Investing in Health

Quick fitness / swim update:

So a little under 6 weeks ago, I started training with Liz Fairweather. She comes to my house and we work out in the basement. I had already started trying to get back in the habit of regular cardio, and was doing a minimum of 20 minutes (usually more like 30) on the treadmill.

I am easily bored, so I pretty much always play a video game while walking at 3.0 (sometimes with a bit of incline). If I’m feeling particularly distractible, I will watch a TV show while playing a vidogame while walking. I don’t recommend this for those prone to tripping. 🙂

I also sometimes switch it up and use the VR headset to play exercise games. The main one I do is called Supernatural, which requires a monthly subscription (I think $19) like a gym membership — I like it because they use music I actually know (unlike Beat Saber, which is mostly electronica) and which is fun for me to workout to. The last session I did was all Disney songs. Usually I go for 80s, though. They also put up a new workout every day, so it’s good for the easily bored. I wouldn’t want it to be my only kind of exercise, because the VR headset gets uncomfortable for me after a while, no matter how much I adjust it — 30 minutes at a time is generally my limit.

Between that and Liz coming to do strength training (one hour twice a week, $70 a session), I’ve started feeling MUCH better over the last month. Stronger, with more energy. And then this week, I was finally able to add in the last piece I’ve been waiting for — swimming!

I did some swimming in Palm Springs while travelling, but what I really wanted was to be able to swim regularly (maybe daily?) at my local Y. We picked our house in part because it’s less than a block from the Y, but due to COVID, they’ve either been closed or had extremely restricted schedules for the past two years. For a while, you had to book a solid month in advance if you wanted to reserve a swim lane, and I am not that organized.

But it is much better now — they’ve opened up more time slots, and now it’s easy to book for the next week. I swam six laps this morning, which isn’t particularly impressive, especialy since I am very slow — I’m still not a very good swimmer, and usually end up doing a mediocre front crawl halfway across the pool, then flipping onto my back and doing an easy back kick with some arms to help the rest of the way.

That’s part of what’s stressful about having a crowded pool — if you can’t do a proper crawl, it makes it a lot harder to share lanes. But that said, it’s doable, and if what you need to do is go very slow and dogpaddle the whole way, you are allowed to do that. You don’t have to be fast. People will cope. Also, if you keep doing it, you will get better, especially if you watch some YouTube videos on swim technique, or have an occasional lesson. I’m much better at the crawl than I was a few years ago.

It was really a pleasure slipping into the water, getting my music going (I have bone conduction headphones by Aftershokz that you load music onto and then you can listen even while underwater), and doing long, lazy laps across the pool.

It’s a bit of a commitment, time-wise, because between walking over, getting into the suit, swimming, taking five minutes in the sauna, drying off, getting dressed, and walking back, I have to allocate basically an hour for 30 minutes of swimming. But I like swimming so much better than most other exercise options, and it’s so good for me (it helps with ADD regulation too), I think the time is worth it.

Right now, I’m scheduled to swim at 8 a.m. most days the next week. I’m going to try to shift my overall schedule up, aiming for eventually getting up at 5, ideally. If I can do that, then my plan will be to get up, tea and meds, quick check of FB and mail, go swim 6-7, then come back and write for 2 hours from 7-9.

If I can get myself doing that, I think it will be a good daily pattern for the rest of my life. We’ll see. I’m finishing up the first six-week session with Liz this week, I think, and we’re going to look at the budget and see if I can manage at least one more six-week session.

I can lift on my own (have done so before), but she does such a great job correcting my form, helping me move in slow, incremental stages to being able to do a little bit more every week, without injuring myself — if you’re thinking of starting to lift, working with a trainer at least at the start is super helpful. And again, with the variety — we do different exercises basically every time she comes, which is great for prone-to-boredom me.

It’s definitely a money commitment, all this — if you total it up, you get:

– trainer ($140 / week for two sessions)
– YMCA membership ($89 / month for household (two adult + dependents, including college kids up to age 23), $62 for an adult)
– VR headset (around $300 — I like the Oculus Quest better than the Quest 2, fyi)
– Supernatural subscription ($19 / month)
– Aftershokz headphones ($50 – $200, depending on type)
– dumbbells (we had a set already (5/10/15/20/25, which I think runs aroudn $250), but Liz asked me to add 3 lb. and 8 lb., so I could go up more gradually)
– a mat (was $160, not a requirement, but I wanted a larger surface for doing Supernatural and other workouts on comfortably and safely)

It’s a lot.

But being in good health and good shape gives me more energy and capacity for everything else in my life. When I’m stronger, I can dig better in the garden. When I have more endurance, I can run for a plane if I need to, or keep up running around with my kids. One thing I decided post-cancer, is that investing in health had to always be the priority — I’ll give up every other discretionary item in my life before I give up these investments.

Onwards.

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