Matt Brundage

Archive for the 'fitness' category

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Weighty disconnect

At my heaviest in March 2008, I was 208 lbs, with a BMI of 27.4. By the criteria set forth by the CDC, I was considered overweight. And yet, during that heavy time in my life, no one commented on my weight or urged me to lose weight.

Strangely, the only critical comments I’ve received happened after I dropped a significant amount of weight and got back down to my ideal weight of 160 to 165 lbs. For the record, 165 lbs on a 6″ 1′ frame equals a BMI of 21.7, which comfortably falls within the normal range, according to the CDC. Furthermore, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine asserts that, by lowering my BMI, I had decreased my relative risk of death. At a certain level, this is just common sense, but it’s nice to see it proven with data.

My BMI, 2008 and 2012

Even considering my current BMI (21.7), I actually still have room for improvement! According to the same NEJM study, I could theoretically drop another 20 pounds and further decrease my risk. But oh, the comments I would get.

The irony of all this is that as I was decreasing my relative risk of death in 2009 and 2010, people began to get concerned for my health! Yet, during my twenties, no one said a word as I slowly packed on the pounds, became overweight, and was statistically likely to have a lower life expectancy.

Friday, 17 December 2010

I’m hooked on speed

And, no, I’m not talking about alpha-methylphenethylamine or the dopamine receptors in my brain. Nay; I’m referring to improving the efficiency of two aspects of my daily life:

My recreational running speeds over various distances

In the early months of 2010, I began to notice that running at a given speed — say, 7 MPH was progressively taking less and less effort as my overall weight and health improved. So, naturally, I started to increase my average speed. 8 MPH became the new 7 MPH and it looks as if 9 MPH is becoming the new 8 MPH. In July, I started to keep track of my personal records for various distances and times. Records continue to fall, so I know that there’s still room for improvement.

Web page load times of websites for which I code

In September, a random blog post keyed me in to the goodness that is Page Speed, a Firefox extension, that, with the help of Firebug, analyzes a web page’s assets and server settings against a set of web performance best practices and assigns a numeric score between 1 and 100. Do you see where I’m going with this? I now have a somewhat-tangible way of expressing a web page’s speed and a method for calculating speed improvements over time!
Google Page Speed screenshot

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

I’m at a loss

I’ve lost nearly 50 pounds since the summer of 2008. I now weigh more or less what I weighed when I started college in 1998, so — needless to say — I’m pleased.

The cause

What’s changed? I haven’t exactly increased my exercise regimen. It’s still the same old running, volleyball, and casual weight training. In fact, when I initially joined a gym in 2006, I was mystified that my weight just kept creeping up. So I’ve learned not to attribute weight solely to an exercise regimen.

Japanese macaque Diet! I’m no longer eating meat (except for fish). I’m no longer overeating to the point of abdominal discomfort. I’d like to think that I’m consuming higher quality calories — and in reasonable quantities. Mainstays: nuts, beans, brown rice, fish (salmon, tuna), potatoes, tomatoes and tomato-based products (soups and V8), oatmeal, yogurt, milk, natural sweeteners (honey and maple syrup).

The effect

Last month, I went clothes shopping and bought a couple of size small polo shirts at the Gap. Small! And they fit just fine. Small is apparently the new medium.

The post-volleyball knee pain is completely gone. Two years, ago, I’d come home from volleyball and I’d barely be able to walk from the car to the front door — the pain in my knees was so bad. At the time, I didn’t even put two and two together; I just attributed the pain to repetitive jumping and pivoting. It wasn’t until a couple weeks ago that it dawned on me: I was carrying around the equivalent of two adult Japanese macaques 24/7!. How I managed to even run or jump at all is a mystery to me.

Aside from volleyball, I’ve been running progressively faster and for longer distances. I’ve even somehow begun to do sets of unassisted chin-ups at the gym. Remember, no more snow monkeys on my back.

The data

weight, 2001-2010

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Running for the math of it

Running longer distances is finally getting easier for me. Last week, I ran 10 miles on the treadmill just because I felt like it. I had time to kill, so I figured I’d give it a try. I averaged a little over 6 mph — not a blistering speed, but perhaps more of a marathon pace.

There was a time, not so long ago, when I’d come home from a simple 30-minute jog and my legs would just ache. Now, I don’t feel uncomfortable during particularly long runs and post-run soreness is essentially a thing of the past. The only obstacle in my way (aside from time) is the sheer boredom of treadmill running.

I find myself performing minute-by-minute calculations to pass the time. I’ve established what I call my “baseline pace”, which is the 10-minute mile, or 6 mph. An easy pace — akin to treading water. Any sustained pace faster than that “baseline” is icing on the cake. This is where math really comes into play. I earn a “point” for every hundredth of a mile covered over the baseline pace. For instance, If I run for 60 minutes and travel 6.5 miles, I’d have earned 50 “points”. Lately, I’ve been viewing these points as a percentage — that is, if I reach 50 points, my run is half over. I’ve only attained 100 points once or twice. It’s extremely challenging, because unlike absolute distance traveled, points can go down! Let’s say I run 2.09 miles in 20 minutes. Nine points. But If I then slow my pace down below 6 mph, my points start to evaporate! So, earning points requires not just distance and stamina, but speed. There’s some symmetry to it, as well. If I gain 100 points in 50 minutes of running, I will have traveled exactly 6 miles. I’ve also started to calculate the rate at which I earn said points. On today’s run, I wanted to earn one point for every one minute of running — not exactly a difficult feat. This requires a 9 minute mile (6.6 mph). As the treadmill allows me to run in increments of tenths of a mile, I had to alternate between 6.6 and 6.7 mph.

Milestones also keep me on the treadmill. If I feel myself tiring, I’ll look at the time and think “oh, three more minutes and it’s an even 40 minutes.” But once 40 minutes comes around, I’ll notice that my calorie count is approaching 600. A couple more minutes later, and the 5 mile mark is within reach. Once I hit 5 miles, it’s almost guaranteed that I’ll hit 5.5 miles, because that’s the length of Iwo Jima, and I’m now drawing strength from the Marines and the Navy.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Brain Dump, post-Memorial Day Edition I wonder what effect — if any — Billy Graham’s Crusades and ministry had on the Catholic Church’s Second Vatican Council. Ecumenicism is a major part of Vatican II and was one of Graham’s hallmarks.

Mixing equal parts Mike’s Hard Lemonade™ and regular lemonade should yield Mike’s Somewhat Firm Yet Pliable Lemonade™. Likewise, equal parts Mike’s Hard™ and, say, grain alcohol, should yield Mike’s Extremely Difficult™.

Simon and Garfunkel’s “Cloudy” may not be Paul Simon’s best song, but the arrangement is top-notch. If there is ever a Baroque-pop revival, “Cloudy” should serve as the blueprint.

Jens Meiert is delving deeper into the increasing pedantry that is long-term HTML/CSS maintenance.

Politician A from Political Party X just did [something]! If instead, Politician B from Political Party Y had just done [something], then media and public reaction would be totally different. Double standard! (wash, rinse, and repeat)

(\s\?[^>]|[^< ]\?\w|\?\s(?-i:[a-z])|“|”|’|?|?|?|—| \s|\s |(?-i:the) FAA(?!\s(?-i:[A-Z<]))|(?<!<cf.*)&(\s|(?!(\w{2,5}|#\d{2,5});)))

I’ve decided that I thoroughly enjoy swimming at the beach. Not just wading up to my knees like a little girl but actually swimming.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Pet Peeves

Being a snob, it was only a matter of time before this list surfaced. Enjoy.


The way that incredible technology always seems to be 2 or 3 years away from implementation or cost-effectiveness through mass production. Think mainstream electric cars, LED lighting, OLED display panels, super-efficient solar panels, SSD, or basically any improvement that promises to cut energy usage “in half.”

Microsoft Internet Explorer, namely the 6th version.

The subtle adverts that Quicken puts in its software — software that I’ve paid for, I might add.

The seeming inability to change the color of unread messages in Lotus Notes 6.5.1. It’s a bright fire-engine red. I just know that this must be having a detrimental psychological effect on me.

Politics and government

The over-reaching scope of the US Federal government. The apparent inability of the government to stop taxing, regulating, and subsidizing once precedents have been set. For instance, subsidization of corn and excessive taxation of diesel fuel.

Studies that reveal that many Americans can’t name the three branches of government, identify a single Supreme Court justice, or point to a well-known country on a map.

The tendency for people to vote for a candidate for non-political reasons, as such historicity, popularity, stage presence, or charm.


mama celeste The ingredients list of certain Celeste pizza products. Hint: you’re not eating cheese. Instead, your body will attempt to digest Imitation Mozzarella Cheese (Water, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Casein [Milk], Modified Food Starch, Trisodium Citrate, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Lactic Acid, Natural Flavor, Disodium Phosphate, Artificial Color, Guar Gum, Sorbic Acid [to Preserve Freshness], Artificial Flavor) An abomination before the Lord! Lately, I’ve taken to making my own insalata caprese-style pizza. Now that’s what I call food.

My inability to ingest spicy hot foods without having an acute attack of the hiccups.

The ubiquity of high fructose corn syrup.

Social settings

Being expected to laugh or smile at jokes that just aren’t funny.

Having to resist the urge to say “I shouldn’t have to tell you more than once!” when playing volleyball.

Annie’s camera shyness. This is especially cruel, considering that she’s the most beautiful woman since at least the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

Loud talkers with nothing to say.

The inevitability of the aging process.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009


I’m becoming more and more of a snob every day. (Well, at least according to Annie.) I’d rather call it “discriminating taste” — or in its simplest form, just a preference for one thing over another.

  • I try to avoid high fructose corn syrup and other artificial sweeteners, monosodium glutamate, partially hydrogenated oils (margarine), other “unnatural” fats, and needlessly processed food products with unpronounceable ingredients. Instead, I purchase “real”, “natural”, or “organic” whenever possible. I don’t mind paying a bit more for quality. For that, I am a food snob.
  • I won’t drink Merlot, Rosé (White Zinfandel), or wine that has been “embellished”. For that, I am a wine snob.
  • I am through with North American lagers. Instead, my gaze is fixed upon Ireland (Guinness) and Belgium (Chimay). For that, I am a beer snob.
  • I consume an enormous quantity of music, much of it esoteric. I typically get blank stares or polite nods when I try to describe my tastes to people. I value my vinyl records just as much as my CDs. I’m not the kind of music snob who categorizes his collection as classical, jazz, and “other”, but I am a snob nonetheless.
  • While my video collection is comparatively more mainstream than my music collection, certain “guidelines” still apply: Since the beginning of 2008, I have completely stopped purchasing DVDs and have moved on (without any hiccups) to Blu-ray. I’ve even been replacing my old DVDs with their Blu-ray versions. I will never stretch or crop the picture. I prefer to watch a film in its original, theatrical aspect ratio, whether that be 1.33:1, 1.85:1, 2.35:1, or any other variation. I cannot be happier that “Full-screen” DVDs are finally being phased out. I am frustrated with people who just don’t get it, especially those with capable widescreen televisions. For that, I am a film and video snob. In this regard, the label of snob may be warranted.
  • My requirements for church are becoming more and more specialized. While I’ve always been Catholic, my adherence to the “weekly requirement” hasn’t always been strict. And by that, I mean that, a few times a year, I would attend a non-Catholic church service and count that as my “weekly”. Never again. It’s even gotten to the point where I’m hesitant to attend a Novus Ordo Mass — especially if it’s in the vernacular; I need to hear the old Mass in Latin. For that, I am a church snob.
  • I’m a stickler for proper grammar usage — a great deal of my Wikipedia edits involve grammar corrections or diction in some form or another. I’ve corrected people in everyday conversation: I remember telling someone once that they had “split the infinitive.” Lately, I’ve been surprised at the frequency at which people use the word “less” when they really mean “fewer.” It boggles the mind. I have strong preferences toward the increased usage of both the serial comma and the subjunctive mood. For that, I am a grammar snob.

In addition, Annie says that I’m a snob in the following categories: cars, clothes, computers, paper shredders, razors, lamps, light bulbs, and books. That’s right. I’m officially a paper-shredder snob.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Sodium and sports drinks

I recently got a message out of the blue from a woman who felt compelled to respond to a report that I had written in 2000 for a college health class assignment. Her message below has been lightly edited for clarity:

I have a friend who must work outdoors no matter how hot or humid. Last night, we were discussing that maybe he should drink more Gatorade, etc. (This worked for my ex-husband so well: I could tell by looking at him if he had drunk[1] water or Gatorade when it was hot. With water, he had that exhausted look; with Gatorade, his skin looked good and he had lower exhaustion.) The problem is that my friend has high blood pressure, so I worry if he might get too much salt from the sports drinks. Could you suggest something he might buy or make to help himself? He was really feeling poor last night. I feel bad for him. Budget is an issue for him as well, so, it couldn’t be anything too expensive. Thank you so much! Look forward to an answer.

The 110mg of sodium in a serving of Gatorade is there for two reasons:

  1. to replenish the sodium lost naturally when you sweat;
  2. it gives the body that “thirsty” feeling, which then encourages you to drink more, thus maintaining proper hydration.

Keep in mind that your friend’s high blood pressure may not necessarily be the result of salt sensitivity. While there is indeed a correlation between the two, it’s not quite as strong as conventional wisdom would have us believe. Other factors that can contribute to high blood pressure are obesity, renin homeostasis, insulin resistance, genetics, and age. Obesity is perhaps the most prominent contributing factor.

When I exercise (jogging, weight lifting, volleyball), I usually just drink water. My workouts usually don’t last long enough to warrant the consumption of sports drinks…

If your friend is worried about being exhausted after strenuous work, but wants to limit sodium, I would suggest tomato juice. It has half the calories of your average fruit juice, but still has enough calories to keep your blood glucose levels up. (Incidentally, tomato juice has about half the sugars of Gatorade.) It’s overflowing with potassium, with over 25% RDA per serving. Campbell’s even has a low sodium variety, which I drink on a regular basis. Ounce for ounce, it’s a healthier, natural alternative to Gatorade.

I’ve also found that bananas are good before or after exercise. They’re easy to digest, contain loads of potassium, and are a healthy source of energy.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Food and the general state of things

weight Just when I thought it was safe to eat healthy again, Annie goes to the store and brings back two large containers of ice cream, at least two packages of Pepperidge Farm cookies, a dozen doughnuts, tea cookies, chocolate chip cookies, brownies (with sprinkles), spicy hot potato chips, Boboli pizza dough, two four-packs of Starbucks Frappuccinos, and Lord knows what else. Add to that my new affinity toward Dagoba dark chocolate and Jif peanut butter — and Annie’s propensity toward putting those bite-size chocolate morsels and Reese’s peanut butter cups in little bowls in the living room — it’s a wonder that my body hasn’t completely gone to seed.

On the bright side, at long last my weight now starts with a “1” instead of a “2” (well, at least for this week), so I must be doing something right. Let’s see how long it lasts. Here’s another meaningless graphic for those of you who enjoy such things…

Tuesday, 25 April 2006

The cost of staying in shape

Isn’t it great to live in a country where the average person can own a car for the sake of mere convenience? After having moved close to the Forest Glen metro station, I no longer rely on my car, Janus, to take me to the train. Janus now sits quietly at home day after day, while I work. She’s now used for non-essential trips — Pleasure, if you will. I’m literally one block from church. 7/10 of a mile from the hospital and the train station. A mile from the mall and grocery stores. Everything is right here. Yet I’m paying for a car that, essentially, is used to shuttle me back and forth between volleyball and the gym.

The monthly cost of staying in shape:

  • volleyball and gym memberships: $40
  • car payment: $341
  • depreciation: $134
  • insurance: $50
  • fuel: $60
  • misc. car expenses: $20

There. The estimated monthly amount required to keep my body in peak shape: $645. $21 a day?