This afternoon I gave a presentation to a small group at the Oregon SHAPE conference in Bend. If you were there or you’re curious about what I talked about, take a look at the slides embedded below.
In baseball it is a lot cooler to hit a home run than it is to hit a single. But did you know there are more people in the Baseball Hall of Fame for getting 3,000 hits than there are for hitting 500 home runs? In other words, you could become successful by swinging for the fences, but your odds of success are better if you try to get any kind of hit. This idea can be applied in many areas of our lives including fitness.
How Hitting Singles Worked for Me
When I started this Ed Tech Fitness project at the end of December 2018 I was in the worst shape of my life. I had turned 40 a couple of months earlier, I had a closet full of jeans that didn’t fit me, and I was having a lot of issues with back pain. In short, I needed to choose between getting back in shape or continuing a slide into apathetic obesity. Fast forward to today and I’m almost out of jeans that fit because I’m too thin for most of them.
The swing from being too big for almost all of my jeans to being too small for almost all of jeans didn’t happen overnight. It didn’t happen because of any major diet changes other than trying to cut back on stress-snacking. It didn’t happen because I joined a gym or because I got a trainer (I did neither). It happened slowly by exercising for 20-30 minutes a day. After about eight weeks of doing that 5-6 days a week I started to notice some changes.
After eight or so weeks those 20-30 minute workouts (mostly on my stationary bike or on a treadmill) began to get longer and get a little more intense. By April I was feeling good enough to register for a 200 mile single day bike ride. At the end of June, I did it! That was possible not because I did a lot of specific training for that event (I did some) but more because I simply rode every day. Some days I only had 30 minutes to ride and some days I had hours. Every little bit helps.
But I Don’t Have Time?
Even if you only have 20-30 minutes to exercise at home, do it! Do it consistently. 20-30 minutes every day is going to trump just doing a couple of days of longer workout sessions. If you think you don’t have time, skip the “unwinding while watching Netflix” session and spend those 20-30 minutes doing some kind of exercise. You’ll feel better having exercised for 20-30 minutes than you will having spent that time “unwinding” in front of a screen.
Now, I’m off for a training session on bike (session #209 of the year).
The school day gets busy and before you realize it, you’ve gone three hours without drinking anything. Or worse, the only thing you’ve had to drink is that cup of lukewarm coffee. This week’s challenge is to remember to drink water throughout the day.
Benefits of Proper Hydration
Drinking water throughout the day has lots of benefits. It helps your skin, it helps your brain function better, it can keep you from snacking (that’s a huge one for me), and it will help perform better when go to exercise.
I have an app on my phone called Watermaniac (Android only) that helps me remember to drink water during the day. iPhone users can use apps like WaterMinder for the same purpose. Of course, you could also just use Google Keep or your phone’s alarm function to set repeating reminders to drink water during the day.
How to Use Google Keep to Set Recurring Reminders
Google Keep is a versatile app that you can use on your desktop, on an Android phone, or on an iPhone. One of it’s many functions lets you create time-based and location-based reminders. Watch the following video to learn how to do both of those things.
Fancy Water Bottles!
You don’t need a fancy water bottle in order to stay hydrated, but having one will make you look like you’re on-trend. My partner has a fancy Hydro Flask water canteen that keeps water cold for hours or days or possibly months depending upon the hype that you read.
The Hydro Flask is way too pricey for this frugal New Englander so I just use the standard red Nalgeen bottle that I’ve had for years. The only thing fancy about my water bottle is the Ed Tech Fitness sticker that I slapped on it in the spring. If you want one of the stickers, send me an email with your address and I’ll send you one.
On Friday I rode my bike 202 miles with Fast Freddie Rodriquez. The ride was part of a fundraiser event called Dennis and Freddie’s Excellent Adventure. The event raises money for the Fast Freddie Foundation which provides underprivileged children with bicycles and safety equipment. Last year the foundation donated bicycles to an elementary school in my school district.
Freddie is a retired professional cyclist whose resume includes four national championships and the Tour de France’s green jersey. Freddie has been retired for a few years now, but he still looks like he could line-up at the start of any race. Fortunately, he took it easy on us on Friday. I was fortunate to ride in a small group with him for the vast majority of the day including the last 80 miles. Throughout the day I was able to chat with him about everything from training methods to parenting. Here are five things I learned by either chatting with Freddie or just by observing him throughout the day.
The Cadence Never Changes
Anyone who takes bicycle riding seriously strives for a smooth and steady pedaling cadence without any wasted upper-body movement. In other words, the exact opposite of what Peloton commercials depict. Whether we were on the flats at 25mph or going over Pinkham Notch at 10mph Freddie’s cadence never made a noticeable change. More importantly, it looked smooth and steady.
Heart Rate Matters More Than Perceived Effort
It was while riding over Pinkham Notch, a pretty climb through the White Mountains, that I got to chat with Freddie about training methods. It started out with him asking me, “how are you feeling?” I said, “great, this is a nice, casual pace.” To which he replied, “this is like a lot of the training rides we used to do.” I thought he was talking about the long, gradual climb so I said, “but with a bit more intensity, right?” I was wrong.
What Freddie told me is that too many people, mostly amateurs like me, think that training for big climbs or big races is all about doing hard efforts in zone 4 or 5 of heart rate. The reality is that longer efforts at zone 2 or 3 is what burns fat and better prepares you for endurance events. Case in point, Freddie was watching his heart rate monitor all day and not a speed or cadence meter. He had picked a heart rate zone and was going to stick with it all day regardless of the perceived effort being put out.
Find Shoes You Like and Stick With Them
“I hate getting new shoes.” – Fast Freddie Rodriguez
During our last rest stop of the day one person in our group of five mentioned that his feet hurt. That prompted a short discussion about shoes. Freddie mentioned that he hates getting new shoes and the shoes he was wearing proved that as they looked quite broken-in (a chunk of carbon appeared to be missing from the sole of one of his shoes).
Coca-Cola and Donuts
When we rolled into a gas station for our last rest stop of the day (the same site as the conversation about shoes) Freddie grabbed a Coca-Cola and some Hostess donuts. We amateurs with him followed suit. Freddie told us that Coca-Cola has been found to be as effective as any of the fancy sports drinks when it comes to refueling during a long ride and that’s why you see it in so many professional cyclist’s feed bags.
Get Up and Go, You’ll Feel Better
Early in the day I asked Freddie if he is still rides much besides the charity rides. He does a lot of running and playing soccer along with some riding. He told me the exercise today is as much for mental health as physical health. In short, being active keeps his mind in a better place. I agree. I’m far less moody when I’m regularly exercising than when I’m not. Even when I only have 25 minutes for exercise it’s better to spend those minutes exercising than watching a re-run of Friends.
Six months ago I decided that I wanted to get a smartwatch / fitness watch. I had previously used a Fitbit Charge for counting steps and heart rate (not accurately) and a Casio Pathfinder for basic information about altitude, barometric pressure, and location while skiing and hiking. But I wanted to get something that combined all of those features into one package.
As is almost always the case when I purchase something electronic, the price of the Garmin Instinct is now significantly less than what I paid for it in January. The Garmin Instinct is now available as low as $246 on Amazon depending upon the color you select. The baby poop yellow version is $246 and all non-poop colors are $249 or roughly $70 less than I paid six months ago. Also, there are more colors available now than six months ago.
If you’re in the market for a new fitness watch that isn’t bulky and doesn’t look like every other smartwatch worn by every soccer mom on the block, the Garmin Instinct is a great choice. (Sorry soccer moms, I love you, but I don’t want to look like you).