Christmas is past and, unfortunately for many of us, a few extra pounds are present. Best intentions have been overwhelmed by better food. And, with the probable overindulgence of New Yearís still ahead, this is an excellent week to start thinking about how to get rid of those pounds before actually having to act on the thought.
Itís a week for best intentions and planning.
I have some expertise in this area.
Iím a master of best intentions, entering each holiday season full of them. I usually, willingly and with ever-increasing speed, begin to let go of them around noon on Thanksgiving. The best intentions are normally gone long before the turkey.
Fortunately, I also have a little expertise in exercise. Iíve sampled all kinds of things, beginning with running to lose weight gained when I quit smoking after waking up one morning with a collapsed lung. (I can take a hint.) For strictly planning purposes, hereís what Iíve learned over the 30 years since then:
Running is difficult, except when it isnít. This is the famous runnerís high. It feels great, effortless. A sense of supreme well-being overcomes you. I felt it once. The rest of the time, it was difficult. The only runnerís high I generally feel is the high I feel when I stop. That does feel good.
Over the years Iíve worked my way up to running 10Ks (6.2 miles). Marathons are insane, unless youíre Kenyan or an aerobic freak (Iím neither). In any case, be prepared for humility; some unlikely looking people will stride past you. Iíve probably been outrun by 90 percent of the people Iíve raced against, including a man wearing a flannel shirt and high-tops. Nevertheless, I still do it, seeking that elusive second runnerís high.
Bicycling is another good aerobic activity with the added benefit of being fun. Unlike running, you can stop pedaling and still keep moving. The biggest drawback for many is the seat. My advice: Invest in a good seat and a pair of those shorts. However, unless youíre capable of riding in the Tour de France, itís probably best to wear the shorts only around other bicyclists, whoíll understand. Bicycling also tends to get expensive as you get more involved and become crazier. I have four bicycles (each for a different type of riding, so itís not like Iím addicted or anything). Also, people tend to think youíve lost your driverís license.
During the winter, thereís indoor cycling or spinning, riding a bike that doesnít go anywhere. Who knew not moving could be so difficult. Spinning involves sitting, standing, standing and sitting, hovering and standing and sitting, and all sorts of maneuvers performed to music at different tensions under the watchful eyes of a friendly instructor, who tries to kill you. This really does feel good to stop doing, and it is oddly enjoyable. The actual spinning is sometimes followed by core work, designed to make your midsection hurt. Itís very effective.
Then, of course, thereís aerobics, which Iíve dabbled in from time to time, usually after being goaded into it by women friends. These classes, too, were difficult, particularly for anyone near me. Iíve grapevined over a few classmates in my day.
Finally, thereís weight training, which Iíve participated in for more than 20 years. This is an excellent activity, judging by some of the people I see in the weight room. I enjoy chatting, which seems to diminish the benefits for me. I have, over the years, perfected the weightlifting face but canít bring myself to grunt loudly. This, too, may be hurting my performance.
So as 2011 approaches, Iíve been thinking Iíll give yoga a try. That sounds like a great idea, right now.