The philosophy I strongly believe one should apply to cardiovascular exercise is simple: if you enjoy it – do it! Otherwise, keep looking until you find something you enjoy. I have successful experience reinforcing this idea as a permanent solution to exercising on a regular basis and benefiting from the good health it will provide. Still, there will always be temporary situations when we want to move our bodies but for whatever logistical reason are unable to do what we love. And so we must face the idea of doing some repetitive form of exercise which we would otherwise not endure.
I have applied this philosophy to something as mundane as running with great success. In the past I hated running. Before I embraced my current philosophy, I considered running boring work that “needed to be done”. I would count the seconds. I would run 4 or 5 times a week for a few weeks and then stop because I just couldn’t make myself do it any longer. Over time, and with some experience, all of that changed.
I love the smell of sea air, girls in bikinis and sunshine. I love being around people having a good time and watching waves crash on a beach. I also like the feeling of my feet in the sand and a gentle warm breeze. I never grow tired of these things. These other factors have overtaken the generic activity of “running” and turned it into something that I have really enjoyed for over 15 years. I go outside and run on the beach at a pace where I never get uncomfortable or out of breath. Here I can experience all of those things I love. Sometimes I figure I am one step up from a fast walk. I lean forward so that my feat must catch up to prevent me from falling down. This creates a slow comfortable jog. This makes my stride very relaxing and almost effortless. When I get tired I stop.
I still hate running, but I love the other stuff. So much so, that the running has become an incidental and virtually unnoticeable part of the exercise. Running is like the empty glass and these things I love are the drink that fills it. It’s funny, because my slow jog is now a relatively fast paced run. I have been made aware of this only by others who I run with on occasion. This happened slowly and without notice. The keys are consistency and enjoyment – one feeds the other. This I know because unlike years ago, I long to go for a run if I haven’t had the time for a while. I contrast my current perspective to the generic act of running. Even now, the most time I can do on a treadmill is 10 minutes and only if there is a television to watch. If there is something very interesting on TV I can occasionally go for as long as 20 minutes, but that’s about all I can take.
Some people have challenged me on this philosophy. They have indicated that I live beside a beach and that anyone would love running there. Then they tell me to try living in Toledo Ohio, or Buffalo in January and enjoy my “sea air and bikinis”. The fact is, I live and spend the majority of my time in another big northern city and enjoy running there just as much if not more. How? The answer is real estate.
I love old houses. I really love the ones that look like old castles, 3 stories high and covered with ivy. The part of the city I live in is very old and half way gentrified. There are endless streets of these beautiful old homes; some in need of restoration and some completed. Many may be purchased for surprisingly little money given the area, but they need refurbishment. Most of these houses have the huge original wooden doors and stain glass. Some have spires and beautiful balconies on every floor. Even though run down, the craftsmanship involved in the ornate hard wood trim and masonry stands out like a lost art. They are from another time over a century ago. When they were built, that part of town was the most exclusive area in the city. Every one of these houses has a long history.
Occasionally, one of the nearby stores in this run down area will have a front sign changed. When this happens often an old sign will be revealed from a store long since closed up decades ago. Like the nearby homes, to me this is a bit of history creeping out like a passage in time. There are also beautiful old churches built entirely from stone. Many stand dark and quiet, closed up; their congregations long since moved on or withered away. I get lost in this stuff. For me it’s like a hypnotic, haunting journey into the past. At the same time my mind wonders at the future possibilities for these beautiful old buildings.
Sorry….sorry, I forgot for a moment, we are talking about beautiful old buildings and the topic is supposed to be running. That’s the whole point. I actually forget while I’m running. This happens every time. For me it’s like running into history, or through a beautiful architectural museum. It’s the same mental journey as on the beach, just different subjects. These examples demonstrate the pre-eminent importance of our brains in any form of exercise.
The other day, I went running with a very competitive friend of mine who I hadn’t seen in quite some time. I know this guy well and for him this was a battle to see who was in better shape. In the end this little challenge clocked in at over an hour and we had run over 7 miles. For me, this was an unusually fast and physically taxing pace. I kept up with him the whole way, but it was hell. This served well to jog my memory. I remembered why I hated running!
Let’s suppose one of your true joys in life is simply watching television for hours on end; movies, news, soap operas or just flipping from channel to channel. Let’s also assume you have fully embraced what is primarily an evolutionary diet and have achieved a caloric deficit or equity. Try this; replace your easy chair with a very comfortable seated recumbent stationary bike. Recumbent bikes are the ones where your legs are out in front of you and you can lean back into your seat. Get a few cushions or some foam padding and make it super comfortable. Put it on its lowest resistance setting and carry on watching television while doing this extremely slow and passive aerobic activity. If you love reading, simply replace the television with a book stand. Remember, you are not losing your breath and perhaps not even breaking a sweat, but your heart will beat faster, oxygen will fill your lungs and you will simply feel better. Even this extremely low intensity activity will produce results since your diet has ended the source of your body fat problem. Now you are chipping away at the prior damage as your body visibly improves.
I strongly believe those sports, hobbies and physical activities we are passionate about should basically define our “exercise”. Nonetheless, hopefully these ideas will expand the possibilities to include some of the stuff we normally wouldn’t consider.