Winter Exercise


February 6, 2020 by Jean

DeskCycle Under Desk BikeWhen I was in my twenties, my mother had serious cardiovascular health issues. At age 49, she had major surgery to replace clogged arteries in her leg with plastic grafts. At age 54, she had a stroke. All of this motivated me to get serious about my own cardiovascular health. I started jogging regularly, rode my bicycle for commuting in the city, and took up backpacking.

Over the decades, these fitness habits have stood me in good stead. I have a tendency to be moderately overweight, but I have remained physically fit. Although I seem to have inherited the propensity for high cholesterol from my mother’s side of the family, and I take a statin drug to keep it at optimal levels, I have never developed any signs of cardiovascular disease. At some point in my fifties, chronic Achilles tendonitis led me to substitute brisk walking for jogging, and I gave up backpacking, but I kept a commitment to regular aerobic exercise.

I like to get my exercise outdoors, in a quiet natural setting that turns aerobic exercise into a meditative activity. Mostly, I exercise by walking along roads in my neighborhood, but I also get regular exercise by gardening, stacking and moving around the firewood I use for heating, and shoveling snow. When I was working, exercising year-round was made easier by the fact that I walked to and from work (a little over a mile each way) five days a week. Since I’ve retired, though, exercising in winter has become a challenge. Keeping the wood racks by my woodstove filled with wood only provides me with exercise about one day per week; and once the wintry weather arrives, snow and ice on the roads keep me from walking around my rural neighborhood. In recent years, we’ve had more ice than snow in winter; so I can’t rely on regular snow shoveling to keep me fit. A couple of years ago, I took advantage of the Silver Sneakers benefit with my Medicare Advantage plan and joined a gym, but I found having to drive almost an hour round trip to get to the nearest member gym a major inconvenience, and I also discovered that I hated the noisy ambiance of the gym.

Over the years, I have thought about the possibility of getting some kind of home treadmill or stationary bicycle that I could use for exercise during the winter. My older brother has a treadmill in his basement where he goes to walk about an hour every day. But my house is quite a bit smaller than my brother’s, and it wasn’t clear where I would put such a bulky piece of equipment. But then last year, I learned about compact cycling machines that can be used to exercise either your legs or arms and that can be tucked away under a piece of furniture. After doing some research and reading reviews, I ordered a Desk Cycle online. It arrived late last week, and I assembled it (easy to do) and began to use it over the weekend.

Although the Desk Cycle was created to allow people to exercise while working at a desk, that is not how I am using it. Instead, I’m cycling in my living room while I listen to the NPR news in the morning. This is working well for me. As recommended by the manufacturer, I’ve started using the Desk Cycle at a low resistance setting. This makes peddling very easy, but it also means that I need to cycle for almost an hour to get the same amount of exercise I would get by walking two miles. I will increase the resistance a little each week until I get to the point where I can get a moderate cardiovascular workout in about thirty minutes.

The Desk Cycle isn’t perfect. I’ve had some trouble with the machine sliding around and my chair sliding away from it on my slippery hardwood floors. I have figured out a way to position the machine against a wall to keep it in place, and I’m looking for some kind of anti-skid rug or pad that I can put under my chair to keep it in place. Overall, though, I’m happy with my new exercise plan, and I’m looking forward to being fit and ready to go when the outdoor walking weather returns in spring.

4 thoughts on “Winter Exercise

  1. Sue says:

    I like it! That was a great idea. I have been using an InMotion elliptical for several years now to make sure I exercise daily, no matter the weather, the heat, the time of day, etc. I love it. It’s light weight and takes up almost no space. I use it for an hour a day, before I start working, at LEAST 5 days a week, sometimes more. This is the model:
    I use it standing. First few times, I needed my ski poles to help me balance on it! But in no time my balance had improved to the point of not needing the support.
    These devices (yours and mine) are fantastic. I have the same situation here. The nearest gym would be 35 – 45 minutes one way. I ever liked the gym atmosphere. And I can watch the programs I’ve recorded while getting aerobicized at the same time.
    Good for you for finding the perfect answer to your exercise needs.

    • Jean says:

      Sue, I’m now in my third week of using the desk cycle and quite happy with how it is working out. Thanks for sharing the information about your elliptical trainer.

  2. Jean R. says:

    I hated working out at the gym, too. I did it 3-4 days a week for 9 months after my husband died and I never did warm up to going. The place was only a couple of miles away. I’m not good about sticking to any exercise program. After I move I’ll only have to go steps from my door to the gym. I’m going to sign up for a few classes. I admire your dedication. I wish I had it.

    • Jean says:

      Jean, I think it’s hard to stick to an exercise program if you don’t enjoy what you are doing. I’m lucky in that I have always loved walking and being outdoors. Sometimes I will fall off the walking wagon for a few weeks, and the longer I go without going out to walk the harder it becomes to get myself motivated. Then, one day, I finally force myself out to walk, and within fifteen minutes, I’m thinking “This feels so good; why have I not been doing this?”

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I am Jean Potuchek, a professional sociologist who has just stepped into the next phase of my life, retirement, after more than thirty years of college teaching. This blog is about my experience of that new phase of life.

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