What to say about exercise?

As a guy who has been heavy most of his life, and honestly, if we’re going by that dick BMI chart, obese and morbidly obese, (I technically don’t think a chart can really be a dick, but it sure does feel like it.  That thing has been mocking me my entire life!  Even when I lost a crazy amount of weight and people were wondering if I was sick from all the weight loss, it was telling me I was still “obese”, not even just plain “over weight”… that’s a dick move if you ask me!) I have always struggled with exercise.  Here are a few reasons why.

Before I get started, I want to point out that these are my reasons and I think some of them may resonate with people who struggle with weight.  For those of you who don’t have these issues, kudos to you.  I wish I could be more like you and have the discipline you do.

So, the first thing.  Starting is incredibly hard if you have a lot of extra weight.  Like I said, I was morbidly obese.  Yes, I got there on my own, but I wanted to change things and I wanted to exercise as one of the ways to get there.  Having all that extra weight is like wearing a vest filled with lead weights all the time.  I wasn’t lazy by any means in my life, and being heavy didn’t stop me from doing the things I needed to do, but asking my body to do a sustained workout weighted down is excruciating.

We are told that an effective workout is 20 minutes a day, three times a weak at your target heart rate.  Slap on a 3 minute warm up and a 5 minute cool down and we are at about 30 minutes.  Your target heart rate is calculated by your age.  The formula hasn’t changed for decades.  I remember it quite well (and looked it up to see if it had changed).  First you calculate your maximum heart rate by taking 220 and subtracting your age.  Your target heart rate for exercising should then be between 70% and 90% of that maximum.

Getting to the target heart rate is pretty easy, maintaining it less so.  Relatively quickly after you start your heart is struggling to get oxygen to the muscles that need it.  You start breathing heavy really fast.  All that extra insulation is making it difficult for your body to maintain body temperature and you start sweating profusely.   After a 20 minute workout at my target heart rate, I wanted to throw up.  For me, and I think a lot of people, I have a natural tendency to avoid doing things that make me feel like I’m going to vomit at the end of doing it, or have to lay on my back gasping for air for another 15 minutes before I can continue my day.

So you try to do things that don’t make you feel like your heart is going to explode and you find that those things simply don’t seem effective.  Honestly, you start a program, you’re motivated but you want to see results quickly.  Starting at a moderate level to condition your heart before you get serious takes too long.  I’m not saying that it’s right, but it was my state of mind in the past.

My biking friends will tell you, I hate doing laps.  My bike rides tend to be one giant loop around a section of town.  I get bored doing laps on the street.

If that’s true while riding my bike, imagine how I fair on a stationary bike or treadmill.  I can ride my road bike for over seven hours and do 100 miles (when I’m in shape) and be perfectly entertained (as long as I’m not doing laps) but, I find 10 minutes on stationary equipment excruciating because of the boredom.

For those of you who can do this and are not bored, again, kudos to you!  Bottle whatever that quality is that you have. You could make a fortune in the health supplement industry.

It has been suggested to me on multiple occasions to watch TV or read or something.  Trust me, I tried.  I had a treadmill set up for years with a little TV right in front of it to watch shows.  It didn’t help.

I think the reason for that is that watching TV is pretty passive.  I’m not really engaged in it so my brain focuses on the treadmill which is pretty uninteresting as well.  My brain then wants to move on to something else but is trapped on this treadmill while some movie that I’ve probably already seen is assaulting me from the front.

I thought that since I enjoy riding my bike, I could just get a bike stand and ride it like a stationary bike and not have any issues.  Not true.  Ten minutes on the stationary bike and I’m ready to quit.

Here’s what I think is going on.  Riding a bike outside requires me to engage my brain in the process.  I need to keep balance. I need to maintain a course. I have traffic I need to be aware of.  All of these things are keeping my brain busy.  Add on the moving scenery and my brain is fully engaged.  I suppose that’s why I’m not a big fan of laps.  At some point, that part of my brain’s engagement is no longer needed so it wants to wander off to other things but is stuck pointing out that we’ve passed the same tree three times now… and it hasn’t changed… and that we’ll have to pass it 5 more times before we’re done with this infernal ride!  Laps… bad!

Now that I’ve found something I enjoy doing, I’ve got to find the time.  At first it was really easy, I picked the amount of time and rode that long and came home.  It all worked out.  Six miles on the bike was more than 20 minutes, it made me want to throw up and I wasn’t doing laps so I wasn’t bored.  Once the urge the vomit no longer came up, I started to up my ride time.  I changed it up to distance.  I’d set a goal for 10 mile, 15 miles, 20, etc.

The rides started to get longer and longer.  From an exercise point of view, this was great.  I was exercising more, getting in better shape; I was really starting to feel better.  The problem was becoming more logistics than anything else.

I’m not a fast cyclist by any means.  When I was doing 10s, it would take about an hour, which I could find time for pretty easily.  Once I was doing 30s, it could take between 2 and 2.5 hours.  Still fairly manageable, but I had to plan for it.  It wasn’t something I could just do on a whim.  Once I hit 50 miles, it became difficult to schedule.  They usually took me around 3.25 to 3.5 hours to ride.  When I was training for my first century, I was trying to get two 30s and a 50 in every week.  Needless to say, I wasn’t getting much else done during that time.  I stopped riding like that after the century ride, but was still basically doing 30s three times a week.

Part of the problem I think is that once you are comfortably doing long rides, when you do a short one, you don’t feel like you accomplished much.  There were times I would finish a short ride and feel let down because I knew I could and wanted to go further.  I just didn’t have the time.

So not wanting to get on the bike and ride because it won’t feel rewarding, dumb reason not to ride, but one I have to deal with.

I’ve found something I like to do that keeps me active. I still have the pitfalls I’ve always had about exercising.  I’ve just had to trick my brain into believing that biking is not exercise, which seems to work… which is weird because you would think my brain is in on all the sneaky things my brain does…  The different lobes should talk to each other more.

I’ve fallen out of riding recently and my waist line has been showing the results.  The BMI chart is mocking me again (dick chart) so I’m starting to get back into the groove with 10s again for now.  I’ll be up to 15s in no time.




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