By Christopher Cudworth
Body fat. Most of us hate those two words. And to make matters worse, the fitness world now has this device that you grip in two hands and hold out in front of you like a tiny set of handlebars and wait for the verdict to come in.
I’m at 23%. Yikes. Not where I want to be.
But here’s the kicker. I don’t look fat. You can see the muscle in my arms and legs. I’m 6’1″ and 180 lbs. Not fat by any measure. In fact some people call me skinny.
Yet I am too fat.
Fat and skinny math
As the fitness tester health club guy did the math the facts came in. The ideal weight for a person of my height would be 163. And I accept that. Because that’s exactly the weight I hit at peak fitness both of the last two summers.
At that weight I don’t look skinny, per se, but I’m definitely less fat. The fitness tester health club guy said the goal is to get down to 14% body fat percentage. And like the 163lb objective, I’m good with that.
“Don’t get caught in the rain. You’ll die.”
The thinnest I’ve ever been was 3% body fat. No lie. The test was given several times over the period of a year and it always came out the same. I was running 75-90 miles a week and racing every other weekend. One of the nurses administering the BMI test said to me, “Don’t get caught in the rain. You’ll die.” I did. And I didn’t. But the point was taken.
All my PRs on the road and track were set when I was at 3% body fat. A 14:45 5K. A 31:10 10k. 53:30 10 mile. 1:10 half marathon. 1:25 25K. I essentially stopped racing after my lone attempt at the full marathon distance, in which I ran through 15 miles at 1:25 before succumbing to hypothermia in a very cold Twin Cities Marathon.
That last result makes sense when you consider a couple things. 1) I only wore a tee shirt when it was 30 degrees out and 2) My body fat was about 6% at the time. No insulation.
So my goals are somewhat more moderate these days when it comes to body fat percentage. I like being lean and rid of the fullness around my stomach and sides. Middle aged man stuff. Yuck.
It all fits a restart in life. Having recently lost my wife to cancer there is this feeling of a need to start over whether I like it or not. But given a lifelong attitude of perseverance that has served me well on many fronts, I have chosen to like starting over rather than wallow in sorrow, which is not what she wanted for me. I know that because she told me so in her quiet and sometimes demonstrative ways. She liked to stay fit herself until cancer got in the way. As far as I’m concerned, she ran it down and ran it over multiple times. Her ‘fitness’ as a cancer athlete was supreme. She ran the equivalent to many marathons going through all that chemotherapy, surgeries and side effects. Trust me on that one. She was a champion.
When it came to our interests, we had a bargain of sorts. I never questioned her love of gardening and she never questioned my love of fitness. Oh, she joked about Golden Leg Syndrome when I was training hard and didn’t even want to stand around at a party the night before a race. Then she called me Lady Legs when I shaved for cycling. It was funny. But those comments were just to give me perspective. It’s what a spouse should do.
Secretly I think she liked having a little more of me to hold as time went by. Being so radically skinny as a callow youth when I married her was acceptable. But being too, too skinny gets old actually.
However, being healthily thin never gets old. So getting down to 163lbs and 14% body fat it will be. The new, old me. Or the old new me. Whatever. Make it happen.
This weekend will see me doing three strong training rides come rain or shine. The goal will be to drop 5 lbs right off the top. It will will happen. Then I’ll carefully chip away at the body fat remaining to go from 175 down to 163. Cooking for myself should help. Ha ha.
I’m likely fitter than a high percentage of the guys my age but that’s not good enough. My cardio test was way up there but can improve, and strength in the upper body has a ways to go.
Those are challenges we can all love to face.