More permanent stuff at

31 August 2009

My New Workout

I have been attending the gym regularly, religiously even, for the last 10 years for early morning workouts.  What started out as short 20 minute workouts for an out-of-shape 25 year old have turned into 45 minute cardio sessions where I routinely burn 900 calories.  It's been a very good thing for me; I wouldn't trade it for the world.

When I started, I would bring headphones and watch the morning news.  Then began a succession of portable music players that started with a Diamond Rio 500, which I cherished, and culminated with the two iPods I currently use.  Over the last several years, gradually, the monotony of a daily workout began combining with my music against me, hampering my motivation.  Maybe I can chalk it up to age, or plateauing, but regardless of the cause: I needed to find something else.

I thought that an iPod video (30 GB) would help, but it turns out the screen is much to small to watch while the rest of my body is moving on a treadmill or elliptical machine.  (It is still great on an airplane though.)  I've been using an iPod shuffle for the last two years, alternating between general conference sessions and music.  I tried podcasts for a while, but the iPod has such a crappy podcast interface--you can't queue them up in a playlist, and I don't want to fiddle with buttons in the middle of my workout.

Total frustration.

Then something happened.  My gym began installing televisions on all the cardio equipment.  I thought my problem was solved--I'd be able to go back to just bringing a pair of headphones again.  That joy was short lived, as I realized that most of what's on television in the early morning is generally crap (informercials) and sometimes downright crude (infomercials for porn--no kidding!).  And the news is, well, frankly: not worth watching anymore.  Back to square one...

I don't know why it took so long for the idea to sink in, but I realized that I could connect my iPod video directly to the televisions on the cardio machines using a $5 composite cable I already owned (thank you, Sony), and watch my iPod videos on the TVs.  I finally gave it a try this morning.  I watched two TED talks, and an APM Marketplace podcast about high-frequency trading.  The best part is that when it was all over, my 45 minute workout felt like only 15 minutes had gone by! 

Undeniable WIN!

My next task is to find more podcasts that don't suck.  I've already found a decent language training podcast, but what would be really nice is to get a hold of some of the Google tech talks, as they are usually excellent and I don't mind watching them over (indeed, some of them ought to be watched multiple times to absorb the information).  I couldn't find them through the iTunes store, but maybe some kind soul has been kind enough to make them available on the outside.  Google, ironically, has not.  In fact, the Google tech talks are strewn across and now that Youtube is part of Google.  The older videos are easily downloadable, but the Youtube ones are not.  At least, not without some real work.

Then again, there are enough [free] things at iTunes U to keep my mornings occupied for a long time.  They have a special section just for computer science educational content.  Double plus woot!

Anyway, all this is a long way of saying something short: iPod + cardio TV == excellent workout.