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The 5 Worst Decisions I’ve Ever Made (About Exercise)

To finish off my three part exercise theme here at Quitting Adderall,  here are 5 stupid decisions I’ve made during my time as a compulsive exerciser. Some of these decisions just cost me money, others costs me months of frustration and pain.

You can see the other two articles in this series here..

1. Cheap heart rate monitor watch

I was so excited when I saw a refurbished heart rate monitor watch for sale on the always-awesome woot.com. My brother had been messing with his new $80 heart rate monitor watch for a couple months and I was totally jealous. Plus it seemed logical: That which is measured, improves. I could use the heart rate monitor (HRM) watch to make sure I was working out sufficiently hard at all times. And I finally had an excuse to buy something from woot.com! So I ordered the HRM watch from woot.com for a steal (like $25).

That thing is useless. First off, I could never get it to work correctly. Second, most of my workouts were strength-training workouts, where I really didn’t care about heart rate (maybe I should have). I did my cardio separately. So it was a totally unnecessary distraction to keep looking at that half-accurate heart rate number every 3 mins.

Now that I’m more into cardio stuff and distance running, maybe I should consider a HRM watch again. I could see it helping me pace myself on long runs. But this time I’m spending more than $25, and I’m buying from a local store so I can return it easily when it doesn’t work. But that $25 “sweet deal” will just rot in my gym bag, used once.

2. Allowing my workout routine to be flexible

The best times I’ve had exercise-wise have been when I’ve had a set exercise schedule that I stick to. When I start doing the impulsive “just gotta squeeze it in three days this week…whenever those three days are”, it all goes to hell.

Set an exercise schedule and stick to it. Do not let yourself modify it week-to-week. If something external factor changes (like your work/school schedule) take time to thoughtfully modify your exercise schedule once and then leave it alone again. No matter what you do, don’t break that schedule. Tell yourself you’re going to just do a few exercises and leave, fine. But still go. It’s so hard to re-establish a routine after you’ve fallen out of it. And if you miss a day, jump back on the wagon as quickly as possible.

As I’ve said before on this blog, you are (in many ways) only as good as your routine. Or, more accurately, you will only become as good as your routine is making you. You must treat your the core aspects of your routine (like the days you work out on) as holy and unbreakable or else you risk boundary decay.

3. Tried to add music to swimming while I still sucked at it

I am a terrible swimmer. My first attempt at regular swimming was like systematically drown-proofing myself. It literally felt like I was fighting the pool for my survival every lap.

I thought adding music would help and make swimming more fun, like it did for running. So I spent $100 on a fancy waterproof iPod setup.

I was wrong. Adding music just made the swimming experience more stressful and chaotic than it already was: not only did I have to think about my stroke, whether I should take a breath yet, which arm to take a breath from, how many laps I was on, and whether or not I was splashing like an idiot, but now I had to worry about those little ear-buds slipping out every half lap while music was blaring through my confused skull.

I might try swimming to music again once I get better at swimming, but I think that’s a long way away — and only if I can find a way to keep those headphones from falling out all the time (they’re literally just rubber ear buds…no strap, no ear clips…only suction holds them in). But maybe they just fall out because my stroke is so amateur and inconsistent. For now, that expensive waterproof iPod setup is rotting in my gym bag next to my cheap heart rate monitor watch.

4. Running through strange new feelings

The day I truly fell in love with running was also the last day I was able to run for 4 months. I had set out to do a three mile run. After reaching the three mile mark I thought “You know what? I feel great. I’m going to see how far I can go.” Around the 5-mile mark my knees started feeling weird. Not painful, persay, just funny. Like a weird tension in an area I hadn’t felt before. It didn’t really hurt, so I kept running for another mile and half as they grew more tense. The next day I couldn’t walk. My knees hurt like hell every time I took a step.

I discovered through research that I had over-tensed my IT band, which is a muscle that goes down the entire side of your leg and gets bunched up at the knee. It took my months of rest and ice to repair it. And I still, a year or so later, try to avoid hilly runs if I can help it.

This kind of thing has happened to me a few other times now as I’ve pushed my body to new feats. And every time, it doesn’t feel like pain at first. It’s like a weird new sensation that is kind of like pain but not really. I’ve learned to just stop when I feel weird new sensations that keep getting stronger. It can be really hard to stop sometimes because you want to keep going, but I don’t even mess with that any more. If I feel something weird, I cut my run/workout short until I can research it.

5. Drinking the night before a run, then failing to adequately re-hydrate.

So Saturday night I have a couple drinks. Enough to feel pretty buzzed.

I wake up Sunday morning and feel pretty crappy from the alcohol (amplified by the fact that I hadn’t been good about drinking water along with the booze). I am a firm believer that nothing cures a hangover better than sweating it out in a run, so I don’t use hangovers as an excuse to skip exercise (because I’ve learned that the exercise will make me feel better).

So I drink a my usual pre-run glass of water and head out for a 6.2 mile run.

Around the end up mile 6 I start feeling exhausted (like sudden loss of energy despite my even pace). Then I start getting chills. I literally felt cold all of a sudden. Then I noticed that I wasn’t sweating anymore — like, at all — and my mouth was totally, uncomfortably dry. Then I started feeling spaced-out, like I was about to faint. I quickly put together my mistake (under-hydration). Too bad the nearest water fountain was a half mile back.

I probably should have stopped to walk at that point, but I kept convincing myself I could finish the run (there was a water fountain at the end). Plus, I figured, if I stopped to walk it would take me that much longer to get to the water fountain if I was walking. So I pushed through. I felt like I was about to pass out the entire home stretch.

I made it, but I’m not looking to repeat that feeling anytime soon. Lesson learned: triple your pre-run water intake if you partied the night before.

5 Responses to “The 5 Worst Decisions I’ve Ever Made (About Exercise)”

  1. Tyler says:

    Mike, trying to keep headphone buds in my ear while vigorously swimming would drive me crazy. I feel like they start to fall out just from walking around with them in.

    As far as staying on a work out routine, I’ve found it easier to stay on track by viewing it as a fun event or just some time to escape from the rest of the world. I like to go into my garage late at night when everyone is sleeping and just turn on some good music and start to work out at the same time. It gives me the time I need to myself to just escape from the world and think. Sometimes I’ll do the bare minimum and spend more time relaxing and other times I’ll be in the mindset to just have the workout of my life and just go all out. Like I said in my last comment on Part 2 of the exercise series, I’m happy with the results Ive been seeing in just 3 months and I know popping those pills again will quickly diminish everything I’ve worked for due to lack of appetite, sleep, motivation for physical activity, etc. I think this is the one thing that has made the process of quitting much easier. It gives me purpose and an appreciation for my mental and physical health, especially since I let myself deteriorate for so long because I would constantly pull all-nighters thinking I was being productive.

    I know you think this site serves only a very small niche of people, but I am fairly confident you will see traffic increase greatly in the not-so-distant future. In the college town I went to, all I had to do was just ask my doctor and he wrote my prescription immediately and everyone else did the same thing. They even seem to promote it like no long-term side effects are involved and there is little to no risk. They are becoming so easy to get and people get hooked very quickly once they think they found the magic pill that will solve all of their problems. It took me two years to get to the point where I googled something along the lines of “quitting adderall” and found this amazing site. It might take longer for others to come to a turning point, but I’m confident they eventually will. There is nothing shameful about using affiliates to promote a product as long as it is relevant to the post and not the only reason it was made. I’ll let you know if it starts to seem excessive, but I doubt it will be. [/ramble]

  2. Mike says:

    Hi Tyler,

    Thanks for another nice comment.

    Yeah…thinking of exercising as a fun even is totally key. You have to keep framing it positively in your mind. The second you start viewing it as a dull obligation you start breaking your routine.

    And I’m totally with you on the notion that making some exercise progress is a powerful motivator against going back to the pills.

    Glad you’re rocking out on the weight bench. If you feel ballsy enough to do before/after pics…I’ll post them!

    On the site: Funny, I have seen a bunch of traffic increases lately. I wonder if that represents an increasingly greater need for the site’s topic, or if it’s just that more people are linking to it from yahoo answers and stuff. In any case, traffic increases are always bittersweet, considering the nature of the site.

    You know, what you said about all the doctors in your college town handing Adderall like candy…totally proves that there’s pretty much no way to regulate a prescription drug to guarantee that only those who truly need it can get it, because the people in charge of handing it out vary so greatly in personality and ideals. It doesn’t matter what the drug is or how serious the side effects could be if given out to the wrong people, there will always be psychiatrists who see it as a solution for everybody, or just don’t care.

    It is (understandably) in the interests of the pharma people for the drug distribution to be as wide as possible, whereas it might be in the best interests of humans for the drug distribution to be as narrow as possible. Capitalism is awesome, but it gets weird when it comes to pushing medication, IMHO.

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