The Ins and Outs of an Ordinary Life

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Reading and "Running"

I'm on the treadmill, working hill intervals, sweating, trying to figure out how much longer until the incline will decrease, monitoring my heart rate, and thinking about whether I should be working harder. All of this requires a good chunk of my available brain power, but there is a little bit left to manage my iPod. I look around and I notice several people running and riding while reading newspapers, books and magazines. Now I suppose something is better than nothing, but do these people really think they are working out? Are they even breaking a sweat? Is it possible to read and still get a real workout or are the 2 mutually exclusive? I find that it takes a good deal of concentration to keep myself working hard enough to make my workout count. If I was reading a book, I know I would not be able to keep up my speed and intensity. I guess I could stay at it for longer, and ultimately burn the same amount of calories, but I wouldn't get the same cardio/fitness benefit. So I say no, you can't read while running and call it a cardio workout worthy of recording in your workout log.
I can't imagine running without my iPod. Sometimes I will watch one of the TVs (if there is a baseball game going), but I find that music is far more motivating. The timing element keeps me going-- "by the time this song is over, I will be over the top of this hill." When I run outdoors, I usually use a track so I can plug into my iPod. I don't like running on the roads with the iPod because I think its dangerous (OK--I admit it-- I'm also a fairly mediocre runner and the track allows me to avoid hills). Just as I need my tunes to sustain me, I suppose some people need the written word to keep them moving and cut the boredom factor. That brings me to another point. Is running inherently so boring that we need TVs, iPods and newspapers to get through it? Is it something that we do because we know we need to "get more exercise" even though it brings no joy? How far do you have to run before you get that runner's high? Running is not my #1 cardio activity-- spinning is, and I often get to a place during a spinning class where I find my "zone." I know I am working hard but I don't notice the effort and I feel like I'm riding at the front of the pack. If I started running more regularly, I suppose I would find that place, but from where I am now, running is still hard work and requires a good deal of mental energy. I enjoy it some. I usually choose the treadmill over the elliptical or the evil Stairmaster. I just don't know if I would hit the 4 mile mark if I didn't have my tunes to sustain me.

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