Thursday, August 14, 2008

Activity tip of the day

Fitness experts: Don't try to match Olympians on your exercise machines

Some things should go without saying. But the fact that they don't shows how little these people actually use their exercise machines. If they did, they'd understand (like I do) that exercise machines only go so far in replicating their real-life equivalent.

This is the reason I hate exercise bikes as much as I love mountain biking. When I hit the local trails, I do it with as much speed as my gears (and presence of others) allow. I'll go as far the sun allows me to go, sometimes as much as four hours at a time. Put me on a stationary bike, though, and after literally four or five cycles my knees start to ache and I'm ready to jump off. Likewise with the treadmill - I'll walk all day or jog at least through the span of my iPod playlist; on a treadmill, however, 30 minutes at half-speed gives me that face that conveys the feeling I really accomplished something. Kind of the same feeling I get from 10 minutes on a rowing machine, which I can't compare to rowing because I've never had friends into rowing.

The point, as far as I see it, is that exercise machines barely replicate hitting the road. If they present such different experiences just for me, then how can Suzy Couch Potato assume that they can set their treadmill for Olympic speed? And then keep up with it?

There are much easier (and gradual) ways to make your heart explode. If you understand this little about the nature of exercise equipment and fitness, you're probably doing them already.

However, much in the way high gas prices have most people suddenly caring about the environment, the Olympics-inspired interest in fitness is something worth harnessing. Consult with your physician...wait, scratch that, you've got no insurance...join your local YMCA or health, you probably can't afford that either...uh, talk to a friend about fitness, perhaps? No, your friends probably told you to keep up with the Olympians in the first place...arrrgh....

How about this for a start? Integrate it into your daily life. Park farther away from places than usual. Drink water instead of sugary soda, and before eating any meal or snack. Drive nowhere you can walk. Work up to reasonable goals. Get a bike. Turn down that third helping. Shake up your workout so you don't get bored. Make it part of your life so that not doing it is not an option. Put less stock in weight (muscle weighs more than fat) and more in body-fat percentage. But most importantly, don't compare yourself to Michael Phelps. We're all the worse for having done that this week.

I'm not a doctor. But I've been operated on by one. Mainly because I tried to keep up with athletes in much better shape many years ago. So I sort of know what I'm talking about.

(Incidentally, I once tried on an Olympic medal, courtesy of high jumper Hollis Conway. Those things are heavy. You really have to earn those.)


Nick said...

I've always hated running on a treadmill, or even running on an indoor track for that matter, which is why a dreaded the indoor season.

A few months ago, I ran on a treadmill for the first time in years, as it was lightning when I wanted to go on my run. Despite the TV being on one of my favorite shows (Family Guy), the 8 miles seemed to last forever.

That's why, it can be 30 degrees and raining, I'm still going to do my run outdoors.

As for the exercise bike, were you wearing a Nike headband and striped socks up to your knees?

Ian McGibboney said...

Family Guy is awesome. And, yes, I would totally wear that ensemble.