What Does It Mean To Be Fit?

When I was in Morocco for three months one of the people I hung out with the most was this British girl named Martha. She taught me a lot about the UK and British slang. It turns out that there instead of calling someone “hot,” you’d call them “fit.” (Though it sort of seems to apply more to girls? Maybe someone can clarify that?) The phrase “I hooked up with this hot girl” becomes in British “I pulled this fit girl.” To which I said, “Pulled? That’s weird.” And she said, “Hooked up? That’s gross.”

But, if you think about it, it sort of makes sense. What correlates to attractiveness? Generally, fitness.

Fitness is weird, though, ephemeral. It comes and goes and, sometimes, the harder you hold onto it the more it just slips away. I was at my most fit, by all accounts, in the fall of 2008. This picture is from then and doesn’t it look fit, scary possibly and not totally attractive, but fit? Maybe. I’m actually not sure. Can you even see fitness or, after a point, is it all in your head:

Not exactly an ad for fitness.
Not exactly an ad glamorizing fitness.

That high point was largely because we had moved to Marin and there was a shitload (official quantity) of way better riding and running than there had been in Sacramento, but also I wasn’t really working a ton. I went to work, I came home, I never had stuff I had to do in the evening and I was the opposite of stressed. I was bored. Even though I liked my boss and the organization, I lasted six months before someone offered me a different (much more stressful) job and I took it. Goodbye peak fitness.

I was the most unfit I’ve probably ever been ever around December 2003/January 2004. It turns out that I had always played sports and stuff. So, when I stopped doing that abruptly in college, it never occurred to me to do the whole lifestyle fitness thing instead. Literally. Did not cross my mind. I’m pretty sure I had never been to a gym just to go to the gym — as opposed to specifically training for something (which I didn’t do much either, because the gym was a weird place to me/is still a weird place to me now) — before 2004. By December, none of my pants fit me. The button on my favorite pair of jeans popped off when I bent over to pick something up. I had to walk part of a 5K in February or March of that year and that was when I was like yeah, so, this is not good.

(I have no pictures of that time, largely because Facebook didn’t add photos until my sophomore year, so where would these pictures be? In actual print? Let’s not be crazy.)

But, even at those points, they were relative degrees of fit and unfit for the general population. And, everything else in between, has been even smaller degrees of difference that seem like huge, giant, massive gulfs.


Summer 2010.
Summer 2010.

Verse this:

Summer 2011
Summer 2011

In which one was I more fit? Who even knows, right? Impossible to tell.

(B. The answer is B.)

Right now, I am out of shape. I ran mile repeats on Monday and I couldn’t even keep the last one under 6:30 despite almost shitting myself on the side of the high school boys’ soccer practice. Three months ago, I ran mile repeats 15″ faster. 15 is a lot of seconds. It’s infuriating. Two months ago I was very in shape and very fit and then I blew it all on a terrible race and wasted all my fitness.

I thought I’d hold onto it longer and come back faster and be totally ready to PR a half-marathon next weekend. That is 100% not going to happen. If I even ran the half-marathon, I’d definitely hurt myself. I ran 2 x 10′ at half-marathon pace last week and the only reason it was 10′ was because I couldn’t make it 15′. At least I think I couldn’t. Maybe my fitness is partially in my head. But, then, I was crippled the next day. My leg collapsed under me. And, that suggests that it’s not really current half-marathon pace doesn’t it?

So, am I fit right now? No, not really. Super no. Am I more fit than lots of people? Yeah, sure, definitely. Am I ever going to be as fit as some of the people I know? Hah, not ever, never ever.

If I was going to draw a graph of my fitness in the last few years it would look like a roller coaster (of emotion! what.) and the differences would seem huge. Minutes and minutes worth of time in a race. But, I can only draw that now, in retrospect. From the three years between peak fitness in fall 2008 and calling it quits on triathlon in fall 2011, I don’t think I could have told you during it when I was fitter or better or more ready than other times. Every now and then there’d be a workout or a ride or a series of days that’d I’d think huh, I’m getting stronger, I couldn’t have done this before. But, then there’d be a workout or a ride or a series of days that I’d think what is wrong with me??

A year ago, I was pretty close to the fittest I’ve been and definitely was running the fastest I’ve ever run. I was consistently floored at what I was able to do, though I bombed sometimes. But, at the end, when I looked back at the training log and what I’d written to Mario in the comments about workouts, it was pretty much, everyday: “I’m exhausted and this was terrible. I thought I was going to throw up and my legs felt like 100 pounds.” Not one time did I write: Man, I am fit.

When were you the most fit?

The NCAA Fitness Tests?

Last night, I stupidly didn’t go to bed until way too late, considering I had to get up at 6:30 a.m. this morning. I didn’t go to bed because I was reading this Runner’s World article about the pre-season fitness test NCAA ball athletes have to go through.

Apparently, Runner’s World does not post it’s articles on the information super highway, because I can’t find it online. You can, however, watch the RW editors try the tests themselves. (Ah, the internet.) But, don’t worry, I’ll summarize:

NCAA field athletes (soccer, football, basketball, etc) typically have to do a pre-season general fitness test. If they pass, good for them. If not, they usually have to add an extra session of running each day on top of twice-a-day practice until they do pass.

The thing that was weird and the reason I kept reading after midnight was that the whole premise was that this test is SO HARD, everyone dreads it, Stanford female soccer players (who are some of the best in the country) can barely pass it. So, I kept waiting to learn what was so hard.

There are typically three kinds of tests used. Here they are:

The Cooper Test: Run around the track for 12′. The general standard for the female NCAA athletes was 2800m, 1.75 miles, in 12′.

– The Gauntlet: Run a mile in under 6:30; run an 800m in under 3:30; run a 400m in under 1:45. 1′ rest between each.

The Beep Test: A test where you set cones 20m apart and must run back and forth between the cones as a beep sounds. You must pass the cone before the beep sounds. Each level the beeps get closer together, meaning you must run faster. Each level lasts just over 1′. The standard is to achieve a 12.5 — the 12th level + at least 5 shuttle runs at that level. At the 12th level, you get 5.14 seconds to run the 20m. (We did this as our fitness test in high school and my recollection was that I got around 13. Typically, the hardest part was getting up to speed and then changing direction quickly enough as you got to the faster levels.)

I’m not saying any of these are easy. I’m just saying I don’t know that they warrant a story about how hard they are either. Unless the story is holy shit, apparently the best female soccer players in the NCAA can’t run 1.75 miles in 12′?!

Don’t you a little bit want to go out and try these now?

It Turns Out I’m Out of Shape

It turns out I am not so much in awesome shape anymore. That’s not particularly shocking. My training was up and down and down and then I got hurt and then I got sick. My peak fitness (which never really hit its peak) was probably two weeks before Boston and now it’s been another two since Boston. So, yeah, while my foot is still mysteriously injured/bone spurred/possibly needing surgery, mostly the problem is I’m out of shape.

Thursday, when I went for my reinvigorating Alpine Dam ride, I told Steve I’d be back by 5 p.m. or so. When I got home at 5:50, I had a text from him asking: “Is everything ok?” I had to respond: “Yeah, just slow and fat.”

Friday, I went for a slow, slow run around Ring Mountain. Ring Mountain is pretty, but it sucks to run on — lots of uneven ground and rocks and confusing trails. At least it looks like this:

The only other reason I ever go to Ring Mountain is to watch fireworks, because you can see them all around the bay. This photo is from Panoramio.
The only other reason I ever go to Ring Mountain is to watch fireworks, because you can see them all around the bay. This photo is from Panoramio.

Then, I went to Crossfit. When I don’t know what to do or am bored, I go to Crossfit. Typically, I use Groupons to go to whatever gym is offering a Groupon right now. I will probably write more at some point about whether or not Crossfit is dumb. However, it is always entertaining. And, usually, when none of the Crossfitters can run around the block, it also makes me feel good about myself.

Generally, for me, the thing that separates Crossfit from just being yelled at while doing sit-ups is the lifting. But, the current place that has a Groupon doesn’t really have lifting, so it’s mostly really energetic doing sit-ups or squats or whatever.

I did climb the rope, though, and it looked just like this:

I think that guy's face is blurred out because he's super intense/secretive.
I think the guys’ faces are blurred out because they’re super intense/secretive.

I taught another open water swimming clinic Saturday morning and then binge-watched The Newsroom all afternoon. I subscribed to HBO so that I could watch Game of Thrones, obviously, and then Veep was an added bonus. And, then, I watched a handful of Girls, so I could be judgmental and scornful — but with some substance. Now, I’m watching The Newsroom, which is just as patronizing and long-winded and self-aggrandizing as, well, as Aaron Sorkin. But, now I’m invested and need to see if Jim and Maggie end up together.

Also, I started crying at the end of this episode — which, perhaps, has more to do with me and less to do with the quality of the show.

But, none of that is getting me back in shape. I probably will continue to be more out of shape. I have no plan or goal or plan for, you know, anything. Instead, I will watch my TV shows and eat my brownies and, every now and then, go to Crossfit.