Saturday, December 25, 2010

workouts that work

it's christmas morning and all through my house, not a creature was stirring, except me. hopefully the mouse that's been meandering on the counter near my home-made bread - he/she never did get any but keeps leaving droppings as proof of intent - has died from the poison i planted there for him. but my kids - 16.5 and near-18 - are with their mom's family; my girlfriend is with her kids and family in memphis; and needless to say the gym is quiet today - so i'm solo. not an issue for a non-practicing jew but it does afford me the opportunity to write this blog.

the title - workouts that work - is not new nor is it intended to be profoundly enlightening, so if you're seeking the ultimate in workout tips, look elsewhere. rather, as i oft do on this blog, i'm bringing to light the 'research' that's been reported in the ny times on fitness; in this case, on the afterglow of an exercise session. what is it? why do people feel - no, not good - that's endorphins or some such sense of accomplishment - HOT for extended periods of time after a good hard workout.

now, i've never studied this phenomenon and i'll take the word of the contributors to the article that no one really knows why, but i do know the feeling. in fact, against almost all advice, i am a late night worker-outer; that is, i usually do my cardio (stationary bikes, now that running or even ellipticals hurts my knee) after 930, 10 P.M. that's right, i come home, eat, read, lolligag, then decide, on the spur of the moment, if i have enough energy to get on the bike for 20-30 minutes. if i do - one could say i'm lucky bc i'm lean, fit looking, and after 40+ yrs of being a fitness aficionado, i don't need to do cardio as intently as competitors or out of shape folks- i will do some low intensity with reading or some version of intervals (with reading only during the warm up). then i shower and hit the rack with a book or journal...but only for a short while since sleep usually overcomes me quite quickly at that point. no, i do not get invigorated enough to stay awake, so don't ask. but then again, this is a 40 yr old habit of sorts - i used to do my tae kwon do exercises and calisthenics late at nite when i was a competitor - and it's never kept me awake. and yes, some people do get invigorated but i suspect it's a smaller number than the advisers might suggest when they warn against late-night exercise. (here's where i go personal: how many of you engage in sexual behavior before bedtime and get so invigorated you can't fall asleep afterward? unless the sex act goes unrequited in some form or another, most folks are usually calmed if not soon then immediately afterward, and sleep often intervenes before the parties separate. exercise is exercise regardless of the format, and good exercise is akin to good, even bad, sex in that one is often spent afterward. a hot shower is all that's needed to cap off the evening.)

having diverged, let me return to the point. here's the article:

now, in winter, when i keep the house around 66-67 degrees, it's cool enough that i need a light jacket to sit around, esp downstairs, where the kitchen and the tv room/bike rooms are. but after my ride, i'm warm if not sweaty. i can move around without a shirt for a while before the chill hits but am usually on my way back upstairs to shower. i am comfortable as i hit the bed but enjoy getting under the blankets after a few more minutes of cooling down, and sleep befalls me. and tho i am not sweating or steaming as you might suspect based on my thermostatic environment, my internal thermostat does run warm. and to the point of the article - i don't care why. it's nice to know, and some grad students need to study it, but the warmth i feel after a workout is my body's attempt to reset its internal thermostat from hi to lower, to re-align blood flow from the legs and skin to the gut from whence it was shunted, and to initiate the adaptations that will enable the workout to yield health and physique results. one can get overwhelmed by articles such as this and if you're in the exercise sciences, maybe even get inspired to read on. but if you're simply trying to find a way or reason to exercise, esp in the winter months, there's nothing bad one can say about exercise but there is one more good reason to consider it: it warms the cockles of your heart and body.

and on this white, wintry, snowy christmas morning, alone in my den looking out at the dusted trees and bushes, all i can say is i'm warm. and i hope you are too. merry christmas.

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