The fitness assessment, continued...
Next up after body composition was the "flex test". I see from the advice sheet I got afterwards that this is officially called a musculoskeletal test. It tests the flexibility of your lower back and hamstrings. Basically, you sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you and a box against the soles of your feet. The top of the box is ruled in centimetres and the object is to lean forward as if touching your toes, and push a light plastic bar, which rests on the top of the box, as far away from you as you can (holding the position, not bouncing). Probably more easily pictured than described. You do this "cold" as most people improve over one session of stretching.
I was not too worried about this one. I am naturally quite flexible (it's genetic - some of my family are double-jointed). I reached 27 centimetres, which put me above average. In the days when I used to do Body Balance once a week, I was a lot more bendy, so maybe I should go back to that and try for Excellent. My advice sheet tells me that "good flexibility in these areas is very important in preventing lower back problems". This would come back to haunt me later in the week...
However, after the flex test came the good part - the aerobic capacity test. This was a ten-minute test, using an Astrand stationary bike. The resistance level varies depending on the amount of effort you are making - if you are riding easily at level one, it puts it up. Heart rate is measured meanwhile, using a tag that clips to your earlobe, which feels a bit weird, although it doesn't hurt. The rate is displayed on the screen, as is the rotation rate. The aim is to keep this at 60 revolutions per minute, and there's a metronome tone to help you set the rhythm.
To begin with, the problem was cycling slowly enough. I'm used to interval training, starting at a low resistance level, but I tend to cycle quite fast at that level, about 90 rpm. Here I seemed to be more or less frewheeling. There was very little resistance that I could feel. Every so often the assessor would ask me to rate my effort on a scale of one to ten. It was definitely one at that point.
Looking at the printout from the cycle (which looks like a till receipt) I seem to have managed to keep the rhythm much better once the resistance level went up. As for my pulse rate, it started at 99 beats per minute, and went up quite slowly (it took it 4.5 minutes to get to 110). By the end of the test I was on resistance level 3. It was just beginning to feel like work, although I could still talk quite easily (the machine reckoned I had expended 39 calories, as opposed to 144 the last time I did my usual bike course in the gym). My final heart rate was 134.
I don't entirely understand how oxygen uptake is calculated from this, but the verdict was 31 ml per kg per minute, which is apparently an average score for my age.
So the verdict was: lungs well above average, flexion above average, oxygen uptake average, body composition rubbish.
The assessor discussed the results with me. Among other things, she said that I shouldn't despair about poor results as they may be affected by "genetic factors" (hmmm, yes, but if I have a genetic predisposition to be overweight, I'm still overweight, am I not?) She pointed out that as oxygen uptake is calculated per kilogram of bodyweight, a slight loss in weight improves the reading significantly, as you're unlikely to become less fit as you do this (as least, not unless you lost it through being ill, I suppose!)
She is going to e-mail me with training advice - "We might make you work a bit harder." Scary biscuits again? I hope not.
Regarding the Race for Life, this is the story as far as I can make it out. The idea of forming a team from work was mooted by e-mail, from someone at another site whom I've never met. I duly sent off my details. I didn't hear anything more about it for some time, but sent her an e-mail to ask if it was going ahead and was assured it was. I did begin to get rather nervous that we weren't receiving details and sponsorship packs...
Then on Monday I got an e-mail saying that "We have just tried to book the Edinburgh - Race for Life. Unfortunately this race is now full and we cannot get any places." I did a double-take. I'd assumed that we'd all been entered back in March, when the idea was first mooted. Given that this is a city of half a million souls, it seemed pretty likely that places would be limited.
Given that I'd been training as best I could for two months, and psyching myself up for a major challenge, I was, well, a wee bit cross. This wasn't really helped when both my mum and the D. B. (separately) responded to my sorry tale with "Oh well, at least you don't have to do it now". Grrrr.
I've calmed down now. My own organisational skills are pretty poor, so I'm in no position to criticise others'. And I don't know the whole story - maybe it's the race organisers who didn't let my colleague know there weren't any spaces left. I'm not usually the kind of person who gets cross and I can never be angry with anyone for long!
I'm now booked (really booked. I have a number) on the Fife Race for Life, which is on the third of July in Kirkcaldy (pron. Cur-coddy. No, I don't know why. It just is). So I have an extra month to train, but I might end up trying to run in eighty-degree heat. Or pouring rain. The British Summer is like that.
And in fact it's just as well I'm not going to run tomorrow, because this has not been a great week, fitness-wise. On Tuesday morning I awoke with stiffness and some pain in the lower back, which persisted for a couple of days and kept me out of the gym on Wednesday. I did do Nautilus after the fitness assessment, but as it was my first time on the weights after a week off, I didn't push too hard - so I think it must have been the flex test, as I don't normally have any problems with my back and that was the only unusual thing, although it felt fine at the time. Friday was very busy and I just didn't get to the gym. On the other hand, I have eaten better all week. Monday is going to be Fresh Start Day for exercise. Wish me luck.