Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Thermodynamics and fitness

It's no secret that I've been trying to increase my activity over the last few weeks. Before we left on vacation in May, we joined a gym here in town (see the post where I complained about the showers) and I've been pretty good about going. I know that I'm still in the honeymoon phase of it and at some point - read: any minute now - the bloom should fall off the rose and I'll find some excuse to not do it any longer. I'm pushing past that and I think that's as much of a success as anything.

When we joined, you got one free session with a personal trainer which Heidi and I both signed up for. She went yesterday morning and I went yesterday afternoon. In many ways, it was a bit of a let down because it felt a lot more like a sales pitch than anything else. I get that they have to make money - as I say, I don't work for free and neither should anyone else. But it was hard for me to believe that the person I talked to would be as interested in my personal fitness if they weren't trying to sell me a pack of personal training sessions costing in the hundreds of dollars. Still, she was very nice and listened and answered some of my nagging questions about the equipment, like how accurate are the heart rate monitors on the treadmills (quite accurate) and do you really burn more calories on an elliptical than a treadmill (no, the calories burned on an elliptical is not based on any type of formula and is more of a guess.)

Still, I can't shake the feeling that it really is something I should do, sales pitch or no sales pitch. There's so much I don't know about getting active, and there are so many things that I need to learn how to do to make sure that what I'm doing is what I need to be doing. Additionally, there's so many things that you can do that if you do wrong, you can end up really hurting yourself. I'm thinking mostly about strength training. My dad's showed me over and over again, but for some reason, it never sinks in. And I HAVE hurt myself using free weights in the past. Not terribly, mind you, but I really don't want to experience that again. It put me off any kind of physical activity for a year and it hurt like a motherfucker.

So for my birthday this year, I'm getting three sessions to start. The first thing I do will be to take a cardiovascular fitness test to see where I am right now. I know that I regularly get myself to maximum heart rate for my age and weight without much trouble - it's good to know I could pass a stress test if I took one - but I want to know what my baseline is. I know there are all sorts of ways to do cardio and that there's really no wrong way, but I really need help knowing what's best for me so that when I go on my own, I know what I'm doing and that I'm doing it right. The same thing goes double for weight training which I know I need to add in as well but am very nervous to do so. I am such a weakling! I'm very glad there's no sand in the gym for someone to come kick in my face.

But with the help of the personal trainer, at least to get started, I think I can really figure out what it is I need to do to maximize my cardiovascular fitness as well as throw off some of this pesky extra weight I've managed to put on since my metabolism downshifted somewhere in my mid 30s. I was at the pool the other day and as usual, was very self conscious about how I looked. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror in the locker room and decided that for a guy pushing 40 that is just now starting to get active, I don't look too bad. And just think of what I can do if I actually start working at it.

It reminds me of the thermodynamics and every systems tendency toward entropy and disorder unless energy is used to counteract it. And since I can tie fitness to thermodynamics, my geek cred is still intact.

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