I'm James Maxey, the author of numerous novels of fantasy and science fiction. I use this site to discuss a wide range of topics, with a heavy emphasis on cranky, uninformed rants about politics and religion and other topics that polite people attempt to avoid. For anyone just wanting to read about my books, I maintain a second blog, The Prophet and the Dragon, where I keep the focus solely on my fiction. I also have a webpage where both blogs stream, with more information about all my books, at jamesmaxey.net.


Sunday, August 02, 2015

Fitness Milestone: 3000 Miles

My legs, 3000 miles later
Endomondo Summary, showing total distance I've tracked.

Two weeks ago, I logged into Endomondo to see how our activity for this year was comparing to last year. Back in June during the Warrior Dash, Cheryl seriously bruised her tailbone, which kept us off bikes all the rest of the month. We've hustled during July to make up miles, but summer heat keeps us from making really long bike rides. We've logged a lot of miles via kayak, but kayak miles are much, much slower than bike miles. Fortunately, we've had two weeks of vacation, so lots of little trips do add up, and we're back on track to reach our goal of 1200 miles for the year.

However, when I logged into Endomondo to look at my stats, I noticed for the first time the "Total Distance" stat. At the time, I was sitting at 2950 miles. I was stunned to realize I was about to reach 3000 miles of travel as tracked by Endomondo. I started using the app in December 2012, only logging 12 miles that month. So, it's taken me two years and eight months to travel 3000 miles in a combination of biking, hiking, running, kayaking, and just plain walking. Endomondo helpfully tells me how far I've travelled toward the Moon, but I thought it would sound more impressive to say that I've travelled from my house to Los Angeles via my own power. However, it turns out that I passed LA some time back, since that's only 2500 miles from my house. So I looked at the furthest point I could reach in the contiguous United States, and it turns out I've even managed to propel myself past Seattle, a mere 2839 miles away. Thanks to kayaking, I could now be sitting about 170 miles out into the Pacific!

With Endomondo, I only track actual exercise. I know some people use FitBits or other tracking to monitor their total steps during the day. I'm actually on my feet a good part of my normal work day, but worry that if I counted the miles I log as part of my regular movement, it might demotivate me to log exercise miles.

Three years ago, I hadn't heard of Endomondo. Three years ago, I was a couch potato who thought that moving 100 miles in a year via hiking and biking was an insane amount of exercise. 100 miles a month wasn't even conceivable. Running 100 yards was out of the question, let alone running 5k. And at the time, I thought of myself as relatively active. We'd occasionally go on two mile hikes, or go out and bike for three or four miles. We just didn't know how our world was about to change.

A few random thoughts on being active:

First, Cheryl and I often go out and push ourselves with long bike rides (40 miles plus) or long hikes (10 miles plus). But our health benefits kicked in with much more modest activities. One and two mile walks around the neighborhood are the backbone that supports the more ambitious activities. By sheer luck, we bought a house that's exactly one mile from the nearest shopping center with a grocery store, a few restaurants, and our gym. Walking there and back a few times a week really adds up.

Second, the physical benefits are nice, but the mental benefits are astonishing. Study after study shows that physical activity improves mental health, and I can testify that, compared to who I was three years ago, I'm now more optimistic, less stressed, and much more confident. If we've developed any unpleasant mental traits, I would say that we both now have a tendency to feel a bit smug when we're out biking, thinking about all the people we know who are probably sitting in front of a television as we zoom past trees.

Third, for the first time in my five decades on the planet, I feel like an actual part of nature. Nature used to be a place I'd occasionally visit, but I spent the vast majority of my waking life under a roof. I'm sure in terms of actual hours, I'm still inside more than outside, but now I've journeyed to the tops of mountains, I've kayaked into the depths of swamps, I've seen rivers and meadows and forests that I could never reach via automobile. We've gotten familiar with the sky. We schedule our lives around sunsets and full moons and good breezes. We've learned to handle heat and sun, how to hike through snow, and we've discovered that hours in the rain will not melt us.

Fourth, a word of caution: When Cheryl and I started our fitness kick a few years ago, our primary objective was to lose weight. One thing I believed at the time was that exercise was more important than diet. If I went out and biked 50 miles, that would certainly offset any number of Whoppers, right? Heck, if you look at the Endomondo stats, it even shows how many burgers I've burned with all my exercise. But I logged over 170 miles of activity in July, and still gained 10 pounds, because while on vacation for two weeks I pigged out on ice cream and soft drinks and junk food. Soda was an especially weak spot for me. I don't keep any at my house, so in my normal life I can usually avoid it, but the refrigerators were full of it on both vacations. I'd come in from kayaking and think, eh, I just burned a thousand calories, a can of Mountain Dew isn't going to hurt me. Or, I just biked ten miles, so let's splurge and have a milkshake. The truth is, exercise doesn't protect you from excessive sugar. Fortunately, now that we're back home, I can resume more sensible eating habits and hopefully shed the pounds as quickly as I picked them up.

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