A Tale of Two Workouts

Last Saturday, I was carless, and I was considering doing a workout. My choices were either to walk to the gym, which is a half a mile away from my house, and do my swim, or just walk for an hour and let that be my workout.

I decided I was going to walk for an hour. I’m lucky. I live in an area that’s great for walking and has the loveliest trail just near the gym. So, I walked the half a mile to it, walked a couple of miles on the trail and then walked home.

Now, while I do like and approve of walking as exercise, there are some problems for me. My feet tend to cramp up when I walk and I’ll usually have some heel pain for a day after a long one. I also tend to have hip pain after a couple of miles when I go for a walk. This can be ameliorated by slowing my pace a bit (which I do) so I’m walking about three miles an hour.

This is enough to make my hands and feet feel warm on a cold day, so it does get the body temperature up and the blood pumping. But it’s not enough for me to really feel my heart pounding or to elevate my breath to where my lungs feel like bellows or something. (A feeling I kind of like to go for when working out).

Still, it was exercise, and I did it for an hour, so all in all, a respectable workout, even if my feet did hurt.

The next day, I had access to the car, so I decided I was going to do a comparison workout and swim for an hour. This was about ten minutes longer than my “long” swim of a mile, but it was for science, and I was experimenting.

I took it a little easier than I do for my usual swim, but not by too much. I still did about 400 yards of freestyle sprints where I ended the sets gasping and feeling my heart pounding hard in my chest.

But nothing hurt. Oh sure, I felt the muscle effort and was even a little sore in my back, ribs and butt the next day. That’s not the same thing as it being actually painful when you first start to walk after sitting down for a bit, and it isn’t like something sharp digging into your hip. (I developed arthritis quite young)

Does this mean that swimming is easier than walking or running? (You do know that argument is part of how the Ironman got started, yes?)

Well, if you want to say that swimming is a very different sport from land-based sports, I’d agree. For many reasons, they’re hard to compare. Common wisdom says that swimming distance multiplied by a factor of four will get you a general equivalent in upright dry land locomotion.

So, my walk had me at a pace of about three miles an hour (19:42/mile, to be exact)

When we apply the multiplier to my swimming pace, it comes out to about four and a half miles an hour. (13:20/mile. Really brisk walk or a slow jog)

By this metric, yes, I’m going a lot harder swimming than walking (and no, I’m still not going all that fast. I get that!)

I didn’t do any heart rate tests, and possibly, I should. I think because the walking hurts, though, that the data might be slightly skewed.

But even perceived exertion has its place. That thing about the heart pounding and the lungs going like bellows? I don’t do that walking and I totally do swimming. I’m red in the face and gasping at the end of a swim, and not so much when I am walking (except for that damn hill up to my house!)

I’m not saying this because I think going really hard is the be-all and end-all of exercise. I’m doing this because I’m training for specific events that I want to do because of reasons, not because I think there’s necessarily any real virtue in working out hard. There isn’t, really. It might be a fun challenge, but there are other challenges available to you.

But I will say that if you think going all out and really hard might be fun, but that in some formats it is painful, there might be other formats in which you’d enjoy it.

This is pretty much why I am a swimmer.

Eighty-eight Cent Pizza

I know it’s fashionable to snark poor people who eat a lot of prepackaged food, and I won’t say I am not in favor of cooking for oneself and eating fresh. I had a salad for lunch and old-fashioned oatmeal for breakfast.


Today is Friday. And I didn’t feel like cooking. We had run by the grocery store because we ran out of eggs. In wandering around, we joked about getting a pizza, which I was kind of against (I’m trying to be frugal, what with a kid in college and all) when I ran across this.

It’s a personal pizza. 350 calories. It cost 88 cents. This amused me so much, I bought two for dinner for my husband and I tonight.

Then, I felt like a jerk for being amused.

Now to be honest, I can afford to make a full-sized pizza (oh yeah, I know how and have a good mixer to knead the dough) or really even order one delivered if I want to spend my disposable money that way. Oh, yeah. I have a little disposable money.

Let me tell you, if I did not have any disposable money, that pizza would move from being an attractive and amusing Friday night I’ve-had-a-long-day dinner to a reasonable meal option.

Eighty-eight cents for something moderately tasty that’s got enough calories to be an okay dinner? Uh, yeah!

Eighty-eight cents for something that takes no prep time when I am tired? And I assure you if I had no disposable income I would be exhausted from trying to make ends meet. I mean, get real. I stood in a comfortable classroom or sat in a comfortable office all day today, and I’m still tired. Were I poor, I’d be working a lot harder in a much more physically exhausting environment. Uh, yeah!

Eighty-eight cents to have something I mentally tag as a treat that I could possibly afford to give my kids? Uh, yeah!

Now, I’m not poor, and in general, I am not too tired to make at least a veggie-egg scramble or something equally “okay” with the whole food puritans. I’ve got knife skills, and it would have taken me no longer to make huevos rancheros than it did to wait for that pizza to cook.

But on the other hand, those huevos rancheros would cost a bit more than eighty-eight cents a serving. I’m lucky enough it doesn’t matter to me, but there are people in the world it does matter to.

I believe in cooking from scratch and whole food, but I don’t have it in me to snark the eighty-eight cent pizza.

An Excerpt from “Screw Skinny, Get Fit”

Mis-assigning Virtue

Often we associate virtue and physical fitness. Blame it on the Spartans or Romans if you want, or blame it on the Puritans. But because exercise can be hard or painful, we can associate it somehow with virtue.

Muscle mags are probably some of the worst offenders for this. You’ll find lots of articles sneering at fat, lazy slobs and a great deal of self-congratulations for a great physique and by implication, perfect health. Sometimes it can be hard to wade through them to get to some genuinely good information.

Being physically fit isn’t a moral imperative, nor is being healthy. There are lots of reasons why being more active is good and they’re discussed all through this book. You may have a million reasons to do what you do (or don’t). Since you’re in charge of your life, you get to decide this.

The human body did not evolve to be sedentary for long periods of time – true enough. Many people find regular movement has the benefits of mood improvement and an increased sense of well-being. Many people also find that hard, punishing exercise just makes them depressed and wanting to quit. Plenty of people have it worse than that, and punishing type exercises is emotionally triggery. Amazing what some high school gym teachers can do to discourage health and fitness, innit?

The reality is, yes, you do have to put in some maintenance on your body for it to perform well. The reality is also that you’re under no moral obligation at all to become an athlete if it doesn’t suit you. The reality is that you’re under no moral obligation to maintain your body, either. Obviously I find being active desirable, and I do genuinely believe it leads to a greater quality of life, but I’d be the last person on Earth to choose whether or not it does for you.

A great deal of finding out what’s going to make you more fit and feel better will be a constant series of corrections. This will be a pretty fluid boundary as well. If you stop exercising, you’ll find your light workout from your fit days will feel terrible to you. While consistency is ideal, don’t be a fool. You’re not doomed to a lack of movement because you have your exercise ups and downs.

You don’t owe the world “pretty”

Part of the reason, I think, that women are encouraged to exercise and “get fit” is a bloody lie. It is not about getting fit. It is about the idea that it is a woman’s responsibility to be pretty. If it helps, I’ll let you off the hook. You don’t owe the world physical attractiveness, so don’t let anyone tell you that you do.

Don’t let people use fit as a euphemism for pretty. There are plenty of physically fit Olympic athletes who would not be picked for modeling contracts. Challenge people when they try to map pretty to physically fit, and maybe we can chase that idiotic canard out of the English language. Except in the most extreme of cases –more to do with malnutrition, you cannot tell either physical fitness (for whatever value of fit you’re discussing) or health from appearance. Being strong and healthy might do things you like to your appearance, sure. That’s dandy, but what it does to your quality of life is far more important.

Your value as a human being is not about how many people want to fuck you. Sorry for the bluntness, but that’s what it boils down to. Don’t buy into that nonsense. Yeah, yeah, people talk about biological programming, but men are biologically programmed to rape any woman that smells like she’s ovulating, too. Five men in six have never committed a rape at all. Let’s not act as if we don’t have minds and wills, too, okay?

Making a disconnect between “unpleasant” and “good”

You might have gotten the idea from gym class. You might have gotten it from someone who was trying to teach you self-discipline, but kinda went overboard. But you might be thinking that if it hurts and it is difficult, it must be good for you.


Exertion and challenge is one thing. I’m all for challenging oneself a bit during an exercise session, mind. Just don’t be an idiot about it. There’s a serious difference between challenge and punishment.

Self-discipline v. self-punishment

I’d be the first to say self-discipline is important. Except, I wasn’t. Would you believe other people have said it before me? No. Fine…

But yes, getting into the habit of being physically active when you have been sedentary for a while does take a fair whack of self-discipline. No-one is excited about their workout every single time they do it. In fact, there are many days when the best thing I can say about my workout is that I did it. Sure, sure, sometimes it feels glorious and wonderful. Other times, I plod.

Ultimately, what matters is not that I felt glorious or that I plodded through it. Nope. The important thing is that I did it. My body will not care how I felt about it, but muscles will be stronger and the heart will be pumping better because of the work I put in.

There’s a difference, however, between self-discipline and self-punishment. Even if you hate working out, it is not supposed to hurt. If you’re going for any sort of pain, it is because pain is your kink, not because your body needs it to get a good workout or enough movement to stay in good shape.

I won’t even push the “hurt so good” feeling some people (including me) sometimes go for. You don’t have to do it to get a productive workout. People who do it are going for an adrenalin high. You don’t have to do this to get fit. Some people just don’t get this feeling, and it is okay. While you do need to move your body to keep it in working order, anyone who says it has to hurt is a little maso. If you’re not, you can safely ignore them.

Now, that’s not to say that challenging yourself a little is bad. Challenging yourself some is a good idea. It’ll keep you interested, and boredom is often a problem with exercise, especially among geeks. I think it is no accident that when we do work out, we tend to gravitate towards sports that can be translated into a lot of math like weightlifting, or tend to be very physically technical, like martial arts or swimming.

Are you experienced?

To keep myself interested in swimming, and to make it pretty much impossible to drop out of working out pretty regularly, I’ve signed up for a couple of open water swims next summer.

The first one I will do is Son of a Swim — a two mile open water swim through Kingdom Swim at Lake Maphremagog. It’s meant for new open water swimmers and signups are limited. This just suits me for a first open water event. It’ll be in late June, so I am going to have some time to get some open water practice in before I do the swim.

The second one is going to be the Boston Sharkfest. While it’s a race, I’m going to have to admit I’m really only swimming to complete this one. It’s 1500 meters, so is almost a mile.

I’ve asked some questions on a message board dedicated to marathon swimmers. (You, like people who swim the English channel and stuff). They’ve been very kind and have offered some advice, mostly that I need coaching to get my speed up. Annoying, but unsurprising. I didn’t really want to join a swim team, but for something as technical as swimming, I obviously need someone to critique my technique. So yeah, coaching.

I’ve also been advised that I need to bring up my swimming volume on some individual workouts. While common wisdom says you can swim in a day what you swim in a week, it’d be a good idea to make sure I really CAN do a couple of miles in a pool at some point before I try the open water stuff. So, I need to plan for a few much longer swims in the months ahead. That’s cool. I can deal with that.

The last part is relevant to the two mile swim, but not the shorter one — feedings.


I swim on an empty stomach most days. In the pool at five thirty, I really have neither time nor inclination for breakfast until after my swim. Given that I am generally hungry with a strong adjective in front of it after a swim, I’m okay with this.

But for longer swims, food of some sort is generally thought of as a good idea. Depending on the length of the swim, most marathon swimmers eat every half hour or so. Now, a two mile swim is by no means a marathon. (Cutoff for that is 10K, I think…) But, yeah, it’s going to take me a couple of hours to do the swim. I dunno… The idea of eating on such a short swim makes me wince.

On the other hand, this is advice given to me by people who are majorly into this, and ya know, like swim the English Channel and stuff. I can’t say they don’t know what they’re talking about. They do. They totally do.

What I am wondering is how that advice translates to me, the fitness swimmer who is signing up for a pretty small event just to keep herself interested enough to work out most days. I tend to snark non-elite athletes imitating what the elite athlete does. (Gatorade after a normal fitness class, or protein powder when you’re not a competitive bodybuilder, ferinstance).

Yet, these elite athletes are actually advising the whole feeding thing for this tiny little swim. (Not that it’s tiny to me. It’s huge to ME. But I’m comparing what they do).

Like the coaching, I am probably going to suck it up and follow their advice. Until I have experience doing this, I can’t know better, and I realize that.

The reality is that these swims are going to be a little dangerous. Not hugely so, of course, but there is risk involved. I could get hypothermia, I could get a cramp and have a hard time keeping afloat. I could panic out in the open water (yes, I’m a good swimmer, but being scared before an open water swim is not too unusual, and panicking happens among the inexperienced sometimes, and I am inexperienced). I could get too tired to go on in the middle of the swim, and it’s not like running where you can slow down and walk. You have to keep up the pace to stay afloat and keep up your body heat.

So, with all that in mind, I figure I don’t really have enough personal experience that might trump someone else’s knowledge, and until I do, it’d be suicidally stupid not to follow advice.

I’m still resisting the idea of sports gels, though… Lynne Cox got by on oatmeal cookies and warm apple juice, darn it!

Noël’s Apple Leek Pork Medallions

  • 1 lb(s), Pork – Fresh, loin, tenderloin, cooked, broiled
  • 1 Chopped 89gr, Leek Raw
  • 1 tbsp(s), Garlic – Raw
  • 2 tbsp(s), Oil – Olive
  • 1 Apple Medium, Granny Smith Apple
  • 0.25 cup(s), Wine – Table, red

Cut pork into medallions and sauté in olive oil on high until flesh is just brown. Add leeks and garlic and sauté until garlic becomes aromatic Add apples and sauté until tender, then add wine and lower heat. Cook for about five minutes and serve with another vegetable.

Excellent with broccoli.

Concern V. Concern Trolling

This article is part of a project to write 750 words a day for 100 days without breaking the chain. Today is my 100th day.

So, I can achieve goals. This is a happy thing, and it’s not what I want to talk about.

I want to talk about the difference between concern and concern trolling.

I have, a couple of times after a workout, been asked if I was okay. To put this in perspective. I am short. I am fat. I wear about a size 22 (US) in clothes. I am fair-skinned, which means that if I am working out hard my face gets red, yes, even in a pool. That’s never going to change no matter how much weight I lose or how athletic I become. It’s the way I am built. But, it becomes a big deal when someone assumes that the fat lady working out is a walking heart attack. As an aside, I just took my pulse. 66bpm. Lowish end of normal. Haven’t taken my blood pressure recently, but it was never high. I’m a swimmer, for pity’s sake. We tend to have lower blood pressure when we’re not trying to kill ourselves in endurance events.

A few weeks ago, I had someone (who I don’t know and haven’t seen in the gym since) say after my workout while I was drying my hair, “Are you okay? You know, maybe you’re pushing yourself too much. You ought to be careful about that.”

It got under my fingernails, and I can only say if you don’t believe fat people have self-control, keep in mind that I did simply say that I was fine and even smiled while I did it.

The reason it got under my fingernails is contrasted strongly by someone asking if I was okay after my workout today.

As some background, I hit the gym quite under slept. For whatever reason, I could NOT fall asleep early enough to get in my usual sleep ration and woke early even in spite of that. But I was feeling more zombie than chipper and I did kind of plod into the pool to get in my swim.

Normally when I swim, my pace is very steady throughout a set. My sets have specific patterns, and I work hard on good stroke technique throughout them.

Today wasn’t like that. I kept forgetting where I was in the middle of sets, my stroke form was off, I even inhaled some water and had to cough it out. Instead of jumping out of the pool and getting on with my day after my swim, I lingered in the water for a bit, rubbing my sleepy eyes and wishing I could just float for a while.

More background. This particular lifeguard is incredibly observant. She knows workout patterns, stroke styles, lane preferences, and even typical workout lengths for all of the swimming regulars. (This is way above and beyond what’s needed for a lifeguard, by the way. It’s more like what you’d look for in a coach). She *knew* what my normal workout looked like, and knew that today was a struggle.

When she asked me if I was okay, that wasn’t concern trolling. She knew what my swims looked like and could see that I was off today.

This is NOTHING like some stranger coming up to the fattest woman in the locker room who happens to still be a bit red in the face to give her advice on a workout she hasn’t seen.

Prickly as I am, I actually do appreciate concern. I really do. It felt nice to know that the lifeguard knew my workout patterns and was concerned enough to comment on a variation.

But the difference between concern and concern trolling in my mind has a lot to do with whether or not the person is qualified through expertise and observation to make that judgment. Even if that person in the locker room were a cardiologist (and don’t think she is, as I work at the hospital and know most of them on sight), she would not have had sufficient data on my workout patterns, heart rate, blood pressure or other factors to be able to make any sort of decent judgment about that. She saw a fat chick who was red in the face (I was no longer breathing hard, having showered and dressed) and decided to put in her two cents.

Concern is great, but for concern trolling, I wish those people would keep their yaps shut.

Goals, Strokes and Intervals

I’ve got a goal this year of reducing my swimming time from around a mile in 56 minutes to a mile in 40 minutes. I’m doing it because you should be able to do that comfortably in a pool before you start doing open water swims.

Swim workouts, like any workout with athletic improvement in mind, need to have some changing up component to it to keep the body challenged. If you do the same thing every time, it becomes a lot easier. Easy is often a legitimate goal, don’t get me wrong, but that’s not my particular goal.

So, I do some things to ensure changing up. Swimming sees its best improvement when you swim intervals. This means you’ll swim a distance as hard as you can, then another distance at an easier pace, switching things up throughout the workout. Yes, even marathon swimmers do this to train, even if steady is the goal when they get out on the open water.

For the past couple of weeks, my workout was either 1,000 yards or 1,200 yards swum in units of 100 yards with a length of breaststroke up, then swimming crawl back, then breaststroke up, then backstroke back. I’d sprint for the crawl because it’s a fast stroke.

As an aside, no the stroke is not actually freestyle, even if people often call it that now. Freestyle is an event in a swim meet, not a stroke. It is called freestyle because you are free to swim any stroke you wish. Most people choose the front crawl because it is the fastest stroke.

This was brought home to me when I was about six or seven at a swim meet. The event was the 16-18 year old men’s freestyle. We were swimming against a team that wasn’t quite as competitive as we were, and the Romagnoli boy swam the event *gasp* butterfly! The younger kids, including me, were freaking out, thinking that he’d be DQ’ed (disqualified) for swimming the wrong stroke even if he DID come in first, when the coach laughed and pointed out that freestyle means you can swim any stroke you want. Butterfly was a bit of a risk for the event, but he was very strong fly swimmer. Why not go for a challenge?

So, the stroke that you think of as freestyle is really the front crawl, ‘kay? And it’s a LOT faster than other strokes.

Those sets I was swimming, breast, free,* breast, back?

Today I decided to switch it up and swam free, breast, free, back. Instead of half my distance being breast stroke, half my distance became the front crawl. That 56:30 mile I’ve been side-eyeing? Today it was a 52:11 minute mile. (That was my pace, mind. I didn’t swim a whole mile).

So, why not just switch entirely to freestyle, right?


I could, but it wouldn’t be a great idea. That’s asking for a shoulder injury, and I’m not just doing this to get faster. The real reason my butt is in the pool is to get an efficient workout (swimming is good for cardio and full-body strength), and switching up the strokes means I work different muscle groups.

The other reason? That’s a little more embarrassing. I can do about 100 yards of the crawl before I get tired. The plan is to start working up to longer and longer distances of a single stroke as I get in better shape. My sets will stop being essentially a length of a particular stroke as I work up.

But there’s a lot to be said for essentially sprinting a length, then swimming another a slower stroke and alternating. That’s good, solid interval training, after all.

I also reached a goal today. I’d decided to try to swim ten miles in thirty days, and reached it about seven days early. I think my next goal needs to be a tad more ambitious. Since I swim a bit over half a mile a day, I think I’m going to make it a goal to swim 15 miles in the next thirty days. That’s more or less presuming I stick to my usual schedule, and a little bit over, so that I am going to have an impetus to bump up my yardage per workout in the next week or so.

Anyone else have any goals — fitness or not? I’m curious what people are challenging themselves with!
* Yes, see, I think of it that way, too!

We’ve Got a Long Way to Go

Swam 1200 yards in 38:17 today.

This is slightly disheartening. I need to be swimming 1800 yards in that amount of time by around August 2016. And in the short term, I’m really not getting any faster. In fact, I seem to be getting slower rather than faster.

I keep pointing out to myself that the reality is that I need to be in the pool moving for half an hour five days a week. That’s the baseline and what I need for my health. Any sort of open water swim or anything like that is only useful if it’s going to keep me motivated and interested. If it gets me not working out, or burning me out, it’s not useful. It’s actually detrimental.

That said, I do want to do the Alcatraz swim. It sounds cool. I’ve been reading some open water swimmer accounts — things like accounts of swimming the English Channel. They’re pretty cool, but I am wondering how much good reading these accounts is really doing me. A Channel swimmer is the elite of the elite, my friends. It’s like the Everest of swimming. In point of fact, considerably more people have successfully reached the summit of Everest than have successfully crossed the Channel swimming. (I think it’s like a factor of five to one)

So, comparing myself to these people and their training could be inspiring, but it could also be unrealistically discouraging.

I’m a solid, strong swimmer. No doubt about that. Compared to the general population, I’m pretty damn good. But to do the Alcatraz swim, I can’t be comparing myself to the general population. I need to be reasonably good even by competitive swimmer standards.

The reality?

I’m slow as hell. That’s a problem when you’re dealing with tides, currents and other things that you cope with in open water swimming. I don’t mean like, a problem where the pace boat and crew are going to get bored type of problem. I mean like an “It can kill you” problem.

So yeah, looking at my increasingly slower times over the past couple of weeks does have me wondering if I can even DO this. Should I be dropping back to just swimming for half an hour every weekday morning and leaving it alone?

I could. I really could. There would be nothing wrong with that. I’d be getting the exercise my body needs, which is the whole point of me getting up at five in the morning to head to the pool.


I don’t want to do that. I totally don’t. A mile and a damn half, even if it is in cold, open water with strong currents seems too damn doable for me to be able to let go of that. I doubt like hell I’d ever make a Channel swimmer, and that’s okay. It’s just that this seems too logically reasonable to let go of.

Then I look at my swimming pace times and wince and wince and wince.

It’s so early in the training, though. I mean, I just decided I wanted to do this a month ago, and I gave myself two blasted years to train for it. Maybe next year, if I haven’t improved enough to be reasonable, I could consider giving up, but it’d be silly to do so now.

What I’m really hoping is sometime in October 2015, I’m going to look at this entry and laugh my head off at how silly I was to be discouraged in a small backwards blip in the data. But the only way I can get there is to keep going.

That doesn’t entirely stop me from growling at my watch right now, or pushing to keep up with the lean, surfboard of a guy wearing flippers in the lane next to me, or wondering if I should be pumping iron to get my strength up, or feeling jealous of the dolphinlike grace of the kids doing their swim team workout in the lane on my other side.

I’m not even thinking about the cold showers and baths I’m going to have to start taking to get acclimated to cold water. I blot out the thought of marine life and possibly being attacked by a shark or seal.

I’m not even at a point where I need to even think about such things. I need to keep my eyes on 1800 yards in 40:00 minutes.

And in the words of Li Sheng, “We’ve got a long way to go.”

Harder than Heroic Effort

I’m not good at what I can only call a “tedious slog.” Short-term heroic effort? Hell yeah. Got that down and buddy it can be impressive.

There’s a downside to that. You’re either going all out, or you’re… Well, not. Going, that is.

What I am generally not good at, though I am trying very hard to learn, and getting better at, is patient dailyness. I can do the Big Huge Thing towards goals, but doing a little bit every day is much, much harder.

The problem is that over time, that little bit accomplishes much more than the periodic heroic efforts. The person who goes from no exercise at all to a marathon isn’t actually in better shape, long-term than the person who takes a walk every day. The person whose house goes from complete chaos to sparkling clean and staged for a real estate agent to show isn’t going to have a neater home, overall, than someone who does a little bit every day. The student who pulls the all-nighter doesn’t write a better paper than the student that breaks that up into increments, does a bit of writing every day and then goes on to do a bit of editing every day until the job is done.

I was in my late thirties before I really got started with the continual small effort thing v. Heroic Effort. It started with housework, which is really a fantastic place to start. I wanted a neat house, but nothing outrageous was really riding on it. Totally low-risk, which was perfect for this. I did a little bit every day, and forbade myself to put heroic effort into it. Over time, yes, my house is rarely more than fifteen minutes to a half an hour away from being okay with guests, and I wouldn’t die of embarrassment at any drop ins. When spaces get cluttered (a home is a dynamic process, not a showpiece, after all) I really do dedicate small amounts of time over a period of days to take care of them.

Where I am trying to apply this now is exercise. That’s a whole lot harder. For all that I am hardly slender, I do get interested gaining physical skills. You only have to look at a list of the physical things I’ve been into to realize that I’m all about the technical and easy to obsess about — dance, martial arts, swimming… They’re all activities that have a high level of technique, and experts at these activities really do dedicate hours a day to it.

But while the technical aspects are enough to keep me interested, my real goal isn’t mastering X skill. My real goal, as it pertains to exercise, is just to DO it for a half an hour to an hour a day five days a week. That’s IT.

I was thinking about it this morning when I was trying to decide if I wanted to swim today. I already did my M-F swims, but I was wondering what a mile would feel like and thinking, “Yeah, I have time today, I oughta try that!”

In reality? No, I shouldn’t. Not because it would be bad for me to swim a mile today. It totally wouldn’t. But it would be bad for me to give in to the obsession only to become tired of it next year. I need to be in the pool next year, too. This isn’t something like getting obsessed with Tudor history or lace knitting where I can put it down any time another shiny obsession takes my fancy. Working out can’t really be a hobby for me. For physical maintenance, I need to damn well be active for half an hour a day five days a week. I don’t even have to put Heroic Effort into it. I just have to show up and move.

Which circles back around to the consistent, daily effort. There is another thing that’s helping me learn that. You notice that I’m posting a lot more to my blog than I used to. I don’t post every day, but I do many days a week.

The reason I do is another small, daily practice. I write seven hundred fifty words a day as an exercise to keep my writing skills up. Some of those writing sessions are really more stream of consciousness pieces to write SOMETHING to get in my word count. But notice that as I do it consistently, the more valuable essays and stories actually happen.

It is the small, consistent, daily practice that builds up better into a lifetime of worthwhile work if you can make yourself do it.

Whoda thunk that it’d be harder than Heroic Effort?