Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Dreams of fitness and running

Last summer I read Born to run. I came to the party quite late, given how many people had told me I should read it. I have not become a runner as a result. I have experimented with barefoot shoes and find them quite interesting to wear, especially the Vibram Five Finger variety, but I don't run much anymore. Age, fitness, weight and injury have all taken their toll!

My great sadness about not running is a mixture of time (I can't go as far walking in an hour than I could when I ran-obviously) and the sense of freedom that came with running that you don't quite get walking. I console myself with the fact that over the same distance, whether I run or walk, I use the same amount of energy. It's only the time element that changes. But it's not the same. If you've never been a regular runner I don't suppose you can get this. There's something about the rhythm of running that becomes almost soothing. Weird, I know.

So my question is: Can I get back to running, or is it just too much to ask of my somewhat worn joints? Studying gait and mechanics, posture and massage, has made me understand more deeply the functionality of my joints and muscles. But that can be somewhat depressing! I now, for instance, that I will probably never toe-off correctly anymore no matter how hard I try to fix it. The alignment of my big toe and the muscles of my feet simply won't let it happen. This in tun probably accounts for some of my knee issues, although not all of them. And so the chain of cause and effect work it way up through my body.

But I want to run. Even as I walk my 4-7Km that I do most days, something inside of me cries out to run. And occasionally I do. Well I break into a slow, lumbering jog to tell the truth. I wonder to myself whether I'd still be running had I managed to stay fit through my 20's, 30's and 40's. What if I'd stayed that fit 76Kg (168lb) squash playing, bike riding, lunch-time jogger? Would I still be running now? Maybe. Maybe not.

Given that it's not possible to live in the past, the best approach is surely to learn from the past but not dwell upon it. Not a bad lesson in life, let alone fitness. And I guess it ought to be said that while I was probably the fittest I've ever been during those brief years of my early 20's, I was probably fairly unhealthy. My diet was pretty poor, and eating patterns haphazard to say the least.

So, now I'm 55, what shall I do? The last couple of years has seen me get fitter and healthier, but there are a lot of things I'd like to do. I'd like to be able to run 5K in 30 minutes again, but to do that I think I need to take some pressure off my knees. That means losing some body fat, which naturally means losing some weight.

I think I could probably do with dropping to about 84Kg. That would be about 14% body fat and light enough to make running a more realistic possibility. That's quite a big ask, but not impossible. I know my current BF% is around 24, so there's room!

In case you're wondering how to do the calculation by the way, the most accurate is the get someone to do the skin fold measurements. The easy way is to use some body composition scales, but be aware that the reading will vary with hydration and other factors. Once you have the BF% it's easy maths to calculate what everything but fat weighs and from there to calculate your target weight based on your target BF%. Want to see and example?

If you weigh 90Kg and have a BF% of 25%, then everything else weighs in at 67.5Kg. If you want a BF% of 15, then your 67.5Kg has to be 85% of your body weight. This makes your target weight 79.4Kg. Okay, so most people when they lose weight don't just lose fat, they lose muscle too, but you get the idea. In an ideal world we'd even build some lean muscle along the way because that burns more calories etc etc.

Back to my dream. So, this year my goal is to get down to that 14% mark or as close as I can. It would be interesting to see if I can both do that and whether it makes running a possibility. I don't harbour any desire to do a marathon or even a half-marthon, just to be able to do that 30 minute run we used to do around the park at lunchtime back in the day. Maybe then I won't just feel like running, I'll actually be able to run!

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