After fourteen months of enforced inactivty, on March 7 I finally returned to a schedule of heavy exercise. Since I’ve been fanatical about exercise since I was in Grade Three, the return is a relief. It also has me appreciating anew all the benefits I’d almost forgot about.
Not wanting to place too much strain on my knees, at least until I discover their limits, I’ve developed two different exercise regimes. On one day, I run 5 kilometers and do 24 kilometers on a stationary bike at my local rec center. On alternate days, I run 7 kilometers and swim a kilometer. On both days, I do 100 situps, 50 pushups, 60 half-squats, 80 stretches with each leg, and roll a ball up the wall 60 times with each leg. Two or three times a week, I also walk between 1 and 4 kilometers. These routines amount to less than I did when I was running 9 miles a day, but they give me a good workout without straining my beleaguered knees unduly. They take up almost two hours a day, but, since I used to spend the same amount of time commuting before I started working from home, I have little trouble fitting them in around a productive work day.
The health benefits are obvious. I’ve dropped 10 kilograms and counting, and stopped worrying about the family tendency to hypertension. I need less sleep, which makes sense: I’m carrying around less weight and more of the reminder is muscle. I also eat less, seeming to metabolize the food I do eat more efficiently.
None of these are benefits to ignore. However, I’ve also rediscovered other benefits. The most obvious ones are work-related. I have greater powers of concentration when I work at the computer than I did three and a half months ago. Just as importantly, between swimming (which means breast stroke for me) and pushups, even the first twinges of carpal tunnel no longer happen to me.
And if I have a problem with wording or organizing an article, all I have to do is take a break and go exercise until I break into a heavy sweat for 10 or 15 minutes. By the time I’m in front of the computer again, I have either solved the problem or else found a couple of ways to approach it.
Alternatively, if I’m out of sorts, a bit of exercise restores my good nature and optimism. Some days, I use that restorative at the start of the day, so that I feel energized for my work. On other days, I save most of my exercise for when I’m finished working, so that I’m renergized when I finish working.
The only way that my routines haven’t worked out is in meeting people. Vancouver had a damp spring, so often I’ve been the lone occupant of the pool in our townhouse complex. Similarly, at the gym, most people are fixed on their own routines, and don’t communicate much with each other. But I don’t mind much. Exercise has always been a meditative-like activity to me, and, on the whole, I prefer to approach it alone. Besides, the daily benefits far outweight this small negative.