I've been through periods of my life where I've exercised a fair bit, and periods where I haven't. For example, once upon a time I was able to run 10 miles, and once upon a time I did a sprint triathlon. When I have gotten into exercise, usually jogging or running is my keystone activity.
I've started exercising once again, and I've tried to learn from my past approaches. Specifically, I'm using these mental models:
- any exercise is great
- exercising later means exercising never
- plan and invest based on my actual activity (e.g. don't buy a ton of skiing equipment before skiing)
- I have a tendency to push myself too much, so maybe don't do that
- saying I have "phases" only gives me an excuse to stop
- some people love goals but not me
- stress is my body telling me to exercise
I discovered these mental models through deep reflection on what has worked well and what hasn't in my past. I also used "The Lefkoe Method" from the book "ReCreate Your Life" to uncover some of my blockers that have limited me from exercising more regularly.
In starting to exercise, I've kept a very simple log to remember what I've done and especially to reflect on how exercise makes me feel. Exercise is something that I usually am very happy to have done, but not necessarily happy to start. The log helps me remember how I feel afterwards to make it easier next time.
At the beginning each journal entry looked like this:
** DATE - SUMMARY
- [describe exercise here]
How hard was this?
How do I feel?
This was great for the first month or so; now I've moved to a simple table tracking the date and a summary.
Just to put everything in perspective, my first few days of exercising were doing a few push-ups and (bodyweight) squats. It took maybe three minutes. My goal was to do anything. Logging the fact that I did it made me want to do at least something the next day. This is in the spirit of me not setting goals, but remembering that any exercise is great. Doing a little something each day led to me going on a jog one day…
Keystone activity: jogging/running
For me, I really enjoy jogging/running. It's a relatively low barrier activity; I can observe improvements quickly; and I get feedback on what I need to work on next. Because I have run in the past, I also feel like I know what I'm doing, which is kind of like having guard rails on my exercise–I can confirm that I'm not doing something ridiculous.
For the first few weeks of running my goal was to work up to being able to jog without walking. When I could first jog a small ways (~1.25 mi) without stopping I was super duper jazzed.
I use the patterns from the book "Run Less, Run Faster" to improve:
- run three times a week, and never two consecutive days
- one run is the "pace run" where I run a steady pace and don't have to walk
- one is the "interval run;" however I'm not using the book's timing and instead I'm just doing HIIT: run as fast as I can until I can't; then walk until I'm recovered; repeat
- one is the "long run:" run as slowly as I can for a longer distance
- do not increase by more than 10% per week
Lowering barriers to entry
As I've been running and showing myself that I am running, I've invested some in equipment and support. It can get cold and wet in Seattle this time of year and I want to feel comfortable running even if it's raining. To that end I've invested in:
- Brooks Running Sherpa hat: extremely helpful for keeping rain out of my face and keeping warmer. It also tightens so the wind won't blow it off
- Rain gloves
- Brooks Running Carbonite jacket: this is extremely expensive but it is reflective and waterproof
- Already had rain pants and some running shirts
- GU Energy Gel: yum. Not really but this is a safeguard especially for my long runs in case I'm bonking1
- Hammer "Fizz" tablets: it puts electrolytes in your water. It's what plants crave!
Also I am running in a mask due to waves hands all this.
Something is always the weak point
I feel like running always highlights a current weak point, which could be…
- heart (e.g. pulse going too high)
On the interval runs for me, it's always the heart/breathing–just general exhaustion due to the nature of the exercise. On the long runs, recently at least I've been feeling I've been able to handle them and could even go a bit faster. On my pace runs it's been my legs.
I've been using onthegomap.com, which is an excellent web site to draw a map and see how long your run would be.
Also thanks very much to my family, who have been driving me to drop-off points that make my long runs more interesting!
So far on my off days I have been doing two things:
- Yoga with Adriene, especially her 20 minute beginner yoga and the first couple of days of the 30 day beginner yoga videos. A long time ago I went to yoga pretty regularly so this one also feels like me restarting a pattern rather than doing something for the first time.
- This 20 minute upper body workout, which I guess I've done ten or more times so far. Although, "done" is perhaps overstating it, as I cannot do nearly the number of push-ups that this guy does. But each time I'm doing a bit more! I can do a few "close push-ups" now!!
I already have a yoga mat for doing the above, and haven't needed any other equipment.
In my ideal world I would be figuring out access to free weights and a pool, but given present circumstances I'm trying to make do with bodyweight exercises. I am weighing whether to get back into road biking, because there are some road-separated paths kind of near us such as the I-90 trail.
Running nowadays is pretty different from my experience running 10+ years ago. I feel old fashioned taking my pulse with my fingers! And there are YouTube videos for anything. I was having some lower back pain and several videos helped me figure out what I was doing wrong in my running form.
In the past I've hesitated to call myself a "runner," because I haven't been consistently doing 5K's or other races and I don't really focus on my times. But this go round I'm starting to realize that I do just enjoy running! I think I enjoy the process of running and running faster more than the outcomes/my times.
Especially in Seattle, I think exercising opens up another part of the city experience. There are long trails like the Chief Sealth trail designed for bicycling, walking, and running. There are lots of outdoors/exercise stores (like Brooks Running's trailhead store). There are community groups like the Magnuson Series.
Bonking is not fun. I have only experienced it a couple of times, fortunately, but when your body totally shuts down you want a way to start it up again