Embracing the Boredom of Exercise


Maybe it’s because I grew up exercising in the Stone Age, before Walkmans, iPods, iPhones, iPads, and Kindles.

Maybe it’s because the sport I pursued competitively for 12 years had me in the water for my entire workout.

Maybe it’s because I can only do one thing at a time.

Whatever the reason might be, I’ve never felt the need to listen to music or podcasts or read my Kindle while exercising. I’ve tried it, but I found that it took me away from what I wanted to focus on, which was my workout. Plus, if I was trying to listen to a podcast or read a book, I would not remember much of what I had just listened to or read.

I’m probably in the minority, but I actually enjoy the time I spend exercising, and don’t need to be distracted in order to get through a workout.

As a swimmer, such multimedia-type distractions were not possible. To fend off the monotony of going up and down the pool, I would do things like count the number of strokes I was taking each lap, do math problems, or simply let my mind wander off and rehash all the injustices that had happened to me in the prior 24 hours.

I also learned to enjoy the solitude associated with swimming. Even though I was part of a team, there wasn’t a lot of communication going on during swim practice.

After graduating from college, I got into running, and found that I once again enjoyed the solitude of going for a long run with no distractions. I couldn’t imagine running with a Walkman and headphones on, not only for the reasons noted above, but it also seems like you would lose awareness of your surroundings. However, since I’d always enjoyed the scientific aspects of fitness and exercise, I was attracted to gadgets like heart rate monitors and GPS watches.

I’ve long since retired from running, but exercise is still a big part of my life. Today my routine consists of using a rowing machine, a stationary bike, and going to Planet Fitness.

I ride my bike for 45 minutes three times a week, and the only thing I look at it is the monitor telling me what my heart rate is, what my RPMs are, how many miles I’ve gone, and how many minutes I’ve written. That’s all the amusement I need; no music, no books on tape, no TV show.

It’s the same on the erg, which I do three times a week for 60 plus minutes. Once again, all I need is the monitor that tells me my elapsed time, my heart rate, my strokes per minute, and my pace. Once again, that three-inch screen is entertainment enough to get me through my workout.

I also have an awesome  smartphone app (Polar Beat) that I use when I’m on the bike and erg so that I have a history of all of my workouts.

Knowing that most of my day will be spent talking with people, listening to the radio, and using my smartphone, my laptop, my desktop, and if I’m lucky, my Kindle, I enjoy that time I spend exercising where there is no sensory overload.

It’s just me, my heart rate, and the whir of the machines.

4 thoughts on “Embracing the Boredom of Exercise

  1. When the days are short (too dark to run outside before work, dark when I get home), I have to do treadmill at home. The only thing that helps me through is to listen to podcasts, audiobooks or music. Outside, I’m fine talking to God, listening for traffic (or mean dogs) coming up behind me and listening to my footfalls and breathing.

    I’m glad you’re able to enjoy the stats on your exercise machines, but, to me, looking at those things all the time just makes the “dreadmill” workout seem 10 times longer.

    The important thing is that we’re still trying to stay active as we age. Good job, Jim!


      1. At first, my world contained only one podcast: Runner Academy. Then its spinoff, Everyday Runners. They are excellent. For a couple of years, those were the only two I subscribed to. Now my favorite nonrunning podcast is Michael Hyatt’s “This is Your Life.” Everything Michael Hyatt does screams excellence. He’s just the go-to guy for anything relating to personal improvement or growing a business. Check him out; you’re bound to find a podcast from him on pretty much any topic you can think of (even running).

        And then I listen to a few business podcasts (I can share those, too, but wanted to keep this list short-ish) and some by a few of my blogger friends. My repertoire has expanded, and unfortunately that means I’m way behind on my listening, because most of it is while I’m getting ready for work or while I’m on the dreadmill.

        The one podcast I would never want to give up is Michael Hyatt’s. http://www.michaelhyatt.com


      2. I should mention, if you decide to start with the current season of Michael Hyatt, his co-host, Michelle Cushatt, is back after being off for several months with her third battle with cancer (she also lost her dad to cancer last year). Her speech is a bit different now, as she had two-thirds of her tongue removed. Despite that, she maintains a positive attitude while being honest about how tough it has been (including her doubts about getting back into public speaking and podcasting). She’s one resilient lady, and I love that she’s back, despite the new speech challenges.


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