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"Goodbye, Jean-Luc, I'm gonna miss you. You had such potential. But then again, all good things must come to an end."
- Q, Star Trek: TNG

Fitness Update, Fall 2016

by Ken Newquist / September 24, 2016
A virtual, first-person view of a bike trail. Palm trees are on the left, ancient ruins are on the right.
A new part of my exercise regime is indoor cycling. The gym has traditional indoor cycling stations, but it also has these trail simulators that let you bike through a variety of locations, including the tropical ruins pictured here. Credit: Ken Newquist

I'm now paying to get my ass kicked.

After nine months of working out on my own, I reached the plateau that I knew I'd reach. I was walking a few miles a day, running 3-5 miles a couple days a week, and doing the occasional stretching exercises in the morning. I've been slowly improving my run times -- my best mile is 8'42" on the indoor track, my best 3 miles is 30 minutes with an average 9'57 pace.

That's way better than I was back in January, when running even a mile was exceedingly hard, but I want to do better. To do that, I need to diversify my exercise program. The solution was to get a personal trainer. Finding one was easier than you might think -- the Recreation department at the college where I work offers personal training sessions for a fee. It's cheaper if you schedule sessions with a buddy, so my wife and I signed up for three sessions as a trial run.

And yeah, it's kicking my ass. The trainer has me doing things I've either never done, or rarely done, in the past. I'm a cardio guy. Put me on a bike, let me run, throw me in a pool and I'm good to go.

This is a lot more than cardio.

There are squats. Planks. Push-ups. Pull ups. Carrying heavy things down long corridors. Weight machines. After the first session I spent the weekend walking around like C-3PO, arms slightly bent at my sides, because they were so sore. The second session was just as hard, though not as painful afterwards (mostly because the upper body exercises weren't nearly as intense). It's tough, though I find the hardest part is that I think too much. Some of the exercises, like squats or the rowing machine, require more body coordination than I currently have. You might think "how hard is it do do a squat? Just, you know, squat." There is, however, a right way to do squats, involving a sticking your butt out at the appropriate angle, ensuring your knees don't go forward past your feet while at the same time pressing outwards, all the while you're raising your arms over your head.

I might as well be trying to chew gum while juggling live hand grenades.

That part was -- still is -- frustrating but the only way to get past it is practice, and I've been working on that. Thankfully I have help from my exercise partner.

One of the fun things about this new routine is that I'm doing these sessions with my wife Sue. As parents of a 13-year-old girl and 10-year-old boy who are active in sports, music, and civic activities, we don't get to spend a lot of time together. What time we have usually sees us flopped on the couch or an hour or so watching TV and catching up on our respective days. Some weeks, we don't even have that.

Our duo exercise program gives us an hour together without the kids. Sure, we're working out, probably tired, definitely sore, but we're together and supporting one another. It's pretty damn cool, and I recommend that other married folks try it out. It may not be for you -- I know some couples would probably drive each other crazy if they were at the gym together, but it works for us.

Another change with new exercise program -- aside from being really sore for a day or two after a work out -- is that I work out more often. There are additional exercises that we do between each session: running, cycling, time on the rower, and myriad weight machines the names of which I don't know yet.

I typically listen to music when I run, but for the other exercises I've taken to listening to podcasts. I'd already been looking for new podcasts to complement my morning walks, but now that I'm spending more time at the gym I'm doubling down. Listening to the podcasts I mentioned earlier led me to try out a few more shows including RPG Academy, Save or Die, and Talking Tabletop.

Getting fit? Check. Getting a little more coordinated? Check. Getting geeky. check. Yeah, the plan is coming together nicely.