Sunday, April 10, 2011

Why I love exercise

I used to think that the reason I loved exercise was because of how it made me feel.  There are a lot of feelings that go with exercising: the endorphin rush when you are out on a long run, the deep relaxation that follows a hard workout, or the pride that comes after hitting your goals in a big race.

I also used to think that maybe I loved working out for the practical benefits.  Again there are many: avoiding injury, releasing stress, looking good, feeling strong.

But when I spent weeks laying in bed after surgery on my L4-L5 disk, my favorite thing to do was listen to podcasts about triathlon training.  I wasn't getting the endorphin rush, hitting my goals, or feeling strong, yet I couldn't stay away from the idea of working out.  Maybe it was how a hungry man can't think of anything but food, but I think it goes beyond that.

Your body is such a complex machine.  It is more complicated than any computer, yet it can change and adapt to meet almost any challenge.  Did you know that as the muscles in your legs get stronger, your knee actually changes how it bends?  The muscles pull your bones into a different configuration, allowing the knee-cap to track more smoothly and changing the angle that the upper and lower leg bones make with respect to each other.

This is why I love exercise.  Because with each action, there is a reaction, a way your body will adapt.  Your body will reshape itself into something completely different, and that blows me away.  These changes used to be pretty mysterious, but now sports medicine and physiology has gotten so sophisticated, that if you want to be able to do a certain thing, there is a specific action to accomplish it.  Do you want to be able to run a marathon?  Gradually run more and more miles until you reach a certain threshold.  Want to increase your VO2 max?  Do long intervals at medium-high intensity.  Studying fitness is basically learning all of those rules, and with each new rule learned comes an increased ability to change.

This blog is going to be a distillation of those rules that I have learned.  Some I've learned from books, scientific journals, blogs, podcasts, but other things I've learned from personal experience.  With every new idea I find, I will try my best to apply it, and let you all know the results.  I hope you can gain something from it and learn to enjoy exercise as much as I do.

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