Monday, October 13

Fitness, ADD-style

Just had to pass along this little tidbit: Wii Fit has officially outsold Halo 3. That's big. Very big.

While I'm happy that Americans are expressing some interest in getting into shape, I fear it's yet another fad that will quickly lose momentum.

It seems to me that our need for constant stimulus/cool gadgetry has become part of our fitness problem. People are making a concerted effort to save money, but buy this game? I mean, hey, if it actually helps them lose weight, then terrific.

But how many of you have unused exercise equipment lying around? And how many of you swore up and down you would use it all the time, that having spent the money would motivate you?

Tim and I were reviewing things to give away on Freecycle to get the clutter to a more manageable level. One of the big ones? My exercise ball. I kept it for ages, swearing I would use it. Mostly it just takes up space, because I refuse to deflate it. I keep thinking if I see it, it will guilt me into action.

Of course, that's been the going theory for 5 years now.

Can't we brainstorm some cheaper routes to fitness? In these lean financial times, you have to get a bit innovative. Yeah, a gym is nice, but it's also a great place to avoid. Meanwhile it sucks away (generally) $30+ a month. And if you don't keep going, the guilt of it just adds to your generalized dread about working out.

Too heavy. We have all these extra pounds to lug around and guilt to boot? Nah, not worth the money or the stress.

If you look at a lot of the better (in my opinion) fitness magazines today, most of them will translate any machine-regime into a real-world scenario, as well.

What I really like about Shape and Fitness is that their workouts are based on PRE, or Perceived Rate of Exertion. This means, instead of saying that the exercise has to be done on a treadmill at 6 mph, 12% incline, the article will say a PRE of 8. Then, in the back, there will be a table that explains each of the points on the RPE 1-10 scale. At least a couple of the magazines translate it into very intuitive (for me) explanations such as "Can hold up a conversation with some slightly labored breathing" or "Breathing very labored. Conversation difficult."

Why do I prefer PRE? Because it tosses out the ridiculous notion that there are one-size-fits-all exercises. It's not true. Sure, 30 minutes of walking a day will be possible for most people, even those very out of shape. But not me. I generally have to start around 10-20 minutes and inch my way up. It doesn't matter how fast or slow I walk, my limitations are often just as based on time as exertion level.

Once you get rid of these false ideas about what you "should" be able to do, you're much more able to just start at what works for you. And all that guilt about "should" goes away (at least, partially), leaving you more energy to focus on your real goals.

So: Instead of going out and buying a game, or plunking down first/last/sign-up at a gym, just get out in the world.

  • Check out your library's magazine selection. Chances are, it subscribes to at least one good fitness magazine. Don't forget, you can xerox pretty cheaply.
  • Invest in a good pair of workout-only shoes. If you can find an affordable pair, I really love New Balance and get mine at the sports-outlet chain Big 5. But there are other good brands.
  • Get some (cheap) workout gear. Go to Ross, Marshall's or TJ Maxx and find some affordable workout clothes, especially sports bras. Target has good sales too. If you're just walking, you don't strictly need new attire. But for me it's a mindset. Decide how important it is to you.
  • Find a spot you can walk. It can be a park or around your neighborhood. Heck, Tim and I walk in a cemetary two blocks from us. It's peaceful, there are paved roads, plenty of hills and no car fumes. Others prefer to do hills as interval training. It doesn't matter where you go, just start moving.
  • Don't worry about speed. Find a rate that you can keep up (unless you're doing interval training) that still keeps your heart rate elevated. It doesn't matter if snails are passing you by. They may be really fit snails. Just pretend you're one of those horses in a Hansom cab -- you have blinders on and can only look ahead.
  • Get some tunes. I find music is really essential for me, unless I have company to chat with. Good music keeps me going and sets the tone for me. With my clunky old MP3 player, I can choose cheesy pop/techno for pure pep, alternative grrl music for spunky, push-through-the-limits attitude, loud/angry music if I'm just in a really dark mood, or (my favorite) random for the simple interest of what's coming next.

The music is also great for my time-keeping. I own few watches, since I tend to obsess about time passage when I do. Instead, I just add the song lengths together to keep a running approximate tally of my workout length. Songs also make things seem more reasonable. Thinking "Just 12 more minutes" is a lot more discouraging than "Just three more songs." It can be a good motivator.

Obviously, Black Friday is a great opportunity for a good MP3 player. But the retail chains like Best Buy and Office Depot are getting pretty desperate, so keep your eyes on their ads. Big Lots has also had players from time to time. Unless you like listening to the same music over and over, I recommend at least 1 gig, preferably two, from a reliable name brand. We've had good experiences with Sansa, including them replacing one with no questions asked because ours "stopped working" when it fell from Tim's hand to a cement floor.

As for fitness attire, I get by pretty easily with 2 sports bras, two pairs of pants and various old shirts. I have a couple that got bleach stains and so got thrown out of my usual wardrobe. But if I'm going to be sweaty and red faced anyway, who cares what I'm wearing?

I bought one long-sleeved shirt for colder days. If it's pretty chilly, I will sometimes wear a hoodie and, once I'm warmed up, tie it around my waist.

If you can find it at the discount stores (and I did), I highly recommend moisture-wicking clothing. It keeps the sweat away from your body, which is better for your skin. Additionally, it keeps the clothes from smelling as quickly.

Finally, if your library doesn't have a decent fitness magazine, or if you want one of your own, try (great for MyPoints) or search the web for a cheap subscription price.

A few other handy tips I've picked up over the years:

1. Instead of buying handweights for your walks, fill up two large water bottles. They weigh about the same. Meanwhile, you'll drink up some of the weight as the workout goes on, so they won't get too heavy as your arms tire. (Walgreens is currently selling "D" shaped water bottles, which make them easier to hold, for $1 in the summer clearance section.)

2. If you don't want to buy free weights, find exercises that use your own body's weight. Even for the trimmer folks, that's over 100 pounds, when you do a tricep dip off a chair or do wall-sits.

3. Common household objects can substitute for lighter weights. I once saw a whole piece about using the last Harry Potter book. There are plenty of groceries we buy with the weight right on them: rice, flour, sugar, etc. Be sure they're well-wrapped and preferably unopened. But get creative and you could save a ton of money.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that's terrific that it outsold Halo 3. (As long as the purchasers are actually using it!)

October 15, 2008 at 7:15 AM


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