Saturday, May 31, 2008

Being Bad At Arithmetic Has Heart Healthy Advantages

My first year of graduate school was the year I got a cellular phone. It was also the year I met my friend Iu. She's from Eastern Europe, and is fantastic at doing arithmetic figures in her head. She told me, "We were too poor for calculators, like Americans have."

That first semester, she and I met weekly to do our computer architecture homework together; she teased me about my inability to divide in my head. I tried to get better at it. The day she brought marshmallow cookies to share was the same day I got her phone number from her. So, in my phone, her name is "Marshmallow."

I really hated the interface for my clunky old phone. It didn't have a good way of getting to a certain name; it just listed stuff alphabetically. As I listed new contacts in my phone, I assigned their name according to how often I called them. Three phones later, I still do this. People I call a bunch are A-B-C/W-X-Y-Z. People I don't call much are in the L's and the M's. My mother is "Labor Pains" because it took her 14 hours to give birth to me. We don't talk much on the phone. Marshmallow and I tend to keep in touch over e-mail. My boyfriend is "B Guy" or Buddy Guy, one of the Blues kings. My friend Amy, with whom I arrange a bike trip every weekend, is wAmy because the A's and B's got full.

Last weekend, during our bike trip, wAmy told me about this book she's reading, "You: Getting Younger" by those two smug sons-of-bitches doctors who are on Oprah once a month. She knows I don't care for them too much, but she likes to give me health snippets from the book. Wearing sunglasses. Omega-3s. Heart health.

She told me that one can easily measure cardio health:

1. Calculate your maximum target heart rate, or MTHR. It's 220 - Age.
2. Work out at 80% your MTHR.
3. Time how long it takes to go down 66 bpm. If it's less than two minutes, that's great news.

So for my experiment: I work out at 152 and time how long it takes to get to 86 bpm.

I tried it. I can drop 66 bpm in less than one minute. Eh? What? That means, according to wAmy's book, that I'm in "primo cardio health."

I surprised myself. I wondered how I did it.

Bad arithmetic.

Last year, I bought a heart rate monitor to help with my weight loss. I was going to the gym, but I wasn't working out effectively. Now I try to work out in "the zone" for at least thirty minutes. It's interesting data and it's motivating.

But when I entered my "target range" in my monitor, I did the calculation in my head. And I calculated wrong. So, whenever I'm at the gym, I'm working out at about 90%.


ScienceGirl said...

I have to admit to being one of those Eastern Europeans who grew up without a calculator and now reserve the right to tease Americans about bad arithmetic :)

Susan said...

Thought you'd be interested in this short omega-3 video:

shannon said...

wait, aren't you the person who helped me calculate the math surrounding some sleeves i was knitting?!?! that's some tough math! and the sweater turned out perfectly due to it.

FemaleCSGradStudent said...

Shannon: math, sure. Arithmetic, no. Remember how I stalled when I had to divide to find the slope? Bwa ha ha ha!