You can’t go ten feet in the Tampa Bay Area without seeing at least one “Salt Life” bumper sticker, denoting someone who spends a disproportionate amount of time on or near the water. And it’s usually not too difficult to match the bumper sticker to the owner, since all one needs do is scan the immediate vicinity for someone who’s been tanned to the point where their skin is so leathery it will likely deflect sharp objects and projectiles. I’m not quite so obsessed with the ocean, since spending time in the sun typically makes my skin look less like leather and more like slow roasted pork. But I still spend a lot of my time off on or near the bay or the gulf.
When you live thirty minutes away from the Gulf of Mexico and one hundred yards from Tampa Bay, an occasional trip to the waterside is inevitable. When you have friends visit from all over, blatantly using your humble abode as a temporary summer home, a daily trip is inevitable. But when I started my diet, I was worried that our trips to the beach might disrupt my daily regimen. Because our hours at the beach usually consist of snacking on assorted things and imbibing various adult beverages. But I recently discovered that it wasn’t so bad.
Even if we spend most of the time imbibing and eating, we periodically find our way into the water. Every thirty minutes to an hour or so, we’ll grab our beers (or whatever) and wade into the brine. Then we’ll drink more while bobbing up and down in the waves. And I’ve always found it remarkable that we spend hours drinking and wading, but for some reason no one ever has to leave to go relieve themselves. The ocean must have peculiar effects on people which just shuts down their bladders. Truly astonishing.
Anyway, even the simple act of treading water can burn about 200-250 calories per hour. And if you have to do it vigorously, like when my wife occasionally climbs on my shoulders in an obvious attempt to drown me, it’s as good as running. This vigorous activity comes at a cost, though. These aquatic episodes in domestic abuse perpetrated by my wife inevitably result in me inhaling salt water. And although this may be good for clearing the sinuses, it tends to irritate the nostrils a bit. Sometimes I wonder why I married her.
But there is one way to get back at her. And that is, put on a snorkel and harvest conchs. I realize this seems like an unlikely way to exact revenge, but let me explain. Once I have twenty or so, I’ll drop them at her feet, basking in the look of horror she gives when the shells start writhing as the alien tentacles snake out onto the sand. She really isn’t fond of slithery, tentacled things. And it turns out that snorkeling is about the same level of exercise as running or biking. So annoying my wife is really heart healthy. Although it can result in loneliness (from the silent treatment I get) and backaches (from being forced to sleep on the couch for a week), so I have to weigh pros and cons here.
Of course, when we’re not having briny domestic disputes, there are less contentious things we can do. A leisurely swim works off 450-500 calories per hour. So does paddleboarding. Unless you’re me, in which case it uses much more. Because when I do it, it frequently results in rather unleisurely swimming (that is, desperately trying not to drown) when I fall off. Which happens rather often.
If I’m feeling a bit lazy, a not uncommon condition when spending hours lying in the sun, I may break out the old innertube and just ride the waves. But as I’ve noted previously, sometimes things that don’t feel like exercise are actually decent ways to keep the weight off. Simple inner tubing uses up 100-150 calories per hour. That’s not great, but if you do it for several hours (like at Florida’s iconic Ichetucknee Springs), it adds up in a big way.
If I’m feeling a bit more ambitious, I’ll break out a kayak and ride the waves that way. I’ve mentioned in a past piece that kayaking is a decent way to keep the flab away. Kayaking will eat up about 350-400 calories per hour. And it’s easy to social distance when kayaking, which is good if I’m trying to avoid the Rapture in Virus Form that is COVID-19. I can use the paddle to either swiftly move away from any infected schmucks that get too close, or give them a whack if I’m feeling pugilistic.
If I’m feeling super rad, I’ll do some surfing. Surfing is about as good as kayaking in terms of calorie usage. It’s pretty good for you, as long as you’re not bitten by a shark. I mean, I guess a shark bite can produce weight loss, because some excess fat (or even a limb) is torn off of you. Sort of a primitive form of liposuction. But there is the off chance you might die, which is a bummer, dude.
The problem is, the Tampa Bay Area isn’t known for it’s huge waves, so surfing can be sort of lame. But there is wind in here, especially during the summertime. And windsurfing is about the same calorie drain as regular surfing. Unless there’s a hurricane, in which case you work off a lot more, because you’re basically flying in that situation.
Of course, one of these days (Read: Never) I’ll get around to getting a Scuba license. Diving off the coast around various wrecks is about a 550-600 calorie per hour undertaking. The downside is I’d have to be careful to avoid the shark liposuction and the bends and drowning. On second thought, I can think of way better ways to have a midlife crisis than scuba diving. But for anyone reading, this is actually a pretty decent way to lose the poundage.
I do occasionally see some rich guy sailing by the beach. And I’ve learned this can actually be a decent workout. Now, this is probably something I’ll never do, because I’m not a high-powered investment banker or a drug dealer. These appear to be the only people that can afford to buy a fancy sailboat and sail it around. I, like most people, can’t afford it. But on the off chance there is a Wolf of Wall Street or an incarnation of Pablo Escobar reading this, sailing is a decent way to stay in shape.
You’re not just lying about. Sailing involves fooling around with the rigging and steering against currents and waves and not losing your balance. It melts off about 200-250 calories per hour. And people who do it competitively and constantly churn that bizarre “coffee grinder” device to raise and trim sails burn 350-400 per hour.
For those of us that are not rich, but have friends, there is always volleyball. A match with 6-9 player teams will make about 150-200 calories disappear every hour. And even more, for people who suck at it. Like me. When you shank the ball out of bounds on a regular basis, you’re the one obligated to go chase it down. Volleyball for me is just lots of unintentional jogging. But if you don’t suck, and can play hardcore, two person beach volleyball, that’s even better. That burns 650-700 per hour.
And even if you do literally nothing at the beach, there are benefits. And I don’t just mean vitamin D from the sun. You ever wonder why you’re sleepy after a trip to the beach? Just being in the sun makes your body work to maintain your internal temperature. From what I’ve been able to research online, the calories burned per hour equals your body weight divided by four. Well, roughly four. Very roughly four. By that I mean, somewhere between three and four. I’m an accountant; we like to round things off. “In the ballpark” is fine for us. Remember that in horror next time you see the stock market crash. It was probably caused by one of us deciding something was “close enough.”.
Anyway, for a 200 pound man, just sitting in the sun cooks off about 40-50 calories per hour. It’s not much, but it’s better than the exercise you get by sitting on the couch binge watching Game of Thrones for the tenth time. Which is zero. And since that activity usually involves trying to drink more red wine than Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey combined, the calories (and liver damage) add up very quickly. So even a lazy day at the beach is better than being in the house.
And beachgoing is not a bad idea if you’re trying to avoid the Viral Horror of Wuhan. The beaches here are big, and the tourists are staying home. So social distancing is a snap. And if there are a few too many people there, my wife’s best friend can bring her monstrous bull mastiff to scare off anyone who gets too close. If we go to a beach that allows dogs. If not, she’ll play Taylor Swift songs, which will scare people off better than the dog. If you’re looking for a way to stay trim and stay away from the creeping doom of the coronavirus, a trip to the beach is probably a great idea.
So if you live near the ocean, or even a large body of water, a day at the beach is a good way to get your exercise. There are a lot of things to do. It’s an excuse to get out of the house. It’s a great way to see friends you haven’t seen in a while and still not risk infecting each other with the Pathogen That Shall Not Be Named. And, unlike going to the gym, it can be a party and a workout at the same time.
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