Always a wrestler….

I was out running with my dog today and I couldn’t help but think “The human body is amazing.”  I ran roughly 7.2 miles today with my dog which was twice as far as her previous long run with me (we’ve had the dog for less than two weeks).  While she was significantly stronger this go round then our 3.5 mile run (it was a lot cooler today) she was still definitely dragging a little by the end.  I look at my stocky, wrestler-pretending-to-be-an-endurance-athlete body and then my dog and think, how’s it even possible that I can out run her?  Our physiology is amazing and I got to remembering about how humans can outrun horses in distance races.  Say What!?!?  No really, take a minute (after my blog) to go read this:

All Men Can’t Jump

But I was also thinking this week (thanks to a question by Tim Sinnett) about my habitus.  I was a pretty scrawny, short kid with a reasonable amount of innate talent in running, but where I grew up outside Chicago during the peak of the Jordan years there was only one sport- basketball. That wasn’t the best for me given that only one girl was shorter than me in my 8th grade class.  When I moved to Washington I joined cross country.  I ran too much too fast, suffered through shin splints, didn’t know how to suffer athletically and really didn’t like the coach. I never went back which was probably a mistake in the grand scheme of things, by the end of high school I posted a few *almost* collegiate level running times in local races and ran a marathon a few days before my 18th birthday.  BUT I never did really run again for a team other than my wrestling team. Wrestling was fundamental to my development as me.  I’ve discuss this before, but it also probably changed the way I looked.  I wrestled 101 pounds my freshman year, really weighed 99 and didn’t need to worry about making weight ever.  By my senior year I was about 150-155 pounds (wrestled at 135) and could bench over double my body weight 315lb one rep max on bench, I did 405lb x 3 in back squats AND ran a marathon a few months after my senior wrestling season.  I was a machine.  I was a terrible wrestler but great at training for wrestling.     My sophomore year at 115 varsity I was 5-15 and my senior year I was something like 13-13 for the season.  I was probably at to low of a weight class but I would have been JV behind our very good 141 wrestler but that’s a different story.

The summer after high school (before heading off to college) I basically worked out all day.  I rode my bike to Godfather’s Pizza (my only fast food job ever) and on break had all-you-can-eat pizza buffet every day.  After work I rode my bike to Gold’s gym and worked out hard (including long runs).  I did this until around the start of August when I got sick.  In retrospect I realize it was mono, but all I knew then was I was to sick, tired to workout.  In-fact I think I couldn’t even ride my bike to work for that next month.  I remember being all but couch bound from exercise.  Then I went off to college, lifted weights, ate to much, partied to much and shortly after college I was 205 pounds (at 5’6″).  I certainly didn’t look super fat or anything, I have some unflattering pictures of me with a bit of a gut but I still basically looked like a muscly wrestler.  I got into medical school (accepted spring 2001) and knew that I needed to return to cardiovascular fitness. That led me to a several year path of pursuing greater and greater levels of fitness and eventually hitting ~155 pounds again during winter of 2006 while training for bike racing. That next year I had my early season crash, hurt my AC joint and never really had a great season (though I did race all year) and the next year we moved to Jerome and I basically stayed around 168-170 average until early this year.

During all of that though I’ve always looked more like a wrestler faking it in endurance sports.  During medical school my VO2 max was tested somewhere around the mid to high 50’s ml/kg/min, which is pretty good by today’s standards though certainly not elite athlete levels.  Average males today are under 40.  They have detailed information from ancient Rome on soldier’s gear, height, weight and march times, etc and have calculated that the average Roman legionaire was over 40  (here’s the article I remember though they don’t mention what the average must have been in that) and I recall reading in one place that the average was probably closer to 55 for the legionarres. So I wouldn’t have made the height cut off, but I maybe could have hung in a forced march with them.  Even at my skinniest post-college fitness my back and legs in particular looked like a scrapper not a bike racer.  It’s pretty clear in my post crash photos (here) what I mean (especially my back).  I was right at my current weight (~160) in that picture though from several years of bike racing my habitus was a little different in that today I have bigger arms by a long shot, so it’s a little unclear where all that extra weight was in that crash picture, legs maybe?

So to sort-of go somewhere with all this discussion about my body habitus: do I look like a wrestler because I was a wrestler or if I had run all along would I have eventually looked like this?  I have no idea.  I certainly have a significant tendency toward muscle development, I’ve never been worried about my testosterone levels, but I really prefer endurance sports.  Right now I really don’t care very much because I really do enjoy lifting weights also.  I’m not really willing to only run and shrink down that muscle mass that I continue to carry.    I’ve also become convinced that muscle is super important for long term health.  There’s several controversial population studies that suggest being in the overweight range of BMI (25-29.9) is associated with lower mortality then normal (even when corrected for smoking).  This could be from it being bad for your health to be “frail” as an elderly person?   Mortality rate after a hip fracture is 25% that first year.

Either way what I can say is that “you can take the wrestler off the mat, but you can’t take the wrestler out of the man.”

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Published in: on August 18, 2012 at 10:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

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