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Gym Rat

February 22, 2011

On my way into work today, I dropped my backpack and lunch in my office and went straight on down to the athletic center for a workout. During term time when the weather is less good or I don’t have time for a ride, this is a fairly common occurrence. I have to confess that I loathe weight-training and cardio work indoors. I didn’t mind so much when I was a soccer player, and could justify the expenditure of time and energy as contributing to improving my performance on the soccer field. But I stopped playing soccer after my son was born (1997), and after that it was very difficult to get motivated. If nothing else, I like to think I am a compassionate husband. After each child, I put on 20 pounds for my wife. She remained the same weight—and even lost weight. After two kids and a pretty sedentary life as a doctoral student, I discovered that I was no longer the fit soccer player I was when last I stepped on a scale. In 2002, I tipped the scale at 102kg. Yikes.

Weight-loss was good incentive for getting regular exercise, but I couldn’t stand working out without a more defined or specific goal. Instead, I played basketball with a group of Mormons at 6:00. We were regularly the only ones in the gym in Pullman, WA, and while I quickly learned to curb my tongue I had a great time playing and found myself getting back into shape. Coming to McMaster in 2005—and the pressures of getting tenure, etc.—resulted in another break from the gym, and a reminder that when sedentary my lower back tightens up in wildly uncomfortable ways. So, back to the gym, but with abstract goals—stretch and keep my weight down to reduce the strain and discomfort in my back—it was hard to make it interesting.

For me, taking cycling more and more seriously has brought me full circle. As with soccer, the goal is performance, and if I can’t be out on the bike, I can be in the gym working on aerobic- or strength-related improvements. Good incentive. Today, I was swinging kettle bells, which is one heckuva workout (just don’t let go) and then spent the remaining 30 minutes doing intervals on the stationary bike. I can work on my cadence and stroke, but the indoor bike is a very poor substitute for the real thing. I prefer being outside. And yet…

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