Monthly Archives: December 2015

BMI sucks. Use the Beast Index™

Roughly speaking, the Body Mass Index (BMI) is a relative measure of body mass to height.  Originally developed in the mid-19th century, BMI is an attempt to quantify an individual’s tissue mass and then categorize that person as underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese based on that value.

690px-Body_mass_index_chart_svg

There is plenty of criticism of BMI as a measure of health. Because this is my blog, I’ll focus on the issue most relevant to me: the total lack of distinction between fat and muscle. As obsesity researcher Peter Janiszewski put it,

BMI does not differentiate between the Michelin Man and The Terminator.

I’m decidedly not the Michelin Man, but BMI says that I’m overweight. Before you call me vain, there are potential ramifications here—insurance companies use BMI as a measure of health when setting premiums. Oh, and I am vain. And I don’t like being told I’m overweight. Just kidding, I don’t care. Well, maybe a little. But I digress.

Despite the criticisms, BMI is apparently useful at a population level for assessing health, the idea being that the average person falls somewhere in the middle of the Bibendum-Schwarzenegger spectrum.  And it is pretty easy to calculate, which makes it relatively useful to those who don’t have body fat analyzers, skin calipers, or the neuroses to even consider buying such things. But for those of us who do, I propose a new measure: the Beast Index™

The Beast Index™ is a measure of BMI relative to body fat percentage.  Whereas BMI only measures mass relative to height, and whereas body fat only determines whether one is skinny, the Beast Index™ combines both for an approximate measure of swole-ness.  Put simply, the higher your Beast Index™, the more likely you are to be mistaken for a superhero.Beast Index Chart

Scientists are still determining the optimal Beast Index™, but suffice it to say that a measurement around 3.5 is solid—you’re sufficiently swole as to avoid being mistaken for a cancer patient without looking like some sort of science experiment gone awry.  As the chart above shows, the 1-2.5 range is the fat part of the bell curve. If you lose some fat, you can move to the right tail…and probably get more tail.

It’s worth noting that the Beast Index™ corresponds roughly with the venerated Mazzetti scale as follows:

  • 5+: Freak Beast
  • 4.5-5.0: Monster
  • 3.5-4.5: Gym Rat
  • 2.5-3.5: Gym Bro
  • 1.5-2.5: Brotege
  • 1-1.5: Tadpole
  • <1: Primordial ooze

Looking Ahead: My 2016 Goals

“We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible.” – C. Malesherbes

Like many people, I make a list of personal goals each year.  Generally, I share them only with those closest to me, but I’m doing something a little different this time around.  In the interest of accountability, I’m sharing this with anyone who cares to listen/read, and I’ll be checking in occasionally to let everyone (myself included) know how I’m doing.

Most of these goals keep to the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timely) philosophy.  Some (see items four and six) are more nebulous but still fall into the quasi-measurable “I know it when I see it” bucket.  All of them are important enough (to me) to bother writing down. So without further ado, here’s the list.

Edward’s 2016 Goals and Aspirations

  1. Run another marathon, barring injury*
  2. Climb Mt. Ranier (scheduled for September!)
  3. Bike the length of the C&O Canal (ideally in one day)
  4. Add appreciably to my max deadlift, squat, and bench
  5. Read (not listen to) at least two books*
  6. Develop conversational proficiency in Spanish
  7. Donate any clothing I haven’t worn in the previous six months and generally maintain a low-clutter home
  8. Cook at least one new recipe every two weeks*
  9. Create at least six recipes of my own.
  10. Write at least one blog post per week (hopefully about some of those recipes)

There are other things I’d like to accomplish, and I won’t rule out adding to the list, but I think 10 is good for now.  It’s sufficiently numerous as to be (look?) challenging while not so many items as to be overwhelming or filled with drivel.  And everyone loves things that come in tens, right?

What do you have planned for the coming year?

* I welcome your suggestions on these items

Embracing injury as opportunity

After seven or so years in the sport, I finally suffered my first real running-related injury this past Spring. On or about Easter Sunday, I partially ruptured the peroneal tendon in my right ankle. It was an overuse injury brought on by (surprise!) trying to do too much too quickly. In a blow to my recovery prospects, I self-diagnosed the injury as mere achilles tendinitis, a rather less significant malady.  As such, I returned to running too quickly, aggravated the injury, and missed out on much of the glorious spring running weather.

I’m now fully recovered, and (much to my surprise) the time off might have been a net positive. I was by no means pleased about my inability to run–for roughly half a year, a major source of enjoyment and relief was missing from my life–but I chose to embrace the situation.  I had an extra 8-10 hours per week to do with as I pleased.  Imagine the possibilities!

Being a fitness nut, I primarily worked on other aspects of my conditioning and trying to maintain some cardiovascular fitness.  I improved my power on the bike to all-time bests, and I used the gym to work out the strength imbalances that developed and persisted after my run-in with an inattentive driver last year. In the process, I built my squat and deadlift to the best they’ve been in years, which should, at least in theory, help my running (right?).  Oh, and I got kind of ripped in the gym, which doesn’t suck.

I won’t say that I’m glad I got injured–I missed seeing my running buddies and teammates, and I definitely lost a lot of sport-specific fitness–but it opened my eyes to opportunities that I might not have otherwise seen when the routine revolved around running.  Focusing on what I could do rather than dwelling on what was verboten led to my becoming fitter and stronger than I was before I got injured.  Sure, I’m not as fast as I was, but I will be eventually.  And once I am, watch out, because I’m still pretty ripped.

Fitness Focus: Recovery and Renewal

Every so often, every athlete needs time to recover and renew.  For me, that time is now.

It’s been an eventful nine or so months since I tried to get this blog rolling.  I suffered my first real injury, finished grad school, recoverd from my injury, started a new career, bought a condo, moved, and did countless other things that I can hardly remember.  Amidst all that, I trained more than I ever have, often putting in 16- to 18-hour weeks with lots of hard efforts.  The body can only take that for so long, and the will to keep it going suffers, too.  So it’s time for a reset.

That’s not to say I’ll stop training–I enjoy it too much for that–I’ll just refocus.  Rather than burying myself with heavy lifts and hard intervals, December will be a month of easy cardio and high reps.*  It’s a time to work out muscle imbalances, improve my form, and generally not worry about performance.  How fast am I going?  Don’t care.  How much power am I putting out?  Doesn’t matter.  How many plates?  Whatever feels right.  Feel is the ultimate guide, and everything should feel relatively easy.*

I’d like to say this is part of some overarching plan, but it’s not.  I haven’t structured my training that much in a long while.  But maybe I will again, and this might be the start.  Until then, if you want to go for a jog or hit the gym together, I’m your guy.  For once, it doesn’t much matter if we have the same objectives.  Just be warned that I may walk hills or balk at doing another set, if only for a month.  Come January, all bets are off.

* Calling attention to these statements as a reminder to myself, lest I fall into the trap of going just a little bit harder each time out.