Saturday, September 25, 2010

Fitness is Contagious

Over the last few years there has been focus on social networks and their links to behavior.  In particular, there is a catch phrase of "your friends make you fat", saying that if you are overweight you are more likely to be social with friends that are overweight, as well.  Here is a link to a typical piece of research in The Guardian titled "Are Your Friends Making you Fat?"
If someone on the Framingham study became clinically obese, their friends were 57% more likely also to become obese. A friend of a friend of that obese person was about 20% more likely to become fat, and this was the case even if the weight of the linking friend remained unaltered.
While I don't necessarily believe that this research is compelling (there is the causality vs. correlation issue to contend with) in my limited experience the other type of behavior does seem to have an impact in my tiny social group - fitness is contagious.

Dan as anyone can see from the blog is frankly a fitness nut.  Not only does he train for martial arts, he also runs and bicycles very competitively for someone of his age.  And all this happened over the last few years.

While Dan is likely in the top 1% of the top 1% of people in his age group in terms of fitness, I probably was near the 50th percentile, and now things are looking up a bit.  A few years ago, I couldn't run, at all.  I hadn't run even 1 mile in 20+ years.  But I did start running a bit, and did a company 5k three years ago.  At the time I was kind of amazed that I completed it while running the whole time, and finished in the top 2/3 of the pack, which I viewed as a bit miraculous.  After the race I remember eating a lot in the tent and drinking beer and generally feeling quite pleased with myself.

The following year when I ran it I wasn't exactly celebrating in the tent; I remember going up to pile food on my plate when I just thought "hey, I run a couple of these a week, no big deal".  Bah, humbug. 

Then later I ran a 10k a year and a half ago with Dan in Madison, and was pretty pleased with myself, having a few beers after the race.  When we finished the 10k in San Francisco this spring (Dan ran a longer race), I didn't even get a beer and we headed back, because I typically now run a 10k or so every week on Saturday or Sunday when I get more time in the gym.

And now I think I may try to go for a 10 mile race next time I go with Dan, which probably would take me a couple of hours (I am not fast).  I would need to try to do that in the gym a couple of times beforehand, which means I have to step it up some more to probably 1 1/2 hours each time now.

To think that a few years ago when we started going to Bears games I could barely get up all the steps to the cheap seats without wheezing... now while I am not remotely close to Dan I probably am in the top 10% of fitness for people at my age group among Bears fans who sit in the non PSL seats.  A low bar?  Yes.  But as long as you  keep moving through the ranks, you can relatively be a star.


Mark said...

Way to go, Carl. Just remember that chronic cardio isn't the only way:

Dan from Madison said...

Only have my crackberry with me on the way to gunstock. Will drop in a lengthy comment here later today or tomorrow.

Dan from Madison said...

Only have my crackberry with me on the way to gunstock. Will drop in a lengthy comment here later today or tomorrow.

Dan from Madison said...

Oddly, not only will you do what the crowd does (like the fatties) you will also move to a different crowd when you reach a certain level of fitness, and different people will reach out to you to find "your secret". Of course there really isn't one besides dogged dedication and hard work.