Things to consider to exercise more often
In October of 2004, I purchased a 2005 Scion xB. It has provided me with what I value most in a vehicle: reliability. Other than yearly inspections and oil changes, it's been in the shop once for a minor matter.
So why am I planning to trade in such trusty transportation this fall? Because I live alone, need my car to be hassle free, and believe the more miles you put on a car, the more likely something significant will go wrong with it.
And as I write this, the car has traveled more than 53,000 miles.
So why is car mileage the concern in a health and fitness column? Because in the time it's taken me to drive 53,000 miles in a car, I've ridden about 70,000 miles on a bicycle and completed just over 1,000 weightlifting workouts.
I do not write these numbers to boast, but to introduce a question I've been asked three times in the last three weeks: "How can you exercise so much and not get sick of it?" The answer, for me, is multifacetedand far too complex to be handled completely in the confines of a newspaper column.
But part of the answer can serve as advice. So here are three suggestions to make you work out more.
Pick activities that suit your body type
One of the reasons you might not work out as often as you should is that no one likes to feel inferior or incompetent beyond the beginner's stage of any new activity. That's why it's so important to pick a workout that suits your body type.
When I got interested in bicycle racing years ago, for instance, I was advised to take a course at the velodrome in Trexlertown as a way to improve my bike-handling skills. In a few sessions, those developed quite nicely, and I felt competent and part of the class.
Until we started sprinting.
Sprinting requires quick-twitch muscle fibers, but most of mine are slow-twitch, the sort better suited for peddling hard mile upon mile instead of absolutely all-out for 10 seconds. Since the others had taken the class on the track to become track riders, they sprinted well.
The more the class focused on sprinting, the more incompetent and inferior I felt.
Even though I knew the training was going to help me race out on the roads, it became a real chore to make the drive to the velodrome to get humbled and embarrassed.
If the course would've lasted more than six weeks I fear I would've dropped out simply because that type of riding didn't suit my body type.
Pick activities that suit your mentality
While I probably wouldn't log quite as many miles on a bike if I still wasn't racing, I have stopped doing one sort of specific type of bicycle race: a criterium. That's because that race not only doesn't suit my body type, but it also doesn't suit my mentality.
To do well in a crit, you have to be willing to constantly fight for positionwhich sometimes means bumping and elbowing other riderssomething when done at 30 miles per hour on a bike reminds me of playing chicken with cars.
Furthermore, the finish is too much of a crap shoot for me. Too often the result you get is based on a combination of luck, how other riders react during crucial moments in the race, and how many risks you're willing to take.
That's why I prefer a really hilly road race. While luck still plays a role in the result, how hard you've trained, how well you dose your effort on the hills, and how hard you're willing to push yourself also determine how you do, so I feel more in control of the outcome.
Something that suits my mentality.
Keep a log
My weightlifting workouts are not necessarily designed to increase muscle mass. They are supposed to enhance my cycling.
Because of that, I often work in giant circuit sets alternating three or four body parts three or four times before pausing, so the lifting is virtually continuous for 10-15 minutes. In this situation, it would be easy to only do 10 reps instead of 12except I log everything in a type of shorthand: the type of exercise, the amount of weight, and the amount of reps.
Since the weights I'm using are submaximal and I do possess all those slow-twitch muscles, I know that I should be able to do the same amount of reps at the same amount of weight the second time I do a giant circuit set.
But that's not to say it's easy. Since I know I'm writing my results downand it's easier to write a "x2" besides the first giant circuit set than rewrite it again because of a change in the reps of one or two setsthe log keeps me working hard even when I'm not overly motivated.
Rereading a log after a few months also permits you to see patternsboth good and badand gives you a general sense of how to improve. And since we all tend to repeat workouts and grow stale as a result, rereading logs from past years can remind you of prior workouts and be a great way to beat boredom.