For my day job, I teach part-time at a Community College. I teach in the Fitness Training program, preparing students to become personal trainers. I have a background in exercise and fitness and I’m knowledgeable, but I rarely exercise
In the field they define ‘exercise’ as going out and doing an activity in order to see the health benefits of the activity. Running to prevent cardiovascular disease is exercise. Running because someone is chasing you is activity, but not exercise. I don’t exercise.
Instead of exercise, I plan my life so that I am active. I struggle a bit with this concept because I have talked to too many people who use it as a cop-out. “Oh, I don’t need to exercise, I’m always up and around. I’m active.” In almost every case that I’ve heard someone say that, they were not active enough to see the benefits they were hoping for. Yet, that is how I’ve structured my life. And I’m going to say that it is working.
On Friday, my class that is about to graduate did a triathlon. It was not especially long and my students aren’t star triathletes, although they are mighty competitive and most are in very good shape. I decided that I wanted to participate as well. I taught a class where we trained together for the triathlon (as we studied endurance training principles) and I thought it would be fun to compete with my students.
I trained with my students, but as the teacher, I often had to hang out with the last person on a bike ride or just sort of manage the run for the day. And while I gave the students homework to train an additional 3 days per week, I didn’t do that.
Instead, my training consisted of riding my bike to and from work (12 miles each way). I try to push the pace a bit, but I feel as if I am slower on my bike than I have been in many years. Although, that might be because I’m generally carrying a 20+ pound bag with me. I also ran or biked with my class, although not always at the intensity that would greatly improve my fitness. I didn’t swim at all. Not in the last 5+ years.
In addition to the 50-75 miles per week on my bike, I ‘trained’ by doing farm work. I chased sheep. I did squats (other people call it weeding). I drug hoses all over the property to get everything watered. I dug holes and built structures. I pulled the sheep shelter around. I shoveled and hoed and tilled by hand. I spent 10+ hours on days that I don’t go to school working in the yard, generally at a pretty good intensity.
Frankly, I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life. I am not as fast on the bike as I once was (although I did feel pretty fast during the triathlon), but I am stronger and feel more functionally fit than I ever have.
When talking with my class, I told them that I wasn’t really training, but that I was going to compete. I knew that I was in reasonable shape, but I ended up surprising some folks. Now they are asking for a rematch and I’m afraid that I might actually have to train for it.
I love how living an active lifestyle keeps my fitness level high enough to be able to do the things that I want to. I’m not always the fastest, strongest or whatever, but I am generally fit enough to participate.