Saturday, October 16, 2010

How To Exercise and Still Get Your Work Done

During my recent visit to Adrian College, where I taught for 36 years, my friend Beth Myers asked if I was still riding my indoors bicycle, a Schwinn Airdyne. When I mentioned the things I have done over the last 25 years while wearing out two of these contraptions and starting on a third, she suggested I should write it up as a possible inspiration to others.

So here I sit on Amtrak heading for my next stop in Boston, taking Beth up on this proposal on my netbook.

I bought my first Airdyne because I had made a serious mistake. Feeling cooped up, I rode my bicycle during a cold Michigan January, wearing two pairs of socks for added warmth. Instead of protecting me, the extra pressure inside my shoes reduced blood circulation to my feet and I froze my toes. This put an abrupt end to cold weather bicycling.

Still restless, I bought an indoors bicycle. I got the optional reading rack because without something interesting to do I would be horribly bored within two miles. (The boredom factor may be why, when we moved to Oregon, the movers were astonished by my Airdyne’s odometer. The average mileage they were seeing was about 75---total.) Boredom is not a problem for outdoor bicyclists who have scenery to admire and the danger of being hit by cars to keep their interest up.

I found I could do all my class reading while riding. Many of the assigned books were things I had already read, but I still re-read them all so they would be fresh in mind when we discussed them in class.

I taught a course on the Soviet Union until it disappeared in 1991. I then renamed it: “Autopsy, USSR.” ( We dissected the Soviet corpse--its birth, life, and death.) For background I had subscribed to Pravda, the Communist Party newspaper, in 1962 and continued reading it until 1991. Despite Pravda’s small type I was able to read it on the bicycle, and since I read Russian more slowly than English that added more weekly miles to the odometer.

Later I found I could also do some writing. I printed out a triple spaced draft of a book I was writing. Then I rewrote it by propping the pages up on the reading rack, making changes by hand. Later I quickly typed the changes into my computer (not while riding!).

Recently, having had to clean out my late parents’ house, I have taken pity on our own kids and begun cleaning out my extensive files while riding. In the process I am sorting out and keeping quotations and other material that might be useful for another book I might write.

There are thus many things one can do while getting some exercise. (Some people even watch TV. I have only done this once, in order to observe President Clinton’s impeachment trial while also getting my usual miles. In general, for me TV does not work.)

The bottom line is that I have worn out two Airdynes, the first after riding 55,000 miles, the second considerably more than that, and am working on the third. I rode about 200 miles per week and 10,000 miles per year for many years before I retired and continue to do so since retiring ten years ago. About four fifths of this was indoors, the rest on my real bicycle.

In a nation that has become sedentary, where obesity is increasing, and where time is scarce, I hope my experience can inspire other people to give this approach a try. I will enjoy hearing from those who do.

1 comment:

  1. What you are able to accomplish on trains, in classrooms, and even more so on Airdynes, will always be inspiring to me. Well done, Paul.



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