Like many people, I often wonder why it was so easy to keep the weight off when I was younger. Like most young people, at least in my generation, I ate the worst crap I could get my hands on (usually to avoid cooking) and didn’t seem to gain a pound. Until college, where I gained some beer pounds, like most college noobs. The dreaded “Freshman Fifteen”. But even that weight seemed to gradually disappear.
Now some of this is physiological. We’re told it’s harder to keep the weight off as we age. I’m sure that’s partially true. But I also think that some of us use that as an excuse to explain our expanding waistlines as we age. In fact, I know we do.
This is because one of my old bosses at my previous job was skinny as a rail, with a wiry, muscular build, and had an energy level higher than a guy who was thirty years younger. Because I was thirty years younger and was practically comatose compared to this guy. And this was still true when I bumped into him eight years after I left that job. If he could still do it after qualifying for Medicare and Social Security, I had no excuse.
Part of his regimen was racquetball, but he also walked two miles to and from work every day. That walking alone was enough to burn off considerable weight. It reminded me of a more extreme case my father told me about.
Just a few months after I was born, my father was posted in Korea for a year. The rest of us moved to Georgia that year. Stuff like this happens when you’re an army brat. Anyway, during his tour, which frequently consisted of fourteen-hour days, he was obliged to walk up and down a hill frequently, running errands between one office and another. This was in addition to his early morning physical training that everyone in the army does.
He was doing so much walking, that his problem became keeping weight on, not keeping it off. And it occurred to me that this is what helped me keep the weight off in college and high school. I wasn’t walking quite so far and never ran around in heavy combat gear. But I did criss-cross campus several times a day, often laden with a heavy backpack, especially in college.
Often, I was obligated to carry a calculus book, a physics book, or West’s Business Law, or all three on my treks across academia. All of these weigh about the same as a gold ingot. The big kind that they have at Fort Knox, not the tiny ones you buy from shady dealers who advertise on late-night cable. And they cost about the same, except with noticeably lower resale value. This translated into miles of walking each day, while burdened with the crushing weight of these texts. Carrying them was nearly as tiring as reading them. Nearly.
Once I graduated and spent most of my time sitting behind a desk, this daily activity disappeared. Walking back and forth between my desk and the coffee machine isn’t the same as walking back and forth from class to class. So the waist began to expand. But as I mentioned in my last piece on exercise, one of my current bosses rode his bike to work every day, so there was a way to put exercise into the otherwise sedentary life of a CPA.
I live seven miles from work. This translates into a thirty-minute ride each way. Plug this into the Cronometer app and you’ll see that this is just over 700 calories burned. And there were other benefits to taking this approach.
Traffic is bad in my city, especially along my commute route. So it takes fifteen minutes to drive. And I normally exercise at least half an hour when I get home. But if I ride my bike, the commute time is doubled, and I’m getting an entire hour of exercise. So instead of commuting for thirty minutes and exercising for thirty minutes, I spend an hour commuting and exercising at the same time. The same amount of time gave me twice the exercise.
And the second benefit was for my mood. The traffic isn’t bad because there is a lot of it. The traffic is bad because there are young lunatics all over the road. And they zip in and out of elderly retirees who don’t seem to realize that their cars can move faster than a golf cart. So I’m usually a basket case by the time I weave through this frustrating, whirling tempest of the crazy and the not-crazy-enough.
But not when I’m biking. My city has nice, wide sidewalks for most of my ride home. And Google maps is pretty good about finding a route that takes you through quiet neighborhoods and avoids the major thoroughfares. So when I get home I’m in a much better mood than I would be after driving. And my day’s exercise is done, so I can just relax. Netflix and chill, which, depending on how you interpret that, can be its own form of cardio.
I know what some of you may be thinking, if you’ve read my previous pieces. I live in Florida. If I’m biking in Florida, don’t I arrive at work a hot, sweaty, stinky mess? Well, not if I leave early enough. Before nine in the morning, Florida is merely simmering. The temperature goes to bake, and then to broil, much later in the day.
Besides, if I stink a little, it just means people are less likely to come and bother me. I don’t want people to bother me. Like most CPA’s, I went into accounting primarily because I’m a misanthrope who’d rather not be bothered with other people. Any day that I get work done, talk to no one, and then go home is a good day. So being the smelly kid in the office that no one wants to be around is actually a third benefit for me.
If I can drag out of bed early enough, I can exercise on my commute. But even if I don’t, I can work in the exercise some other way. Walk to the local convenience store (commonly known as “bodegas” in much of the freezing wastelands north of Virginia), walk to the local bar, or walk to church seeking forgiveness for everything I did at the bar. I can even walk around while writing this blog. I use voice recognition when I do this, though. That way my eyes are up and I don’t get mowed down by the loony drivers that are ubiquitous in my city.
The trick is, drive only when you absolutely have to. You can work in a half-hour to an hour of exercise without spending a dime, and without dealing with other drivers. This takes a lot less commitment than going to the gym. And it’s good for both physical and mental health. Burn more calories, deal with fewer idiots. Totally worth it.
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