Tuesday, April 7, 2009

That time of year

The recent snowfall has made me forget that it is, in fact, springtime. And in true Jan Ulrich fashion, I’ve spent the winter enjoying powdery white substances and excessive quantities of food and drink. Unfortunately, it’s now time to lose weight.

On a recent visit to the doctor, my wife asked him to convince me that I wasn’t fat and didn’t really need to lose weight. So he got out his BMI tables, and determined that I need to lose about 20 pounds to have a BMI under 25, or weigh ten pounds less than I did last year when I hit my goal weight for Lotoja.

Rather than the doctor convincing me I didn’t need to lose weight, I found myself justifying to him that 160 pounds is a good weight for me and that getting down to 150 or less just wasn’t reasonable. Rachel just sat there with her mouth shut.

On Sunday, my brother, Steve, and I were watching the Tour of Flanders. We’re both big fans of the spring classics, not just because long, one-day races are the kind of thing we like to do, but also because we have a great deal of admiration for the type of riding it takes to win a classic rather than the strongest-team-(but not necessarily man)-wins nature of the grand tours.

The race coverage was peppered with rider profiles, and as one profiled rider left the start house in some time trial footage, we both saw his butt and thighs* and said “hey, that looks like me.”

*For those who have not seen me from behind, allow me to illustrate. About fifteen years ago, I had put on a bit of weight and needed to have a pair of slacks let out. I took them to a shop that did alterations, and a friendly but matter-of-fact African-American woman took my measurements. As she came around behind me to measure my hips, she took one look and said “Most white people don’t have butts, but Honey, you sure got one.”

Then they flashed his profile: 5’ 9” and 170 pounds. Same height as Steve, and Steve actually weighs less!

Finally, a pro tour rider with a BMI over 25 (albeit barely). Which is why Mike “Meatball” Friedman is my new favorite racer. I don’t expect him to win anything this year, but then again, I don’t expect to win anything either. The simple fact that he’s mixing it up with the scrawny Euros is victory enough for me.

The original Meatball:

Photo: Jonathan Devich/Cycling News

This Meatball:

This meatball’s slightly less meatballish brother:

The upside to that additional girth is often higher bone density. Most pros have bone density comparable to that of a calcium-depleted 85-year-old woman. And while high bone density probably won’t help you win a race, it’s awful tough to finish one with a fractured hip or clavicle.

The downside for me is that this proves that my only physiological advantage as a cyclist is manifest exclusively in a crash. And given how scared I am of crashing, I’m not super stoked about it.


  1. I don't think calculating BMI from tables is very accurate. Don't you need to be weighed in a tank of water for that?

    I wish you wouldn't have illustrated.

  2. Kris, Body Mass Index is calculated solely based on weight versus height. As a result, one can be "skinny fat," having a low BMI but relatively high percentage of body fat and low percentage of muscle mass. Conversely, athletes often have a high BMI but low body fat.

    While my body fat percentage isn't particularly low, I tend more towards the latter.

    If the "illustration" wasn't too much for you, I'm sure that explanation was. At least I didn't post nekkid pics. Though lycra achieves the same result, at least academically. Unless it's covered with body armor. As if it didn't look silly enough already.

  3. My mistake, I was thinking of measuring body fat percentage - which can be determined by weighing a person in air then in water and comparing the two (fat is less dense than other tissue).

    The "illustration" wasn't too graphic - I was just ribbing you for sharing it.

  4. In my defense, if you got down to 150 lbs, I'm pretty sure you said your body fat would be at 2-3%, well below anything reasonable. Especially when there's hot fudge in the house.

  5. "Meatball." I like that. I have a similar build to you and have always referred to myself as a bowling ball.

    I dropped 10 lbs in January. But have stalled out. I have 10 more to go.

    I have always hated BMI. It lists me as Obese. And though I am a meatball, I am not obese.

    What is your plan for dropping the weight?

  6. Adam, my plan for losing weight is to eat less.

    Specifically, I'm cutting back on cookies and eating bananas and apples instead, and cutting down portion sizes of anything white and eating something green instead.

    I once lost 30 pounds just by cutting flour and sugar from my diet.

  7. That's a good plan, and is basically what I did early this year. Bananas were a staple for me. I need to get back to that.

    For whatever reason after our early morning ski days I have had mad cravings for fast food. Instead of that banana and yogurt I have reached for 5 Guys.