30 Years of Persistence

In 1985, I began keeping a spreadsheet-based log of workouts, possibly as a way of ensuring that my accounting degree wasn't an aberration but an actual affirmation of my personality. For the next thirty years, I maintained a daily log in varying levels of detail, but I've never actually gone back and analyzed the results. This snowy homebound vacation week between Christmas and New Year's Day has provided me with the time and restlessness to do a bit of that. 

I thought about posting a series of tables and graphs, but even I think that's sort of lame...and I can imagine how you mostly (completely?) disinterested readers would react, so allow me to hit the highlights.

  • I never had an explicit goal when I began to get serious about getting and staying in shape. I was in my early 30s; I've never had a weight problem - that's all genetics - but I did have some other issues that either arose from or were exacerbated by not being in good physical condition. But, at some point, I decided that I wanted to try to average thirty minutes per day of aerobic workout throughout each year. Why thirty? No reason, other than it seemed both challenging and achievable.

  • The "aerobic" qualifier was important, as was the "workout" piece. I didn't count walking, or hiking, or yard work, or paddleboarding, regardless of how many miles or hours were involved. I also didn't count any weight training, although that has always been an important part of my routine. No, it had to be something that got my heart rate up and kept it up. So...bicycling, running, elliptical machines, exercise bikes, etc. were all that got factored into the average.
Let's get to the bottom line, the actual numbers:

  •  Over those thirty years, I averaged 29.3 minutes per day of the above workouts. Yearly averages ranged from just over 40 minutes per day in 2002 to only 15 minutes in 1985, the first year of my record keeping.

  • I've bicycled the equivalent of 55,000 miles during that period, which is more than twice the circumference of earth. I use the term "equivalent" because 5,400 of those miles were accumulated indoors, on my trusty Cannondale mounted on a set of rollers. And if you don't consider that to be the equivalent of riding on the street, I suspect you've never tried rollers.

  • About 20,000 of those 55,000 miles were on a tandem bike - both conventional and recumbent - with my wife. Another 30,000 were accumulated on a series of single bikes, both conventional and recumbent. All the roller miles were on a conventional single bike.

  • Annual bike mileage ranged from a low of 640 in 1986 to a high of just over 3,000 in 2002. I've ridden more than 100 miles in a day on three or four occasions, and more than 75 on about the same number of days. (That was a long time ago, however.)

  • My running mileage included time outdoors as well as indoors on a treadmill. Unlike many people, I'm fine with a treadmill, as long as I have some good music and/or something engaging to watch on TV. I've run almost 9,000 miles, and 75% of that has been indoors.

  • That works out to less than 300 miles per year. I realize that's pretty anemic, but I've never fancied myself as a serious runner. For one thing, I've had knee problems through the years which I've managed by not overdoing things. I've learned how frequently, far, and fast I can run and not damage myself, and I try to stick with that religiously. (For the record, that is now about 5 miles in 45 minutes, 3 times a week...at the most.)
My workouts now consist of alternating 45-minute sessions of elliptical machine and running (indoors during bad weather or short winter days), and tandem cycling with MLB on the weekends. However, with our new work schedule, I hope we'll get in more riding during the week once the weather warms.

The 30-minute-per-day goal is still in effect, and that seems to provide the right balance of rest and healthy activity. I fight nagging aches and pains and motivational apathy just like most everyone else (I assume; forgive me if you don't struggle with those things at all), but I'm happy at where I am, physically, because I can do pretty much anything I want (granted, those "wants" have been tempered by age and wisdom). For instance, yesterday I ran five miles and then danced until midnight. OK, so I couldn't actually get out of bed this morning, but that's not the point.

I think the only important lesson to take away from this - and bless you if you've actually stayed with me this far - is that persistence is the key when it comes to getting and staying in shape. Find something you like - or at least tolerate - and (forgive me, Nike) just do it.

One last thing. I didn't mean to discount the value of walking, and in fact, I'm more aware of the benefits than ever. I keep a Fitbit Zip in my pocket or sock at all times and in the two years or so I've had it, I've accumulated more than 2,000,000 steps. I don't plan on logging that activity (for one thing, it duplicates my running mileage); on the other hand, Fitbit is doing it for me via their app. I won't promise that I won't do another boring post on my walking activity some day, but I'm not planning it.

Then again, in 1985 I didn't plan on someday having thirty years of workout log spreadsheets.

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This page contains a single entry by Eric published on January 1, 2016 1:46 PM.

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