March 24, 2010

Working Out Vs. Having Fun

It’s finally getting sunny and warm enough to start doing spring-worthy things outside, so I’m determined to put on my super-fly bike shorts and set off on a long bike ride. I was lying awake last night thinking about riding my bike and how much I enjoy it, when I had an epiphany of sorts. Succinctly, I realized that there are two types of exercise- fitness-based, and activity-based.
            For me, fitness based exercises are those that I partake in for the pleasure of doing something intense or competitive. Things like running, weight lifting, circuit training, or, my most recent obsession, tabata. These exercises are gratifying because I’m pushing myself to new heights and proving that I’m physically capable. Because of the strident nature of fitness-based activities, they’re very mentally taxing, which helps me burn off a significant amount of excess neurosis. (I’ll admit it- I’m one of those people who’s not fully sane unless I workout a great deal, and even then it’s debatable)
            Activity-based exercises (for me) are things like rock-climbing, downhill skiing, bike riding, and kayaking. Often after a long day of partaking in one of the aforementioned activities I’m surprised that I’m exhausted- I had too much fun for it to “count” as exercise. Rather than soothing me by turning my entire body in to Jell-O, as with fitness-based exercise, I feel invigorated and relaxed because I’ve been doing something I genuinely enjoy.
            I guess the “take home” message from all of this is this- don’t pigeonhole yourself in to thinking that you need to be doing something really epic and intense for it to “count” as a workout. Moving your body is moving your body. (Though, obviously, different movements will produce different results.)
            The next thing on my agenda- an 80’s themed rollerblading session. I’m thinking spandex and old Madonna…

March 18, 2010

The Value of Crappy Pop Music In Conjunction With Working Out

I listen to music all the time when I work out. And sadly, not "good" music. My workout playlist is rife with pop icons such as Beyonce, Britney Spears, and Lady Gaga. I'm sure the people who live under my apartment hate me for my late night workouts- no one wants to be kept up by a song about "disco sticks" and the sound of someone doing jump-lunges. So why is working out to catchy music easier? Dr. Costas Karageorghis has made a career out of studying this very phenomenon, and he says that the key is in the number of beats per minute of a particular tune (BPM for short). The most effective workout songs have 120-140 BPM, which also corresponds to the heart rate of someone engaging in a moderate level of exercise. The beat of a song also allows you to sync with it and therefore move more quickly and economically, provided the BPM of the song aren't horrifically slow. Speaking as someone who ran an entire half-marathon with the chorus from The Violent Femme's "Blister in the Sun" stuck in my head, I can vouch for the motivational qualities of certain songs. For more information, click here.

Obstacle- Motivation

Everyone has those days-you're tired and grumpy and really really just want to spend an hour watching 16 and Pregnant while eating cold pizza before going to bed. So how does one beat the inner couch-potato and the voice that seductively speaks of the wonders of greasy food and how it's ok if you skip another day of working out? By finding something that makes you want to turn away from the drama of pregnant 16 year-olds and get off the couch. This can take many forms- pictures of fit people taped to many eye catching places, a goal to set a personal record in some event, or the onset of summer and swimsuit season. The important thing is that it works for you. Another important aspect of working out is consistency. If you always workout at the same time, day after day, it becomes more of a habit and less of a struggle. An interesting concept that I came across is that of personal metrics, which is basically measuring your progress over time scientifically. This allows you to track your progress in a tangible and meaningful way, which keeps you out of the mental "rut" of thinking that you're not achieving anything. You can find out more about personal metrics here.