Exercise and my hatred of running in circles

More on things going on lately.

A little over a year ago, I decided it was time to get in shape. The extent of exercise then was maybe modern dance class every once in a while, maybe pilates on Thursdays in the office, maybe rock climbing once or twice a month. Running felt awkward. Walking places was hard. So, with my coworker Caroline’s constant badgering (and calendar invites), and the new “Elements” Crossfit basics class starting at the office, I resigned myself to working out.

When it comes to exercising, my main issues are I’m lazy (so I don’t start) and I get bored really fast (so I stop). I hate running with a burning passion — one that I’ll illustrate in a bit. I grew up dancing and playing soccer, which are forms of activity that constantly change from moment to moment, whereas running and lap swimming give me nothing but the overwhelming awareness of how tired I am.

The remedy then has been to find convenient, distracting forms of exercise. Here’s what’s been working for me:

  • Crossfit is full of fast, short intervals that look deceptively easy written on the board. After mastering the basic exercises, we got thrown into MetCons (Metabolic Conditioning) that only lasted 8-15 minutes but completely destroyed my ability to stand. The benchmark workouts (usually named after women, like “Fran” or “Nancy”) make it easy for me to compete with myself and see my own improvement. A year ago I didn’t think I’d know what an impressive 1 rep max front squat was, much less what a snatch balance or clean & jerk even is — now I do, plus my own accomplishments for each. There’s undoubtedly some peer pressure and masochism that goes into Crossfit, but I stand by the wide variety of exercises that keep me on my toes. That, and beating Cordell’s times, even when he’s using women’s prescribed weights.
  • Bouldering is something I’d been doing sporadically in college and got more diligent about in the past year or so. I mostly boulder, which means climbing to about 12-14 feet above the ground without ropes. Climbing is very much a strength exercise (though occasionally power-driven on dynamic moves), and I don’t think I ever would have been able to do a strict pull-up in Crossfit if it weren’t for climbing. I usually stick with bouldering because (1) I am too lazy to bring my harness and get belay-certified, (2) I’m usually alone and like my own mental space when I’m climbing, and (3) I like working out bouldering problems, which tend to be trickier puzzles, more than top-rope routes.
  • Biking to work is more of a “stay active” thing than exercise, though it occasionally turns into a workout. My commute to work takes about the same amount of time on train+bike as it does by car. Add in that biking is environmentally friendly, and I really don’t have much of an excuse for NOT biking to work. The distance from the train station to work is just enough to wake me up in the morning. When I bike the full way (7.4 miles total), it’s a good workout that has an end goal (no running in circles!) and shitty drivers to avoid.
  • Company soccer team (aka the “Unzipped Genes” — get it???) started our first ever season in late January. We played a 10 game (8 games if you don’t count byes) season in a weeknight co-ed league in the South Bay. Comprised mostly of people like me who hadn’t played soccer since middle school, our team rallied from five straight losses to win our last three games — even beating 4-1 the Palantir team that destroyed us earlier in the season. Of course team sports are more fun, and despite losing a lot of games early on, we kept improving as we all remembered how to play. I re-learned how to run for about 90 minutes straight, and the whole chasing a ball thing meant I could keep it up for far longer than I’d ever just run. Many of our players got stolen for the company tennis team (I did not join — I am a danger to myself and others when playing tennis), so we probably won’t play the summer season. Hopefully we’ll be back for the fall!
Action shot: fighting for the ball!
Action shot: fighting for the ball!

The result of all this activity? I’m certainly more active than I used to be, and I don’t feel as gross and lethargic all the time. I get physically tired, and I get antsy when I don’t exercise for more than a day. Working out in the afternoon at the office helps me relieve stress and refocus. I don’t think I’ve lost weight (though my sister-in-law says my chin is pointier?), but I think I eat better after a workout. My fitness goals are less abstract and pit me against my past self. It’s pretty awesome.

Of course, this post that mentions Crossfit wouldn’t be complete without a demonstration of the cultish, pain-inflicting stuff I do. So here’s the workout we did to wish my coworker Mark farewell when he left the company.

The Make Mark Puke Workout
And yet Mark (despite his wishes) did not puke.

  • 25 cal AirDyne (aka the hyperventilation bike)
    *** 1 burpee penalty for every second past 30 sec men / 45 sec women (penalty repaid later)
  • 2 min. rest
  • 500m row
    *** 1 burpee penalty for every second past 1:30 men / 1:45 women (penalty repaid later)
  • 2 min. rest
  • 15 inverted burpees (not timed, but try to do them without rest)
  • 2 min. rest
  • Mini-Fran: rounds of 15/12/9 reps each of DB thrusters (50lb / 30lb) and pull-ups
    *** This penalty is only for Mark: 1 burpee penalty for every second past 3:15 (penalty repaid later)
  • 2 min. rest
  • Replay burpee penalty for time
  • If the penalty takes:
    • <60 seconds, then you’re done
    • 60-90 seconds, then immediately run 1/2 mile
    • 90-120 seconds, then immediately run 1 mile as fast as possible
    • >120 seconds, then immediately run 1 mile at 80-90% speed, rest 1 minute, then run another mile with a negative split. If not a negative split, run another mile.

Granted, I scaled down the mini-Fran because I did this after a soccer practice (BAD IDEA) and didn’t feel like puking. Despite that, I had an 18 burpee penalty and repaid them in under 60 seconds to avoid running at all costs (even half a mile). That’s how much I hate running in circles — I’d push myself to breaking doing burpees before I’d run.

So don’t mind me if I can’t move some days.

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