It can be difficult to benchmark your performance regarding any endeavor you take on in life, whether it be at work or at home. For someone as Type A and hyper as me, it can be especially difficult to benchmark performance in terms of physical fitness. Am I making progress when my jean size shrinks? Is a night out on the town a major slip or occasionally okay? Is the fact that my right foot has hurt for two days in a row a sign that I’m overtraining and need to cut back? When have I hit my ultimate goal?
All of these questions are often in the back of my mind, but are even more frequently at the forefront of my thoughts. I’m constantly judging my performance based on dietary choices, gym workout performance and training run times. I don’t own a scale and my trainer doesn’t use calipers for body fat measurement, so it’s difficult for me to figure out where I am in the training process. It’s even harder for me to decide when I’m taking it too far and need to scale back. I need some numbers people! Baggy jeans and loose sweatshirts tell me nothing about how ready my body is to run a marathon in two months and a week.
Fortunately, I have access to a fantastic body fat testing method that measures my weight, lean mass and body fat. My father is the owner of Body Fat Test NW and SoCal, a company that uses hydrostatic testing at gyms and corporations throughout the Pacific Northwest and Southern California. What is hydrostatic testing? In the most basic of senses, it is underwater weight measurement. It uses three measurable values to determine weight, lean muscle mass and body fat in the most accurate way possible. Why is this important? Depending on how you measure physical performance and overall fitness, it can allow you to set reasonable goals for weight loss in both the short- and long-terms. In the past four months, I have used hydrostatic testing as a baseline for both marathon training and overall fitness. Here are my last three test results:
August 1, 2012 – Weight: 152.6 Lean Mass: 117.7 Fat Mass: 34.9 Body Fat %: 22.9
May 31, 2012 – Weight: 156.2 Lean Mass: 119.95 Fat Mass: 36.25 Body Fat %: 23.2
April 3, 2012 - Weight: 158.8 Lean Mass: 116.3 Fat Mass: 42.5 Body Fat %: 26.8
So… what are my goals? I’ve mentioned before that I’d like to hit 15% body fat by the Portland Marathon. This will take me to the 90th percentile in terms of overall body fat and an overall weight of 138 pounds. Where does that put me? Looks as if I’ll have to shed 14 pounds in nine weeks. 1.5 pounds of fat per week. It is time to get to work. Sure, I’ve lost weight and body fat in the past two months, but I have also lost lean mass – which is not what I’m looking for at all. What does fat loss without muscle loss entail? Well, quite a bit actually.
- I’m going to have to start writing down everything I eat for a week to make sure my calorie intake is where it should be. Sure, I’m eating better than ever right now but that doesn’t mean that I’m at the proper caloric level every day. As a runner and perpetual walker, the number of calories I burn each day varies widely. Some days I need 2,000 calories, while others I need more than 3,000. Getting the proper caloric intake everyday is going to be essential to meeting my goal.
- I have to pump up my strength workout schedule. Bootcamp was lovely and would be a great experience post-marathon to keep my muscles moving for a few weeks, but I’m going to have to start lifting really heavy things. At least twice a week. Just because I run 30 miles a week doesn’t mean I am getting buff. I wish it did, but it doesn’t.
- It is time to start planning my social calendar… and sticking to it. No, I cannot go out to dinner after work just because I feel like I deserve it. No, I cannot choose to have the employee meal at Gaucho after eating what I brought on my own just because it’s Paleo-friendly. If I have a hot date or a friend comes to town for the first time in a long time or there’s a killer wedding coming up… well, then it’s okay to indulge. But spontaneous consumption of food or drink that will just slow down my progress? Nope. Sorry. Not okay. Get over it.
Body Fat Test gives its clients detailed reports of how much weight loss needs to occur to hit specific benchmarks, calories burned for specific exercises and weight management tools. I always use these reports to create specific goals like those above. Previous goals included: learning to prep meals, focusing on Paleo, running four times a week plus strength training. Now that I have these goals down pat, I can focus on the minute details. I really don’t have a long way to go – 8% body fat… 14 pounds… however you want to look at it, I am bound to be in fantastic marathoning shape come race day. I have some really special occasions coming up between now and October 7th and plan to party my face off through all of them – birthdays, weddings, birthdays and weddings are all over my social calendar in the next two months, with Husky football looming large as the highlight of my entire year. It’s going to be hard work, but it’s going to be a lot of fun.