I have a friend who works out almost religiously at thefitnessmosaic.com, a cool gym where she has made lots of friends and some great improvements to her body and overall fitness. Personally, I have always found grinding away on a treadmill or pumping iron incredibly boring, so I asked her how she kept her interest level up throughout what can often be two hours of solid exercise. She replied that the gym had televisions, and she would simply work out while she watched her usual shows, or catch up on the latest music videos.
This, to me, made a lot of sense. Watching something gives your mind something to do while you cycle or run or do any other kind of machine based cardio, and that makes the time pass more quickly. However, I am not really a big watcher of TV shows, and so this put a thought in my head – could you work out while reading a book instead?
Is It Possible?
I gave reading at the gym a try, and I found that on certain machines, where your eye level isn’t bobbing around too much, it can be done. On a stationary bike, for example, I was able to put a book (I chose a fitness book to help keep me in the mood) on the ‘handle bars’ as I cycled, and found I was able to read it comfortably. On a cross trainer or treadmill it was impossible (and I wasn’t expecting otherwise, I just tried as an experiment!), but if you want to sweat out a long session on a bike, this is something that you can do. However, the noise in the gym and the fact that the physical exertion makes it very hard to concentrate on the written words makes it quite difficult to follow all but the simplest books, so I wouldn’t recommend trying a fully engrossing novel. An inspirational book or an informative read about working out could, however, hold your attention and give you that wonderful ‘multi-tasking’ feel of being able to feed your brain while you work your body!
Is It Sustainable?
In short, no, not really. Reading may be one of my favourite things to do, but coupled with exercising it really isn’t a good idea. I can’t get truly into what I am reading because I am using too much of my energy to exercise and my attention is split between the book and what is going on at the gym. I think if you absolutely need to work out and read at the same time (for example if you have to read something for work or school but don’t want to skip your workout) it can be achieved, but as a way to avert boredom when you are exercising I am afraid it just isn’t as practical as TV or music.
Exercise and reading may not be great for doing at the same time, but I discovered from my experiment that there is a big place for both of them in my life. Whether you try reading at the gym or not, make a little room in your life for some cardio and you will definitely feel much better!