How to Measure Your Dirtbag Fitness Level
What is "fitness," exactly? Trainers, elite athletes, and the polished exercise-club crowd have one idea. It involves things like resting heart rate, VO2 Max, reps-per-minute, lactate thresholds . . . lots of numbers. The “fitness” they’re talking about can be measured, quantified, and presumably, understood once the right numbers have been crunched.
But wait a second.
Folks submit some pretty cool pictures to our catalog. When's the last time you looked at one of those pictures and thought, “Wow, look at the sustained heart rate on that guy!”? No doubt, it takes a certain level of fitness for the folks in Patagonia photos to get themselves to the beautiful places where the cameras find them. But in looking at the pictures, it seems that fitness—the cardio-pumping, number-crunching, calorie-counting type—falls somewhere well outside the frame.
[Legendary dirtbag, undoubtedly fit. Fred Beckey still climbing long past what most consider to be retirement age. Photo: Eric Draper]
Lynn Hill and Steve House have been kind enough to share some of their training tips recently here on The Cleanest Line. Their posts have helped illustrate the kind of focus and dedication it takes to succeed at such a high level. Their strategies incorporate the kind of metrics mentioned earlier, for example: interval training to boost max sustained output.
But what about the dirtbag training program? You know, the disaffected social-dropout program. The one that trades lunges for dumpster-diving and replaces the Swiss Ball with the hippie speedball. What about these?
Dirtbags have found their way to some pretty inspiring places, and are often the first to get there (think John Muir, Yosemite’s original dirtbag). They follow precious few programs or intervals; those they do are usually dictated by their stomachs, bladders, and desired level of awareness. Anything else is/was just too damn . . . . Regular. Normal. Uptight. And, well, not much fun.
Few of the standardized fitness metrics capture some equally valid factors in determining fitness: joy, abject hedonism, absence of guilt, and abundance of satisfaction to name a handful. Who knows, maybe those are all the same thing.
The fine folks at Outside magazine provided a little tool for measuring fitness in the Sept. 2007 issue of their magazine. It’s on Page 44 if you have the mag and you want to check it out. Or online at—http://outside.away.com/outside/bodywork/200709/fitness-quiz.html
Now, it’s obvious with this quiz that Outside’s tongue is placed well within its cheek (one of the questions seeks to rate how long your dog sleeps after a typical run). But sometimes it’s hard to tell exactly where they’re coming from (another question asks “Do you know your VO2 max?”).
This is where it started to get personal for me. I don’t have a dog, but I do borrow them from time to time when I want company. How does that score? And the VO2 question—can I get a show of hands from every weekend warrior and dirtbag who knows their VO2 max? Most of the crispy outdoor critters I know have devised far more enjoyable methods for measuring lung capacity.
So I took their quiz. I tried to answer the questions as faithfully as possible. And it occurred to me in taking it that—whether in jest or no—the quiz measures a distinct type of fitness. Trouble was, I couldn’t figure out which kind. So I took the quiz twice. The first time through, I tried to answer as accurately as possible in what seemed the "spirit" of the quiz, the second time, I tried to provide the most roots-honest answer I could come up with. Call the first round the "straight laced" round; second one "dirtbag."
But you know what? Those results might not mean much if you're not familiar with the quiz. If you have a few minutes, check it out. Get your own score. The Straight-Laced and dirtbag results will be shown here side-by-side (Pepsi-challenge, style) next week.