Messing around with gym   Leave a comment

Exercise and statistics.

Yesterday my gym/swimming pool membership broke even, in that the minimum six months’ membership will cost less than the number of visits I’ve made so far would’ve cost pay-as-you-go.

Which seems a good time to see if it’s made any difference to anything.

It started on Monday the 28th of March, and yesterday was Friday the 18th of June. So it’s taken 12 weeks, about 46% of the total (minimum) membership. I’ve been to the gym 33 times (a fairly regular 2.75 times per week), and swimming a whopping twice (once getting kicked out after ten minutes. I’ll ignore the swimming for the rest of this post).

If the cross-trainers are accurate (and I don’t think they are, as there are quite noticable differences between the difficulty settings on different machines, but never mind) I use about 400kCal per visit. So, overall, visiting the gym has meant I’ve burnt an extra 13,000 kCal over my normal day-to-day life.
Which, at about 7,700kCal per kilo, is about 1.7kg of bodyfat.

So, what was I trying to achieve?
1. Getting out of the house.
2. Meeting people.
3. Getting fitter and stronger, particularly losing weight or moving it from fat to muscle.

Have I been successful so far?
1. I’ve left the house almost three times per week for twelve weeks, just to go to the gym. Success!
2. If we ignore necessary communications for using the facilities, and basic politeness, the total number of conversations I’ve held, to date, at the gym is 0. Failure!
3. There are two ways to analyse this:

Subjectively, I feel fitter; a 5km session on the cross-trainer doesn’t cause me to feel out of breath (in that horrible “coughing up acid” way) as it did the first few times I tried it.
Also I’ve still got an annoying flabby belly, but I’ve always had an annoying flabby belly. I do however think I look more muscular and “toned” than I did; more like I have a strong, firm body, sometimes less than an inch below the surface. It was weird the first time I noticed muscles on the back of my knees; it took a while searching Wikipedia verifying I’d not done myself a mischief.
Finally, I don’t seem to have as many aches or pains as I used to, particularly when using the midget-height worktops and sinks with which the entire world’s afflicted.

So, subjectively, aside from the persistent annoying flabby belly, a success.

Of course, if you only want a subjective improvement you might as well start using sugar pills homeopathy, crystals, and words like “wellbeing”. What we need is: objective measurements!

First, quasi-objective things (in that they’re actual numbers measured in a consistent fashion, but I’ve not written them down so we’re relying on my memory). My 5km times on the cross-trainers very quickly plateaued, at about 19 minutes for an easy machine, and about 21 for a hard one. My ability on the weight-training machines has shown improvement, particularly on the abdominal and back machines, and anything involving pulling down or inwards. Machines involving pushing up have showed a much smaller improvement.

Secondly, the proper objective measurements. Have there been any changes to my body’s mass or composition? These numbers have been measured by my electronic scales, which as well as mass can use electrical resistance to measure fat and muscle percentages (as well as other things that aren’t interesting or that don’t change – I’m 4.2% bone, so’s you know). Worth noting that muscle percentage is only measured to the nearest whole percent, rather than 0.1 as everything else.

Here is the data from the 29th of March to the 18th of June (mass – the central blue line – uses the left hand Y-axis; the other two lines use the right-hand axis):

Graph of mass etc. vs. time, 2011

Graph of mass etc. vs. time, 2011

Over the twelve weeks, my body mass has not shown any consistent trend or pattern. I couldn’t be said to have lost weight.
My fat percentage has followed my body mass quite closely. If there has been any overall trend, it’s been very slightly upwards.
Aside from the single 43% blip on the second measurement (where my body mass was at its lowest), my muscle percentage has remained constant (to within measurement accuracy) at 42% regardless of changes in my body mass. I’ve not gained (or lost) a measurable amount of muscle.

Overall, these measurements don’t show any significant pattern. We cannot conclude, from this data, that over the time I’ve been going to the gym I have either lost weight or gained muscle. According to these measurements, using the gym has been a failure; the only thing that’s got lighter is my wallet, and even that’s metaphorical.

As a comparison, I’ve made a graph of the same measurements for a similar period in 2010. The axes are the same as the graph for 2011, except for the year.

Graph of mass etc. vs. time, 2010

Graph of mass etc. vs. time, 2011

As you can see, last year I was lighter, had a lower percentage of body fat and a higher percentage of muscle than compared to the same period this year.

It’s worth noting that there are some differences between my situation then and now:
1. I was living with my then-girlfriend; now I’m single and living alone.
2. I hadn’t lived with my parents for several years; recently, I lived with them from September 2010 to February 2011.
3. Then I did no regular or strenuous exercise, and hadn’t for some time.
4. Then I had little spare money to spend on confections from the nearest reasonably-priced German supermarket.

From all this data, we can draw some conclusions:

1. Being single makes you fat. This is possibly a vicious cycle.
2. Never, ever live with your parents.
3. Exercise makes no difference; health experts are just sadists.
4a. Poverty is good for you.
4b. The obesity epidemic is a German plot to conquer Britain by making us too fat to defend ourselves.


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