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Exercise #1 – The Value of Exercise and the Honey-Do List

I’m planning to do several pieces about exercise and how I’ve managed to incorporate it into my regimen and around my schedule.  As I’ve mentioned in previous pieces, I’m a CPA, and it’s easy to pack on pounds when you’re a CPA, or in any other sedentary occupation.  

I used to exercise when I could, but oftentimes wouldn’t feel up to it.  I’m sure many of you have been there. After a long day of mundane, mind-numbing work, you’re just not in the mood.  And when you work in accounting, literally every day is mundane, mind-numbing work.

I’d try to watch what I ate too.  But the pounds kept packing on. And I, like many people struggling with weight gain, seemed surrounded by people who seem to have no difficulty keeping the weight off.

There was one person in particular at work who was incredibly infuriating.  I won’t mention his name. He knows who he is and what he’s done. Which, specifically, was to eat every unhealthy thing imaginable and still stay fairly skinny.  This guy would eat McDonald’s, Arby’s, Burger King, Chick-Fil-A, you name it. And despite being about ten years older than me, he weighed what I weighed when I was ten years younger.  At least, using visual reckoning.  It’s not like I put him on a scale or anything.

He never seemed to gain a pound, and he worked really long hours, showing up before me and leaving after me most days.  I began to suspect that he had some mystical superpower that rendered him immune to trans-fats and saturated fats. Or at least that he had a tapeworm.

But none of that was true.  Late one evening, when I was actually leaving at the same time as he was, I discovered the truth, when I saw him leaving while wearing a goofy helmet and a fanny pack.  He’d been riding his bike back and forth to work. This translated into about an hour of bike riding each day. Which is a decent amount of exercise. No wonder he could eat whatever he wanted.

When I started using the Cronometer app, I understood why.  Not only can an hour long bike ride burn about 800 calories a day, but your activity level affects your resting metabolism as well.  That means you’re burning more while doing nothing.  I’d known for a long time how even light exercise can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease (and also, just about every other disease), but I’d never understood how significant it was for weight loss.

Everybody has a Basal Metabolic Rate.  This is what you burn doing nothing. And how much you burn depends on things like weight and height and age and sex.  But if you exercise moderately (as I do) 3-5 times a week, for at least thirty minutes, the total number of calories you burn in a day is the BMR plus 50% of your BMR because of your higher activity.  And any calories you burn directly through exercise are on top of that. Since I tend to burn at least 400 calories a day exercising, the amount I can eat each day without gaining weight is just under 3,400 calories.  Eating less than that is a lot easier than eating less than the 2000 calories that a sedentary man would need to.

So that was the secret.  Exercise. Now, I used to run a lot (five miles a day), and my weight didn’t change much.  But I realized when I started using the Cronometer app that it was because I had a few other bad habits that I needed to get under control.  And I’ll go into great detail about that…some other time. But for now, I’ll talk about exercise.

I stopped running when my knees started to creak a bit.  My doctor told me to avoid high impact workouts. My wife talked me into going to the gym, but I was never a big fan.  The workouts were entirely too dull and repetitive. Dull and repetitive is what I do in my day job, so I didn’t want to do that after work too.  But I noticed something when I saw an aerobics class at the gym.  

One of the moves they made was an axe chopping motion.  And it occurred to me that if I was swinging an actual axe, I could get roughly the same benefit.  And it just so happened that I had an obnoxious tree in the backyard that dumped berries (inedible berries) all over the patio.  And it blocked the sunlight, causing the grass to slowly wither.

My wife had wanted me to cut it down for a while.  So I did. A piece at a time. For an hour or two after work each day.  In Florida, where I live, the sun doesn’t go down in the summertime until seven or eight o’clock (give or take thirty minutes), so I had plenty of time for this after work.  After a few weeks, I’d sawed off the extraneous branches, chopped down the trunk, and then chopped the stump out of the ground.  

The pounds were flying off.  Naturally, they were replaced by (sometimes debilitating) muscle soreness, but I worked through that.  And maybe the work itself was dull and repetitive, but unlike the workouts at the gym, it produced a tangible result.  I had a visible goal to work towards.

Then, when the tree was down, I took down two more that were overhanging the power lines stretching through the backyard.  I couldn’t do it every day, though, because it was Summer in Florida. So it rained. A lot. Almost every day. And my backyard flooded like crazy when it rained.  And the reason was because those trees I had murdered were getting revenge from beyond the grave. Which led me to my next task.

The patio, which really just a collection of pavers, was a jumble, made so by the leftover roots from the deceased trees,  So over the course of several weeks, I pulled up the pavers, chopped up the roots, dug a ditch around the patio and all the way to the front of the house, then sloped everything so that the water would run out of the ditch and to the front yard.  Then I put a pipe in the ditch and covered it with gravel and dirt. I’d made a fully functional French drain and lost another dozen or so pounds. And after that, flooding wasn’t so much of a problem in the backyard.

Turns out, the exercise wasn’t just good for my waistline.  Exercise produces the “good” HDL cholesterol, which offsets the “bad” LDL cholesterol.  And if you’re wondering what HDL and LDL stand for, I invite you to deploy the power of Google to find out.  I don’t feel like pronouncing elaborate medical terms just now. Or any other time.  

And exercise is good for the blood pressure as well.  It makes your heart stronger, which reduces blood pressure.  Also, when we sweat, sodium comes out in the sweat. Too much sodium in your body increases blood pressure, so if you can sweat it out you can counteract that.

That last bit depends somewhat on where you are on the planet, though.  In Florida, you can start sweating within seconds of going outside, so you don’t need to exercise at all for it to happen.  You could also just sit in a sauna to get this effect. Of course, in Florida, the outdoors is a sauna, so going to an actual sauna would be sort of redundant.  On the other hand, you could probably jog all day in Antarctica and never sweat at all.  Although you should probably never go jogging in Antarctica. But the point is, exercise in most normal places will produce enough perspiration to offset any salty foods you may have had that day.

You know, the last thing most of us would rather do is house chores, either inside or outside.  And those of us that aren’t lonely incels know that our wives/girlfriends/whatever frequently have a list of projects they’d like us to do.  This irritating list is called the “Honey-Do” list in the vernacular. All of these things I did were things my wife had asked me to do, but I never got around to.  But suddenly, the list wasn’t so aggravating, since it was contributing to weight loss.  

And instead of paying money to go to the gym, I didn’t spend a dime.  Well, except on the gravel and pipes, but that wasn’t so bad. If anything, I got paid to do the work, since the value of my house probably went up, if only a little.  Also, all of my vital numbers: weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, etc., were improved the last time I went to the doctor.

This is the trick to adding exercise into your regimen: finding a way to work it in with everything else.  And finishing tasks on the Honey-Do list was one way for me. Mow the lawn, clean out the garage, fix the sink, move assorted heavy things, and so forth.  The Honey-Do list is never complete. But doing these little tasks for thirty minutes to an hour a day was all it took to get the exercise I needed. The weight just melted off.  

I’d found a way to squeeze some exercise into my otherwise busy schedule, lose some weight, improve my house, and make the missus happy.  I guess it’s slightly unmanning to realize that one way to lose weight was…to do exactly what my wife said to do. Being forced to admit that she occasionally has a point is incredibly annoying.  Fortunately, it’s not the only way I’ve found to squeeze in some exercise.  But I’ll talk about that in a later piece.

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Published by drilldowndiet

Formerly obese CPA/health humorist using Cronometer and FitBod to lose weight. Sharing assorted life hacks to squeeze nutrition and exercise into a busy schedule. Also on Twitter at @drilldowndiet and Facebook.

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