Reading at the Gym

I was never a big fan of working out. Some months would go by without me exercising at all, other than walking to class or to the store. But this past summer was different. In addition to walking the trails around my new apartment, I started going to the on-location gym thanks to the help of a good friend. She’s been going to the gym on a regular basis for years, and since she was staying with me for a few weeks on a semi-vacation, I decided to use her as motivation and join her on the elliptical. The first couple of days were difficult for me, partly because I was pushing my muscles pretty hard, and partly because I was bored. Really, really bored. My friend turned on the TV for me but the best thing on was Numb3rs. Instead of watching TV, she read.

Yep. She read a book. While she worked out.

If you want to get technical about it, it was an e-book. She had her phone perched on the display of the elliptical, and despite reading it, she was working up quite a sweat. I later asked her how she could read while she was working out; wouldn’t it be distracting?

For her, it was quite the opposite. “Running is too boring,” she said. “Outside or on the treadmill—doesn’t matter. My mind wanders and I always think, ‘is it over yet? Am I done?’ But reading on the elliptical is surprisingly easy. It keeps me focused.” My friend averaged forty-five minutes on the elliptical that week, at varying intensities. And she read the entire time.

Weird though it seemed, I decided to try it. The next day, I took my phone with me, opened up an e-book, and read. And, truthfully, it did help.

I’ve seen some bloggers complain about people reading while they work out. If you can read and do X type of exercise, then you’re not doing it hard enough. That may be true for someone who’s reading a physical book in their hands. But reading an e-book on your phone while you’re on the elliptical is, actually, easy—not to mention unobtrusive and, to some extent, discreet.

Since I finished college, I’ve had trouble sitting down with the intent of reading a book for an hour or two. I used to read all the time. One summer, I read all three Mistborn books in one weekend. My family didn’t see me unless I came out of my room for food. Two years ago, I read the first two Stormlight Archives book in a couple weeks, but that was last time I can remember marathoning a book like that. Marathons aside, this summer was particularly devoid of books. I only read four or five (Elantris, a re-read, Kindred, The Forgetting Tree, The Emperor’s Blades, half of Aeronaut’s Windlass, and possibly another one). That’s nothing!

If nothing else, reading while on the elliptical might jump-start my reading habit again—and in turn, my writing habit. At least it’ll get me to work out.

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