Wednesday, July 14, 2010

You don't need to "work out", you need to play.

Why do people "work out"? Why not "play out"? We get in cars and drive for 5-15 minutes (each way) to "work out" on machines that improve us physically but drain us mentally.
 People obviously get bored with these machines, since people bring books to read and personal music players to drown out the noises of other machines and to reduce the mental pain of going nowhere slow.

The owners of these gyms realized they could help alleviate their customer's mental anguish by piping in music from the local top 40 radio station or even show some basic cable TV to keep them entertained just long enough to "get them through".

Some owners will go so far as to install movie theaters to keep patrons from abandoning this mind-numbing equipment.

The way I see it, no amount of equipment will help you get to your fitness goals if you aren't going to use it. And you aren't going to use equipment if it bores you to tears.

You don't need to work. You need to play.

I realized this the first time when I was in high school. I watched Risky Business: Tom Cruise's character took off on a bicycle through Chicago streets late at night in one scene.

My impressionable mind decided I could do that, too. (Just the biking late at night part: I wasn't calling hookers and asking "what the fuck?" only to have it backfire on me big time.)

I got on my Cannondale SC600 at about 1am and went for a ride for 2 hours through suburban Omaha neighborhood developments for some playtime.

West Omaha is carved up into neat 1 square mile sections, and each section has a collection of quiet well-lit residential streets with gentle hills that parallel the natural landscape of the region. One development's entrance is usually across an arterial street from another development's entrance.

Late at night you find that the arterial streets are largely empty, unless you're near a high volume arterial with big-box stores facing them.

Since the roads inside the grid do not follow the grid, one can easily get lost. Finding my way home after getting lost among similarly named streets (142nd avenue? 142nd street? 142nd Circle?) was part of the fun.

There are no neighborhood stores within these developments. They're residential for the most part. The commerce is separated from the residence, makes things quieter, but leads to an increased dependency on cars.

I would ride a couple dozen miles through those suburban nightmares during late nights every couple of weeks. I once went out in the snow. (Once: those old all-aluminum Cannondales do not have any clearance in the rear triangle for tires larger than 700x26 and the snow will turn into a big ice ball.)

If I knew the area, I would put the hammer down and pretend I was racing a flat stage of Le Tour De France. Otherwise I would read street signs and make mental notes of how to get back home.

It's how I played. 

A few years later, "play" was immediately followed by "station". I have the atrophied muscles to prove it.

I merely ride to work and back these days. It's a bit repetetive, but it's certainly not boring enough to make me crawl into a car and drive to a gym. I can (and do) change my route every so often so it's still like playing.

Play is different for everyone. Find what play suits you and do it. If you enjoy the repetitive boredom of indoor machines, go to it. Leave me outside.

I played for 14.5 miles today.

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree! I finally found something that allows me to have fun and gain muscle tone at the same time, and I love it. I hate counting laps, counting reps, counting, counting, blahhhhhh! Walking somewhere just to walk -- unless there's someone to chat with, blahhhhhh! I used to walk to pay my bills, but when the bills are 30 miles away, well, the internet works for that.

    Lovely post!