Sunday, 25 September 2005, 17:55:32 EDT

At CSU there is a series of courses PHED 1010, 1020, 1030, and 1040. The official name is "Physical Education" and, like all courses, has successive "levels." No matter what level of the course you are taking, it is known around campus simply as "Smartbodies." It is known as such because that is the name of the facility where the "class" takes place. The course is simple on paper, you take a couple open book quizzes through the semester and go to Smartbodies a minimum number of times and you will make an A in the course. In addition to Linear Algebra and Calculus III, I am taking Smartbodies this semester; specifically 1030.

Over the past few years I have put on some weight. I am actually about fifty pounds overweight and couldn't run from a gimped turtle if I needed to. I am just plain out of shape. I took 1010, 1020, and 1030 (yes, I managed to fail 1030) about two years ago to try and stave off the impending weight. It didn't work. I didn't take the class very seriously and only ended up temporarily increasing some muscle mass. Why didn't it work? I didn't do anything about my abysmal diet. I kept eating like it was going out of style and putting away twelve packs of beer on the weekends. In other words, I kept consuming a massive amount of calories that I would never burn.

Well, this time is different. I have been re-taking 1030 again for about four weeks now and this time I am trying to change my diet. I haven't lost any weight yet but I have stabilized at a specific one; instead of fluctuating back and forth within a five pound range. I have decided to get serious about this because I don't having to buy new clothes every few weeks, and that is what I was doing. That, or I was cramming my fat ass into pants that literally hurt to put on. I won't be shedding the pounds very quickly, though. The Smartbodies work out is very much a combination of a cardiovascular and strength training work outs. Both of which are not the most efficient at burning fat. But, I think by watching the amount of calories I consume, overall, I am not going crazy and saying to myself "only XXXX number of calories per day," and sticking to working out three days every week I will get back down to my ideal weight. It sucks, though, because I love food that tastes good and food that tastes good is fatty. My friend Dennis is Sou Chef at Sala and he says the first thing he was taught at culinary school was "fat is taste." I believe it.

Any way, all of this exercise stuff has made me curious about something. I understand how calories affect me and why I need to "count" them; I even found a good explanation of them and their relation to body weight. What I don't understand is how devices like treadmill and elliptical machines can report the number of calories that the user has burned, and I can't find an explanation. Wouldn't such a statistic be very dependent on the person using the machine? Or is it possible to generalize such a thing? Does anyone out there have any ideas? I would like to know, and I would love a detailed accounting of how it works.