but we understood that it would take another thirty to forty minutes for our corral to start. There were long lines at the restrooms near us and we ended up learning these lines would not diminish over the various stations along the course. We had brought some cereal bars but no technology, unlike almost everyone who had earphones ready to go. As an aside, the race organizers explicitly prohibit the use of earphones during the race, but this rule does not appear to be enforced. As a regular cyclist on Kelly Drive, I can say that I am firmly against the use of earphones, as it makes people completely isolated from their surroundings, causing crashes and all kinds of traffic that would not occur if people shared the path. But I digress… 

On to the run: We started at 9:06 AM, at which point the clouds broke for some shining sun. The first mile was a mix of slow jogging, plenty of fellow runner dogging  and finding our form. We hit the first mile in ten minutes, which was a speed I had felt comfortable I could maintain the whole course. Our second mile was in nine and a half minutes, at which point we intentionally slowed. The halfway point is at Spring Garden, not City Hall (as one would expect), so before long we had completed five miles. North Broad was very lively and fun, as we made it through diverse neighborhoods and Temple’s campus. Center City was beautiful, easily the highlight of the sights and sounds. South Broad, between Center City and South Street, was home to the most creative signs, such as “I bet it sounded like a good idea three months ago” and “Race now, cheesesteaks later”. The true South Philly experience included no parked cars in the middle of Broad Street! It was such a welcome change.By the time we were near the sports complex, the crowds thickened. The extra motivation helped us cross the finish line smiling and content with our results. Below is what my Basis fitness tracker record:
*Unfortunately, for whatever reason, my Basis did not record heart rate (it usually does) at all during the run until the very end

As you can see above, skin temperature and perspiration rose in tandem, as the day warmed and the run progressed. The average number of steps fluctuated in coordination with various mile markers. Essentially my running partner would slow the pace after each mile marker. Her personal style is to do interval running, in opposed to my consistent pace training. It frustrated my ankles, for sure, but we made it work. For the day, I had burned 3,660 calories, logged over thirty four thousand steps, and completed my first run, the Broad Street Run.

In the end, we succeeded at finishing the run and doing so under two hours. It’s a good start to the running season, and I will continue my fitness efforts over the next several months by using this success as a motivator keep it going! Also, yes, we did have a cheesesteak post race. Also, I slept much better the following (last) night:


Tracking the BSR Tomorrow with My Basis

Tomorrow is the big day! My first ever “run” and it’s one hundred and ten days after I made the commitment to get in shape and do the Broad Street Run. I hit my goal of thirty-five pounds lost by the day of the race.

I’ll have my Basis (as I always do) fitness tracker, so the day after the race I will post alongside my race results my metrics from the ten miler. Included in that information will be analysis of the ever-important sleep the night before race day. Until then, I’m just trying to calm my nerves less than 24 hours before the race starts!

Example Sleep Analysis:sleepexample
Example run data:

$1,000 Raised!

January 15, 2014 – I signed up for the Broad Street Run through the charity Back on My Feet, committing to raise $500. Back on My Feet assists people experiencing homelessness with housing and employment.

May 01, 2014 – With the help of so many contributors, including my employer, the $500 has been met three days ahead of the race…and will be matched by my firm by the end of the quarter! $1,000 will go to this very worthy cause.

I want to thank everyone who donated, followed, or otherwise supported (e.g., read the blog, commented, etc) this effort over the past three and a half months. I appreciate the friends, family, and coworkers who have been there along for the journey. This journey has been a parallel effort between fundraising and fitness. The compliments and supportive feedback I have received have been the fuel to keep me motivated and build momentum.

Today I attended my firm’s wellness fair, in which I received my bib for the Broad Street Run. I have no idea how to put it on. If not for the stories of people stealing bibs at this year’s Boston Marathon, I would post it here. I also received a team shirt, which humorously is a size too large (I couldn’t guarantee I’d lose a full size back in January!).

For these last few days, I will ease off the miles a bit (running four to seven each day over the past few weeks). I have also made sure not to introduce any new quirks to my training or diet, as everything is pretty much on autopilot now.

I do plan to blog my results as well as all the fun details my fitness tracker will record. Ten miles should be fun!!