Monday, June 26, 2006

DF Tip #17: The Fitness Secret The Pros Won't Tell You

A few weeks ago, my family and I moved from our apartment in Hollywood to a house in the suburbs. Aside from a few 3:00 a.m. "This is Not My Beautiful House" moments, it's been great, and I can hardly complain.

trafStill, the fact that I'd be joining the legions of Angelenos who commute to work every day caused me a little anxiety. I spent the last year or so building up a clientele at a gym just minutes from where I live, which was terribly convenient except that now I don't live there any more. I live 9.91 miles away, which in LA miles is about 41.

Hang in there, I'm getting to my fitness tip.

For the first couple of weeks, I reluctantly got in the car at 8:40 to get there by 9:30, and felt my blood pressure rise as time ticked away, despite the best efforts of my soothing NPR commentating companions. Every day I'd arrive at work drained and angry. I filled my tank with $3.50 per gallon gas so many times that the owner of my local Chevron bought himself a yacht.

There appeared to be no way out... until I discovered my bike.

My bike had been sitting in the garage, patiently waiting for me to remember that it's not just a frivolous exercise device but is also a highly practical means of transportation. So one day last week, fed up to the back teeth with driving, I became a bike-commuter and my life changed.

Riding my bike to work has so many advantages it's almost unfair. You save money on the gas. You do your part to clean up the environment. You very often beat traffic because you can zip to the front of the line at traffic lights. And if your commute is the right length, cycling to and from work becomes your workout for the day. So, hey, even if your bike commute takes you a little longer than the ride by car, you’re probably saving time on the average day because your commute IS your workout.

And finally, what bike commuter can deny the subtle but undeniable feeling of superiority that comes over you as you fly past the gridlocked Ford Expeditions and Cadillac Esplanades on your $500 two-wheeled steed? I may be staring implacably forward, helmet and sunglasses obscuring my smug countenance, but there's no denying what I'm thinking:

Suckers.

I know, I know, bike-commuting isn't for everyone. Some people hate riding their bikes. Some people would die before they show up sweaty to work. Some people's commute would be prohibitively long or difficult (though using public transportation for part of the way might be an option). Some people might think it's too dangerous, though I find eight m.p.h. traffic pretty negotiable. And I suppose it's possible that some people actually enjoy their car-commutes. They listen to great music on their great stereos, they call their friends, they settle into their all-leather bucket seats of their BMW 7-series, stare out the window at the poor cyclist plodding along beside them and think: Sucker.

kilimSo even if you'd sooner die than miss NPR and a cup of Starbucks in the car every morning, I want to make a larger point that applies to everyone: the dirty little secret of the fitness industry that no commercial gym, no purveyor of Fat-Be-Gone skin cream or the "Zap Your Abs Electronic Exercise Kit" wants you to know about is that exercise can be useful. It doesn't have to be done in a gym. You don't have to pay someone to get you to do it. You don't have to join a club, or rent a boat, or fly to Indonesia, or get heli-dropped onto Mount Kilimanjaro to break a sweat. With a little ingenuity, your workout can be something that needs doing anyway. Like getting to work. Or gardening. Or moving boxes. I got a great workout the day we moved into our house because I helped the furniture schleppers unload the moving truck. And by speeding up their labors, I saved myself a few bucks in the process.

One of my strongest and most focused female clients did things on her first day that many male clients still struggle with: pushups, weighted lunges, fast-paced, full-body movements, one after another, no breaks. How had she gotten in such great shape, I wondered? Remodeling a house. Pounding nails, hauling lumber, re-piping the plumbing. Talk about saving money. And now she's got muscles and a great house to show for it.

leadLook, I like the convenience and control of structured exercise as much as the next person. I like knowing that last week I benched this much and this many reps, and now I'm doing more. I like knowing how fast I can run or bike or how many meters I swam. It helps me stay on track with my fitness and ensure that I'm improving and not backsliding or just treading water. But the thing to remember is that your body isn't there just to be fed and walked around the block periodically like some tiresome, needy pet. It's there to help you get stuff done, too.

Get out there and do it. Personally, I'm going to get the sledgehammer out and bust up the ugly concrete patio that's taking up our back yard area this weekend so the landscapers can seed it on Monday. Anyone care to join me?

Have a great week!

Andrew

1 comment:

Fancy Laces said...

above all, I love your profile photo, and that smile you are wearing.