More on Exercise and Food

It turns out my ideas about exercise aren’t entirely off the mark:

Many obesity researchers now believe that very frequent, low-level physical activity — the kind humans did for tens of thousands of years before the leaf blower was invented — may actually work better for us than the occasional bouts of exercise you get as a gym rat. “You cannot sit still all day long and then have 30 minutes of exercise without producing stress on the muscles,” says Hans-Rudolf Berthoud, a neurobiologist at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center who has studied nutrition for 20 years. “The muscles will ache, and you may not want to move after. But to burn calories, the muscle movements don’t have to be extreme. It would be better to distribute the movements throughout the day.”

A friend told me about this article yesterday and I bumped into it this morning and read the whole thing. It’s ultimate conclusion is that it’s your food choices and not your exercise routine that does the most for your weight. That doesn’t mean you can be completely sedentary. It suggests, as the quote above notes, that we should just all move around more within our daily activities rather than scheduling a trip to the gym. That’s something that’s easy to incorporate for many people. I can walk or ride my bike to many places instead of driving. And most people can. Even parking far away from entrances and taking the stairs instead of the elevator can make you healthier. Things people have said all along, but which now makes a lot more sense.

Ignoring time

I really appreciated seeing this post this morning about not focusing so much on the clock. I have a real tendency to do this, scheduling every minute of every day. Today, for example, Geeky Boy and I had to go to the high school to rework his schedule, so I started my planning from there. I decided I would go to the high school at 10, followed by a trip to the grocery store, lunch, cleaning, and then a trip to the pool, exercising either there or when I got home. I planned free time in the hour before dinner, dinner, and then just open time. Sounds oppressive, doesn’t it? The other thing that happened was that I didn’t wake early enough so a few things I wanted to get done on a writing project didn’t happen until just now. And, though I should be cleaning, that’s not happening now because I wanted to post this and read a few other blogs, which is not quite leisure, not quite work. So, you see, my schedule is easily disrupted and then I feel bad about not getting things done, etc. Bleh.

Jonathan Mead (author of the above post) echoes this sentiment:

Trying to constantly manage and monitor my time has only led me to greater anxiety, and always feeling like I’ve not “done enough.” I’m always thinking about how I could have “spent that time more wisely.” But the purpose of life is to enjoy it, is it not? So can’t we perform highly without the anxiety of counting every minute?

He makes a lot of good recommendations for being productive without feeling pressed for time. My favorite is having a theme for the month. Although I didn’t quite consciously think about it, my theme for this month is about getting organized and eliminating clutter. I wanted to be prepared for the new school year with a house that’s more streamlined and with everything in its rightful place. I think the idea is that, while I might schedule time for cleaning, if that’s the theme, then when I have the time and motivation during each day, I can tackle a cleaning project.

Next month, I’m going to tackle exercise, something I’ve struggled with forever. I really hate structured exercise–going to the gym, being in an exercise class (except for yoga; I like yoga classes)–but it’s not like I’m a total lump. I don’t mind walking instead of driving places. I’ll play soccer or tennis with the kids. I like gardening. Generally, moving around on occasion, even every day, is not something I’m opposed to. But it’s extremely easy for me to make excuses. It’s too hot, too cold, too wet. I have this that or the other that I need to do. I’d rather read, play games, watch tv. You know the drill. So I’m going to make some effort now, but really focus next month on moving at least a little every day.

The exercise thing is partly why I’m not as fond of Mead’s advice to follow your rhythms. That’s easy enough for me to do with intellectual activity, but inertia keeps me from doing physical things that I find unpleasant. And that’s where I think a schedule can help. And I suspect some people find the same is true of other kinds of work. Certainly people can schedule those activities for times when they know they’re more motivated, but they might have to semi force themselves to at least getting started.

I’m trying, then, to find a good flow for myself where I feel productive, but don’t feel anxious. Easier said than done, but I’m giving it a whirl.

Wrong week

So it’s been a tough week to start up the walking regimen again. I was much more successful than the guy from Airplane! at least. On Tuesday, it was freaking cold and there were 40 mph winds. I only walked 15 minutes, mainly because by the time I got all my gear on and got out the door, it was 6:15. Since I have to be in the shower by 6:30 so I can arrive at work by 7:30, I couldn’t do more than 15 minutes. Wednesday the winds had died down, but it was still cold. Today, I thought I’d get up at 5:45 to accommodate for the gearing up time, but opted to sleep in and walk in the afternoon (I’m home by 3:00). That was a good plan since it was 18 degrees this morning and there was an inch or two of snow on the ground.

It’s not bad after the first block or two. The first day, I didn’t have enough butt coverage, so I was plenty warm on top, but my butt was cold the entire time. After some long underwear and warmer workout clothes purchases, I managed to keep the butt warm. I’m catching up on podcasts and generally enjoying it so far. I still have to convince myself. The voices in my head say, It’s so cold. Don’t go. The bed is nice and warm. I have to fight that still. I’ll say this, spring is gonna feel really warm to me.

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Conquering the sloth

Last week, when I wrote about my clutter and exercise problems, I had every intention of tackling them. I semi-tackled the clutter problem by doing a little clutter reduction in the kids’ rooms. I managed to at least keep new clutter from accumulating, so that’s something.

On the exercise front, however, I’ve failed. Truly, the best time for me to exercise is 6 a.m. I usually get up, wake up Geeky Boy and while he’s showering, I have my first cup of coffee and catch up on blog reading. It’s time to myself that I enjoy. Last week I was thinking about going for a brisk walk at 6 a.m., but I couldn’t bring myself to do that. And here I am this morning at 7, having not exercised, but wanting to do something about this lack of fitness thing. I’m having a hard time thinking about giving up this 1/2 or so that I have to myself. I think I need to readjust my attitude. I need to think of walking as the time to myself. Geeky Boy now wants to be driven to school since the weather is cold. I have to throw on clothes anyway, so it would be easy to that 45 minutes earlier. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I myself leave for work at 7:15, dropping Geeky Boy off on the way. It would be trivial to walk half an hour before taking a shower and getting ready for work. And yet, there are obstacles. The lack of motivation is the big one, which makes these small ones seem like deal breakers. I’m writing them here, so that I can get rid of them and make this happen.

  1. Coffee. I must have coffee in the morning. I’ve already automated the making of the coffee. I could easily take this with me on my walk. I just have to make sure I have my travel mug at home (it’s currently at work).
  2. Clothes. I need warm workout clothes. I have a few, but not enough to ensure I’ll have something warm to wear. I need hat and gloves as well. I also need clothes warm enough to wear when it’s below freezing.
  3. iPod carrier. In the winter, this isn’t as much of a problem because I have pockets in a vest I can wear over anything. I used to have one until I got a new iPod and they changed the form factor. The new iPod doesn’t fit in the old carrier. Alternatively, I could get a shuffle and put a few things on to listen to while I walk. Maybe that could be my reward for keeping up with this plan until Christmas.

That’s all (besides motivation) that’s keeping me from getting started. So, I’ve vowed today to bring my mug home and go pick up a few more clothing items to get started. My goal is to walk every day until Christmas Eve. I’ll take the holiday off and begin again on the 26th. You are all my witnesses, so I hope you’ll keep me honest.

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And we’re back . . .

Boy, it was hard to go back to work today. My eyes are bloodshot. My head is heavy. And it’s only 8 o’clock. I kept myself alive by drinking lots of caffeine and busying myself with tasks that didn’t require a huge amount of thought. I stayed offline the entire break and so I came back this morning and marked all of my feeds as read–mostly.

Two things started to get to me over the break: the amazing amount of clutter in my house and my lack of exercise. We had my family over for Thanksgiving and of course, did a major cleaning of the house. As we did so, I realized how much stuff we’ve accumulated. We have a small house, so it’s very noticeable. We now have furniture and all kinds of stuff to get rid of and it’s not easy. Purple Heart comes for clothes about once a month. Given how much the kids are growing, we almost always have something for them. But the bigger stuff is more complicated. We could pay a service, but that’s kind of pricey. I’ve called Salvation Army, but it takes weeks, so we’re not on the schedule yet. Today, I cleaned out some of the kids’ toys and old videos. Much of that can go to Purple Heart too. I threw away a lot. I’ve vowed to spend 30 minutes a day clearing stuff out.

Another problem with the clutter is what comes into the house and what we generate. There’s mail and school papers. I’ve tried different systems and I just haven’t found one that works. I think I just need to suck it up and deal with it at least once a week. And then there’s recycling and trash. I can totally sympathize with Anjali’s post from last week. We do have recycling pickup, but it’s a crazy schedule. They do one thing a day, twice a week. So, one Monday is paper, then plastic on Thursday. The following Monday is glass, then cans on Thursday. They used to print a schedule, but they quit doing that, so I’m totally confused. I seem to always miss plastic so it’s piling up, and they don’t do colored glass. You have to take that in. It’s crazy.

The exercising problem is somewhat related to the clutter problem. I am not a hearty person. I don’t hold up well in cold weather. I used to, but I’ve become wimpy in my old age. So, I want to exercise inside. I could join a gym, but I’d rather be in the comfort of my own home. Problem is, I have no place to work out. There’s not enough room in any room in our house. We’ve shifted furniture around to the point where nearly every square inch is covered in furniture. I may have to cave and go to the gym. Sigh.

It doesn’t help that I was completely slothful over the break. I ate. I drank. I watched football. I did not run around, exercise or tackle the now four-foot high pile of laundry. One of these days, my house *will* be clean.

Culture and Exercise

From Thursday to Sunday, we were one busy family. On Thursday night, Mr. Geeky and I went to see Regina Spektor in concert. She was amazing. I only knew a few of her songs, so almost everything was new to me. What amazed me the most was that it was just her on stage. She played piano, percussion and a little guitar. Mostly it was just her voice and whatever instrument she was playing. As Mr. Geeky said, he thought is was one of the best concerts he’s ever been to. It helped that we were only 6 rows back.

I was in the same row at the same venue for Iron and Wine on Friday. And I have to say, I was really disappointed. Their new album came out only on the 25th, so naturally, very few people had heard it. They played almost entirely from that album and only about 3 or 4 (that I could tell) familiar songs. In addition, Sam played almost entirely with his back to the audience. The music was nice, but without seeing him, it just kind of annoyed me. I felt like he (the whole band really) was playing for themselves and not for us. They basically had no stage presence. I’ve seen them before and I didn’t really feel that way the last time. Now, I’m not sure I’ll go see them again.

Saturday was soccerpalooza. We had to go for pictures at 7:55. Game at 9:00. Pictures for Geeky Girl at 8:55, game at 10:30. It was an exercise in parental juggling. After soccerpalooza, I decided to get in my exercise for the day by gardening. I did some much needed weeding and pruning, planted some new flowers and some bulbs. So far, I’m happy with the results. I had decided that on the weekends, I was going to try to get exercise in by doing some kind of activity, preferably with the family. No one wanted to garden with me. According to this web site, I burned 540 calories. Woo hoo!

Sunday, I had promised Geeky Girl I’d take her ice skating. Yes, ice skating. She watched Ice Princess on the Disney Channel and gotten it into her head that she wanted to go ice skating. So we went to the nearby rink and skated for about an hour. It was pretty fun. And it burned 374 calories to boot. 🙂 Later, I finished up some gardening and then the whole family went to play tennis. On a calorie-burning scale, that was the best activity, plus it was the most fun.

In addition to the weekend activities, I walked almost two miles a day throughout week, except for Friday. I’m going to take today off since I did so much over the weekend, but I’ll be back walking tomorrow. I don’t know if this is helping or not in my goal to a) lose my dissertation weight or b) to be more fit. But it feels pretty good so far.