My Everything Hurts (or, a Discussion on Daily Workouts)

Row of dumbbells

Picture me last Friday evening, wrapped up in a fuzzy blanket and sporting my oh-so-fashionable alma mater t-shirt and pajama pants. Then I get a Facebook message from my friend, which says something to the effect of, Tomorrow is the 31-Day Challenge with Tone It Up! Are you going to do it with me?

It’s important to note that this is the same friend who convinced me to start working out with her in the summertime. Thanks to her, my lifestyle resembled a doctor’s definition of healthy for perhaps the first time of my life. Unfortunately, going to the gym wasn’t a habit I maintained after my friend’s vacation ended and she returned to California. A month or so passed and I started my graduate program, and I suddenly had the perfect excuse to stay at home. “I have homework,” I would tell myself before turning on the PS4 and queueing up the latest episode of The Voice. “Yeah, let me just watch this episode and then I’ll do homework.” You know how it is. I knew, too: my excuse was a poor one. But it was an easy one.

Consider also that this is my best friend asking me to commit to a month of daily work outs. We talk about everything. There were times when we actually did do everything together. Most importantly, we support each other endlessly and without question. So when this friend asks me to do something, it’s not a request I can take lightly. If anyone else had asked me to commit to daily hour-long workouts, I would have laughed in their face. “You want me to do what? I just started grad school, you know. I don’t exactly have a surplus of time on my hands.”

But this was my best friend. And she would only ask me to do something if she needed help. Or if she thought doing it would truly benefit me.

So I signed up for the 31-day challenge with Tone It Up. If it turned out to be a mistake, I figured, I could always stop or scale my workouts back a little.

I thought I was prepared. But boy, had my body fallen into disuse after just a month. The first planned workout was too much for me, so I scaled it back. The second day, too, was too much, so I scaled it back even more—“running” a mile on the treadmill instead of the 5k I was supposed to do. By the third day, my legs were leaden and felt sheathed in ice. But I went to the gym anyway, thinking working out would help ease the pain in my muscles.

It didn’t. So I took the next two days off, and here we are.

Look, this is going to sound really nuts, and I almost can’t believe I’m saying it. But I regret not working out today. I feel better right now, sure, but I know this isn’t the way to become fit—and who doesn’t want to be a fitter, healthier version of themselves? I’ve spent years in a sedentary lifestyle. I’ve seen the consequences of being lax with your body in your youth. I have a vision of myself in twenty years, and I can only fulfill that vision if I change my unhealthy lifestyle.

Tomorrow, I’m going to wake up early and hit the gym before going into the city for class. If I can, I’ll do this for the next week (or at least until my body needs a rest), and I’ll check back in with you all next Wednesday. And, thankfully, I know that whether I make it through the week or have to quit halfway through, my friend will support me no matter what. Everyone needs a friend like that.

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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.