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Charlie Martin, Late-Blooming Athlete: Week 1

Charlie has already done a fairly exceptional job of getting a handle on his life over the past 13 weeks; his documenting it on PJ Lifestyle has been a bit of a traffic hit as well. I wanted to pitch in: first, because I get all torn up from an underdog-coming-through story. (Seriously – I cried during City Slickers when the sporting goods salesman saved the calf from the whitewater rapids. “Stop! You’re a sporting goods salesman!” said Billy Crystal, desperate to keep his friend from danger.

But: “Not today!”, he answered. He dove in.

Not today, bro. Today, Charlie Martin saves baby animals from the rapids.)

Ahem. Second: I’ve kept on top of the developments over the past decade of exercise science, the most notable being that the majority of activities people are accustomed to doing at a gym are neither efficient means of getting fitter nor particularly safe. A typical trainer at a typical gym is now a terrible investment, both for your fitness level and because elite-level training information is freely available online. There is no substitute for an actual qualified trainer at a quality gym, both in instruction and motivation, yet you can do great things for yourself on your own, with a computer. Charlie’s PJ Lifestyle entries strike me as a good opportunity to demonstrate this; he’s agreed to be somewhat of a lab rat. (In terms of expertise, I am certainly not an expert trainer, yet I’ve been certified as a trainer, by Crossfit -- the movement behind all of the past decade’s progress -- and have been following the regimen for a few years. Crossfit has since added a written test to their certification process; I haven’t taken it yet. I'm just an enthusiast, and I believe a good person for demonstrating just how much great information is available.)

I have a few initial comments and suggestions regarding Charlie’s Week 13 entry. He writes regarding how he plans to document his exercising:

I still haven’t figured out a measure I’m very happy with for exercise. … The best I can think of right now is to measure two things: how compliant I am being, and the amount of work done, in thermodynamic kilocalories, which happen to be the thing we are used to measuring diet in anyway. For the weights part of the plan, I’m going to compute this as product of weight lifted times repetitions, which will give me kilocalories directly, as well as amusing conversions to horsepower, kilotonnes yield, and other perfectly silly conversions.

Far from being perfectly silly, Charlie is on the right track. Power output is absolutely the way to think about designing his workout program, and to measure his progress. Force x Distance / Time. In a nutshell, and I will get more detailed in later posts, Charlie just hit on most of what fitness actually means: work capacity at the various activities life might confront a person with.