Sunday, November 6, 2011

Shortcuts Are Short-Sighted

I presume that most people who exercise do so for a reason.  Losing weight, building muscle, improving health, etc.  Soooo, if you are actively pursuing a high level of physical activity in order to achieve a desired end result, why would you cut yourself short?  It's kind of like saving money to purchase a house, but turning down the opportunity to work an extra hour each day.  You may eventually reach that goal (or not) of enough dollars for a decent down payment, but its going to take a long time and at some point you might get tired of waiting for the pay out and just give up.
I witness this kind of short-sightedness on a a regular basis when it comes to running and walking - a lot of people take shortcuts - literally.  Why?  Each step you take contributes to calorie burn - maybe not very much on an individual basis, but when taken collectively it does add up.  So why would you walk a two mile course and then take a shortcut near the end that cuts off a 1/4 mile?  You might have save a couple of minutes, but you lose big time in the fitness category.  
Recently, there was a bridge closing (maintenance) on the Wrightsville Beach Loop, which is a 2 1/2 mile circular course perfect for walking and running.  I normally walk two full laps, but because of the closure that wasn't possible.  Did I shortcut my walk? Nope.  I started at my normal location, walked until I bumped into the barricades at one end of the bridge, then turned around and went in the opposite direction until I bumped into the barricades at the other end of the bridge.  Then I walked back past my starting point an equivalent distance of two bridge lengths so that my total walk was still in the five mile range.
But how many other people did that?  I was amazed at the numbers who got within sight of the bridge, then turned around.  They didn't go the full distance!  For most of them they were satisfied that they put in some kind of effort, not thinking about the fact that a reduced level of exercise had a reduced effect.  I on the other hand focus on time and distance, with my trusty pedometer providing ample evidence as to the effectiveness of my efforts.
This goes beyond bridge closings!  On any given day in any specific place that is frequented by runners and walkers, I witness people taking unwarranted shortcuts.  For example, on the Mt. Pleasant, SC side of the Ravenel bridge, people have worn a path up a grassy embankment between the parking lot sidewalk and the bridge's pedestrian walkway, even though both they link up just another 100 feet away.  You might be thinking its just the results of tourists climbing the bridge for the view, rather than exercise.  Nope, I see walkers and runners using the shortcut all the time. 
OK, so two hundred feet isn't a real big deal in the grand scheme of things, but it can be a symptom of a dangerous mindset - I'm doing this because I have to, not because I want to!  And that can lead to failure in the game of weight loss!  Your exercise routine must provide you with a high level of satisfaction and you in turn must be committed to making it happen by going the full distance each and every time.  
For sure, things happen (been there, done that) - weather, cramps, blown out shoes, blisters, tight schedules, etc. and that is legitimate stuff.  But I see a lot of people taking shortcuts out of laziness or simply a lack of commitment. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that because you took part in some form of exercise, you are on the right track.  However, a lackluster effort can actually work against you. If you don't consistently achieve a level of physical activity that really makes a difference, you won't be going anywhere fast.
When it comes to running and walking, more is better.  My motto is: The Shortest Distance Between Two Points Is The Longest Route You Can Find!

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