Exercise is one of the few health-related topics these days that seems to be pretty much non-controversial. No two "experts" will agree on what types of foods are good/bad for you - though I'm still waiting for the Wise Barbecue Potato Chip diet to come into its own. But all the numerous, contradictory diet proposals do seem to agree that a reasonable amount of physical activity is beneficial.
Well, far be it from me to disagree with the conventional wisdom. My challenge when it comes to getting enough exercise is not with the theory, but in the execution. My job is an utterly sedentary one. And when it comes to planned workouts, I have pretty much the same obstacle to overcome as in getting myself to blog more often; namely, making it feel like "play" instead of "work". I have enough "work" in my life, thank you very much... and precious little fun.
Well, I've had a bit more success lately on the exercise front (may the blogging front soon follow suit!). I purchased a treadmill last spring, a birthday gift for my wife Debbie, who is one of those lucky souls who actually enjoys taking long, strenuous "power walks" - she does one for an hour every morning, God bless her. But the best laid presents of mice and husbands often go awry. Debbie prefers to do her walking in the great outdoors, so she's tended to use her treadmill sparsely, if at all.
Me, I'm a fan of the great indoors. Too much nature out there. Give me a dimly lit basement, a fast computer, and a blasting Mp3 or CD player, and I'm happy. With our treadmill, I've got two out of three of those going for me. But they weren't enough to get me off the computer chair. For that, I needed two other factors: fear and numbers. Which I know, for many of you poor non-math geeks, are pretty much one and the same.
The fear factor (hmm, sounds familiar, that): There's a vicious rumor around my household that I have a tendency to - to put it bluntly - snore. Of course, since I've never once heard this with my own ears, there's no real proof - it's simply my word against that of my wife and children. Alright, and the neighbors within a five block radius. Well anyway, after some alleged "tests", my good sawbones started making horrific and appalling recommendations, involving some kind of barbaric device that would make Torquemada drool with envy. As an alternate, he remarked, "it might also get better if you lose a few pounds". Hmph, the nerve of the man. But still - between diet and torture, I guess there's a lesser of two evils.
But the true lure of the treadmill for me, that part that tips the scales, at least somewhat, from "work" to "fun", are the displays. Even since childhood, I have always loved watching numbers change, on the car odometer, or anywhere else that something was being tallied. On our treadmill, there's a display for distance, calibrated to the 1000th of a mile, a display of time, in minutes and seconds, and one of calories burned. Triple treat!
But wait, there's more! I've settled into a regular "treading" speed of exactly 3.6 MPH. Not only is that a nice, comfortable brisk walking pace, but at that rate, the number changes are especially cool, for obvious reasons! After all, a mile ticks by in a nice, round 16:40, know what I mean? Need I say more?
Well, I suppose for all the aforementioned math-fearing people, who are scratching their heads in puzzlement at that last bit, I guess I do need to say more. So let's do the math: 16 minutes and 40 seconds equals 16 * 60 + 40, or exactly 1000 seconds. A mile in 1000 seconds. At that pace, the distance and time displays tick away at the exact same rate. The last digits of each tally stay in step, and every five minutes, the last two digits match for a minute as well. It's a thing of beauty.
But there's one flaw breaking up this perfect symmetry - the calorie display. It seems that the machine calculates the rate of calories burned as a factor of weight - which you enter on a keypad before starting. At my current poundage, the calorie counter increments at just a slightly faster pace than the distance display, burning about 104 some-odd calories per mile. Thus, as my weight factor lessens, the calorie display will climb that much slower, and at some point, it will tick off exactly 100 calories per mile, thus moving in perfect synchronization to the other two counters.
Now there's incentive!!