## Saturday, January 4, 2014

### 175 Miles?

A calorie, abbreviated as c, is a unit of measure of energy.  If I remember from my science days, it is the amount of energy that will raise the temperature of one gram of water by 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit).  But in dietary terms, what we call a calorie, such as "That chocolate bar contains 280 calories," is really a thousand calories, or kilocalories.  So in that sense, if we eat something that contains exactly one (dietary) calorie, that is enough energy to heat a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of water by 1 degree C.

Too much science stuff?  Too much metric system (a beautiful system of measurement, by the way)?  Well, the practical effect is that everything we eat contains calories, and if we eat more than we need - I should almost say "when," not "if" - we store the excess as fat.  So fat contains calories, roughly 3,500 of them for a pound of fat, although I am sure that number can vary considerably.  And it takes energy to do everything we do - stand up, walk to the door, type this sentence, even to think a thought.  Even if we stayed in bed all day, even if we were in a coma, our body would still be burning some energy.  It seems logical that we burn more energy when we are doing something active than when we are sitting down, right?  I've heard, but cannot prove, that walking or running a mile burns approximately 100 calories - although that should vary based on how much you weigh and how rugged the terrain is.  I do know that one of the real challenges for long distance backpackers is getting enough to eat.  They burn so much energy that they can lose all of their body fat and start breaking down muscle tissue for energy, essentially starving even while eating a lot.  That is why when they hit town after a couple of weeks on the trail, they can do things like eat a half gallon of ice cream or a couple of gigantic hamburgers.

I was thinking the other day of how I am about five pounds heavier than I was in September 2011 when I walked the 60 mile Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure in Washington DC and suburban Maryland.  And I was thinking what it would take to lose those five pounds, approximating that I would have to walk about 175 miles to do it.  I doubt that losing a pound by walking 35 miles is exactly true or quite that simple.  There would be a lot of other variables involved besides just the number of miles.  And to reach my goal of fitting into all three of my pairs of blue jeans, I probably need to drop another 5 pounds, so that would hypothetically be about 350 miles of walking total to lose the ten pounds.

I realize this is all speculation and gross approximation.  One key factor is what kind of calories I am consuming.  100 calories from kale is entirely different from 100 calories from chocolate which is different from 100 calories from honey.  Plus, I doubt it is as simple as "walk 35 miles and you lose a pound" - not at all, I am sure.  But it seems logical that if I walk enough and watch what I eat a little better, those extra five pounds will slowly come off, and then eventually the other extra five pounds, and maybe I will fit into those jeans again.  Maybe it will take 175 miles to lose the first five pounds, or maybe it will take 250 miles - I don't know.  I just know that it can be done.

So with the New Year, and with my temporary 8 hour day work schedule for the next few weeks, and the cool weather, I have been walking more.  Essentially, I use most of my lunch break as a chance to take a nice walk.  I can get in about 3 or 3.5 miles, and there are plenty of places to walk downtown.  I change into a exercise shirt and underwear so I don't come back with my work clothing all sweaty, plus the cool weather helps with that.  So far, so good - now I just need to stick with it and figure out how to keep it going when I go back on 9 hour work days next month.  Right now, that is my goal - just walk a lot.  I am very unsure about taking up running again, or even about trying to do another half marathon.  And another full marathon - while you never want to say "never" - seems really unlikely at this point in my life.  I will just keep walking and trying to stay in shape and see where the rest leads.