Friday, November 2, 2012

Exercise - Who Needs it? Me!

Exercise.  I need it, I don't enjoy it.

Okay, the reality is, I don't like to exercise.  I like what it does for me short term (improved mood and energy especially if I can get outside when it is sunny), and I like what it does for me long term (improved mood, improved health, improved stamina, improved energy, reduced blood pressure), but I don't like exercise in and of itself.  Exercise to get out into Nature is different.  Whether it is hiking or even driving to a place where I can commune with nature, that exhilarates me.  Walking or biking on roads, sidewalks, or parking lots... Not so much.

I don't run.  I actually believe that in most cases running is anti-healthy.  Jogging/Running has a great deal more ankle and knee injuries than walking or biking, and with me being over double my ideal weight, and with arthritis symptoms since high school, I don't need to push the envelope.  If you are a runner I won't try to convert you, but I do have a couple of things to say to people who think running is harder exercise and want to convert me:
- Walking for 1 mile burns more calories than jogging for 1 mile.
- Walking is not necessarily the same as strolling.  While strolling is also exercise, I walk fast.  Usually around 3mph.  I used to walk 5mph, but that was 75 pounds and 15 years ago.  Maybe I will build up to that speed again after I lose some weight and get in better shape.
- Walking at 5mph is harder exercise than jogging at 5mph.  More steps per mile, same miles.
- Walking at 3mph or less at temps below 70 degrees or less for 15 minutes or less probably doesn't require showering afterwards.  Maybe a couple of quick baby wipes on the face and neck.  In warmer weather, changing into a T-Shirt for the walk and back to the business casual shirt after (with a few baby wipes) may be all that is needed.
- If you jog at 4.5 mph and someone walks by you at 5mph, run your own race/exercise.  I can run 6mph just like you can for a short distance, but if my 10K pace is 5mph from start to finish and your 10K pace starts at 5.2mph and drops to 4.5mph for the middle 5K, running at 6-7mph to pass me is going to burn more of your reserves than needed, and it will just amuse me more when I walk past you the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th time.  Every single time I entered a 5K or longer event, and many times while walking on a track, I have had someone or a bunch of someones modify their pace to re-pass me, often multiple times.  No need.  I didn't pass you for my vanity.  I walk my own walk.
Exercise as a social activity used to happen for me, two companies ago, but I found that when I used other people as part of my motivation, I didn't exercise if they didn't come along.  Now I have to motivate in other ways.  Not that I would turn down a walking partner for a specific walk, just that I won't predicate whether I exercise on whether someone else comes along.  Schedule a walk or bike with me and don't show up?  I'll go without you.  Because I have to.  Nothing Personal.

For me, exercise is about goals and motivation.  Progress Not Perfection.  Just Do It.  Get 'Er Done.  Don't Should On Yourself.  Walk Your Own Walk.  All cliches, but they all mean something to me.  

Progress Not Perfection:
- Do more exercise than I did last year, both total per month and days per month.  Not Hard!
- If I choose to consider Grocery Shopping with a push-cart instead of a handicap scooter as exercise, then it is exercise.  After all, walking is exercise so pushing 30 pounds of groceries around while walking must be exercise too!  So is carrying boxes for moving.

Just Do It:
- Don't worry about what anyone else thinks.  Exercise. 
- Don't worry if I didn't exercise yesterday.  Today is what counts.
- Don't worry about my current week totals.  Or current Month.
- Celebrate what I accomplish, even if it isn't what I hoped to accomplish.

Get 'er Done:
- My current lifestyle doesn't usually give me huge chunks of time to exercise.  Some days I can't carve out any time before or after work at all.  So, my "minimum I feel comfortable with" goals are pretty minimal.
- I had to find a way to insert exercise into my life.  The bulk of my exercise is near or during work time.  Get to work early and walk until I need to get to my desk, maybe as much as a mile or so.  Take a quick half mile walk on my 15 minute break.  Take a 1.5 mile walk at lunch.  Another half mile walk on my 2nd break.  Some days, squeeze in 1-2 miles after work before driving home, or maybe drive home, eat dinner, then do a little exercise.

Don't Should On Yourself:
- This one might not be as hackneyed as the first three, and you may not have heard it before.  The basis for this is "Guilt is counterproductive".
- No "I should have walked at break".  No "I should eat less".  Take the energy I would spend on guilt and turn it into motivation to try to do better.

Walk Your Own Walk:
- Own your exercise.
- Do the exercise that is right for YOU.
- Don't change pace because of other people unless walking in a group.  If group walking, try to pick a group whose pace is at least reasonably close to yours.
- Pick a time and place that works for you.

Since I don't enjoy it on its own, exercise doesn't motivate me without some kind of immediate goal.

Goals for exercise can be measured in a lot of different ways.  The ultimate measurement might be being at the right weight, able to sprint for 2 minutes, being able to hike for 5 hours, or some other such lofty goal, but my reality is that I can't hold out for nebulous goals or goals that may take 2-5 years to reach, I need something that I can touch and feel today.  Goals like "how many days in a row can I get in at least a half mile walk" and "how many walks can I fit in during a month" are more my current style.

But in addition, I have found a couple of programs for my Android phone that provide some goals.  The first one is RunKeeper.  It allows me to track run/walk/bike/wheelchair/whatever activity, uses GPS to track location and altitude, and reports via email to me when I set a new personal record speed, distance, time, calories burned, total cumulative altitude change during a walk etc.:

This is a RunKeeper FitnessAlert to let you know that you achieved the following milestones with your most recent walking activity:
  • Farthest distance
  • Longest duration
  • Most calories burned
  • Fastest average speed
  • Fastest average pace
  • Biggest elevation climb
Because of this, I could decide that on a day I can't walk as far, I want to try to top 3mph walking instead of my usual 2.7-2.9mph.  Heck, I used to walk 5mph.  I know that because 15 years ago I finished a 5 mile competitive walk in less than an hour.  Or maybe this afternoon I could take 20 loops around the little section with a hill instead of walking the whole perimeter of the parking lot, to score my "biggest elevation climb"... it doesn't measure highest and lowest, it measures the total rise.  If I was tracking while hiking the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and I went over 4 peaks in one hike, the elevation climb might say I went more than the height of Mt. Everest.

The second app isn't actually on my phone, but the web site  It is linked to my RunKeeper data, and creates amusing "InfoGraphics" (somewhat twisted humor).  But it is a way to look at my data in a different way.  The graphics can be posted to Facebook, direct links created, etc.  Below are links to my 1st one, my current one, and my October Monthly Summary one: - Outwalked a Venus Fly Trap, eaten by a Python - Outwalked a Python, eaten by an Ocelot - Monthly summary for October

Cold won't stop me, Grey skies don't stop me, and walking by parking lot lights doesn't stop me.  Hopefully snow itself won't stop me.  Rain, Hail, or Sleet take me indoors where I can't receive the GPS signal for the RunKeeper app and can't walk as fast.  So, with all of this, I am trying to walk at least once for at least a half mile 6 days a week, and I am trying to walk as many of my 5 "near work" time slots a day as I can, aiming to do at least 2 miles a day.  My best day I did 5 walks, totalling nearly 4 miles.  My worst day I managed one walk for half a mile.  Actually, I took two days off one weekend when I was sick.  At some point I may dig out my pedometer so I can track how far I walk if it is inside.

And the encouragement I get from RunKeeper,, My friends, and the Bathroom Scale keep me moving.  Even when I have to wear ankle braces and take Ibuprofen.



Diana Troldahl said...

When the weather gets bad, on your days off (or before work if we allow enough time and the store is open) perhaps we can walk inside Ikea. You walk, I manually wheel.
I don't think we have a mall close enough to do the same, but Ikea is pretty big.

Don Meyer said...

Oscar, I don't like exercise either. But if I don't, I can't move -- literally. But I like your philosophy.