I’m amazed sometimes how hard it is to gather up various thoughts and weave then together even when they seem to have a common thread. I’ve been trying to follow-up my earlier blog entry on the dilemma of “choices” with examples of how I’ve been frustrated while trying to find the “perfect” tool to make walking at the Y more enjoyable and more productive since experience shows if the walks aren’t “enjoyable” I won’t stick with them.
I’ve walked my whole life, and at this point in my life I’d rather go birding and photographing than do almost anything else. So, it’s easy to exercise on sunny days. I’m carrying nearly twenty pounds of equipment, and often walk six or more miles in a day without even realizing how far I’ve walked until I get home and sit down.
However, it rains a lot here in the Pacific Northwest, creating less than ideal conditions for both birding and photography. If I’m going to walk I walk inside, and I don’t like to do that. It’s something I have to force, or trick, myself into doing regularly. It’s not enough to remind myself that I feel better when I exercise regularly, especially if I do it every day. That lasts for a week or two, and then I convince myself that I really shouldn’t overdo the exercise, that I’ll feel better if I take a day off (which, as it turns out, is often true). More importantly, if I have something going on at home that I enjoy, I’m severely tempted to skip a day, two, or more, at the gym. It’s always harder to start back than it is to take a day off.
It helps some that I have the Y fees automatically taken from my banking account because I’m frugal enough that the thought of wasting $90 a month keeps me going back at the end of the month when I get my bank statement. However, it takes more than guilt to go every morning for the whole month.
I’m also goal oriented, and I’m still trying to reach the “magical” 175 pound goal I set for myself last Spring. I’ve lost 15 pounds, but the last 5 pounds, the belly fat that I really wanted to lose, seems impossible to shed. I love food too much to starve myself enough to lose it, so I have to keep exercising if I want to lose it and not regain much of what I’ve lost already.
Sadly, technological toys also help keep me motivated. I started with an Omron pedometer that kept track of the distance I’d walked, the calories I’d burned, and the number of aerobic steps I’d taken. Instead of simply walking for a certain amount of time I began to set goals for a set distance, for a certain number of aerobic steps, or for a certain number of calories. Like most toys, though, it lost much of its appeal with time, even though it’s by far the best pedometer I’ve ever owned.
Then I strapped on a Polar pulse monitor that I bought several years ago but hadn’t used the battery ran out. That way I could time my walks and make sure that more of my walking was aerobic, which became harder to do the more I exercised. It reached the point where I couldn’t walk fast enough to get my pulse up to an aerobic level. So I found myself having to jog a lap every so often to get my heart rate up. The challenge and novelty of that kept me entertained for a few more months.
I was soon up to walking two and a half to three miles in 40 minutes four to five days a week at the gym. I was happy with the constant improvement, and the challenge of going a little further every day in the same time kept me entertained for a while longer. Eventually, though, the boredom of circling a small track 36 times in a row began to wear on me. It began to remind of those infernal treadmills I could never stand longer than five minutes. I was at the point where I was going to have to jog the whole way to go further or to maintain an aerobic pace, and I’d long ago decided that jogging that much set off the arthritis in my hip and lower back.
So, I bought an iPod Shuffle and started listening to music while walking the track, something I’d sworn I’d never do. I generally find music annoying while exercising because I like to focus on how my body feels. I’ve never understood why people would walk at the beach wearing earphones since listening to the waves break at the beach or birds sing are a vital part of the experience of being out in nature. However, walking a 1/12th of a mile track for forty minutes was so boring I needed something to make it bearable, and listening to music did that.
I should have been perfectly satisfied with this set up, but I was carrying so much gear that more often than not, particularly on mornings when Leslie and I l had to leave at 6:10 am to go to Tai Chi, I would leave something home. Even when I didn’t forget something, I was frustrated with all the wires needed to make those electronic devices run. I knew there had to be a better solution, and I thought I’d found it in the new iPad Nano with bluetooth.
With a bluetooth headset and a bluetooth heart monitor everything could be run through a clip-on about the size of a pack of gum, no cords needed. The perfect solution. I should have known it wasn’t to be. The Nike’s Nano’s pedometer didn’t even need setting; I walked a mile on the track and it showed I had walked .99 miles. Then I discovered that there was no permanent record of any of those walks. They were erased as soon as you pushed “stop.” That didn’t make me happy. Even worse, despite showing it had connected to the pulse monitor my pulse wouldn’t show up if was walking. Apparently you have to be running to make it register. Of course, none of the reviews or promotional material I’d read from Apple or Nike mentioned that.
Now I’m wondering if I shouldn’t just use my iPhone, which works perfectly on my outdoor walks using GPS. And since I always carry a phone, wallet, etc. when I’m away from home, the extra weight isn’t a problem like it is when wearing gym shorts and a T-shirt. I would have to buy an additional strap to mount my iPhone on my arm since there’s nowhere else to put it. What really bothers me, though, is that I will have no real use for the $150 iPod Nano I just bought.
Reluctant to do that, so far I’ve just carried my pulse oximiter and looked at it when I want to check my pulse, with the added advantage of being able to check my blood-oxygen levels. It works fine, but it’s “clunky,” and I have a tendency to leave it home. It’s certainly not the elegant solution I was hoping for.