Sunday, January 25, 2009

The President's Physical Fitness Award Revisited

Join me as I take a trip back to middle school. I have been overweight my whole life, in varying degrees, so you can picture me in middle school. I had a good circle of friends, but the majority of students did not ignore my weight and awkwardness. (Imagine that!)

Now, cut to a day in social studies class. My teacher announces that I have won the Presidential Academic Fitness Award and presents me with a certificate. Being middle school kids, my peers miss the word "academic". (To be fair, so did I, so I was bewildered until I look at the certificate.) They openly snicker and laugh. My teacher, annoyed, reinforces the word "academic". They finally settle down, but the moment lingers.

Isn't it funny what we remember.

But of course I would never have won the Presidential Fitness Award! Other than riding my bike everywhere, I was in awful shape. I couldn't do a single push-up, modified or not. Sit-ups were OK. I couldn't jog to save my life. Let's not even mention horrifyingly, desperately dangling mess that was supposed to be the chin-up. P.E. class was torture for me, and I was genuinely perplexed by people who looked forward to it. So, not only would I have never won the fitness award; I couldn't care less about it. Well, except for the snickers when my peers thought for a second that I had won it.

Now, coming back to today, when I have begun to "get it" with physical fitness, and imagine my curiosity when I learn about the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports adult fitness test. Interesting. I pop over for a look. I do find that it's a little short on variety of tests, but it's like a thermometer. It's one reading that creates a baseline. OK, I'm in, I decide, and test myself.

My results as of yesterday:

So it took me a while to remember that the 5th percentile is the bottom fifth percent, not the top. My confusion stemmed from the fact that I first used the walking option to compute my results, and that also landed me in the 5th percentile. Surely, I thought (and still believe) that a sixteen-minute walked mile is nothing to sniff at. Not the top, of course, but the bottom?!? Having thought about it, I have since decided that they're using weight and heart rate (taken immediately after finishing, not thirty seconds after), and it probably skews my results.

So I calculated my 1.5 minute mile time from my c25k speeds. I average at about 14:08-minute miles, so this seemed fair. But I still landed in the bottom 5%.

Really? I do believe that many of my age-group acquaintances could neither run 1.5 miles, nor could they walk a 16-minute mile, so I do have my doubts about the validity of my result. I wonder about the testing sample. Are the results being constantly updated from people who use the test? If so, how many couch potatoes are in the sample, compared to how many fitness fanatics?

Nonetheless, it is a measurement tool. It's something I can do again in three months or six months and use to compare growth. I can only go up from here, right? Right.

UPDATE: See how I improved (or didn't improve) with July's results here.

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