My Favorite Forms of Exercise – A Comprehensive Ratings System and Analysis

My time – when I am not dealing with cats or food, that is – is substantially consumed by research and research-related things.  I love it.  It’s how my brain processes things and how I approach the world.  In fact, it is entirely possible that at some point in the past, when I was not-so-happy with my love life, I created an extensive SPSS database of everyone I’d ever dated, and ran descriptives on the data.  I don’t think I got around to running correlations, but trust me, I thought about it.  If I had been, uh, more sociable I might have had a sample size large enough to do some multiple regressions.

I promise that I am not about to do anything so in-depth here.  I’m just simply coming up with a quantitative system of reviewing types of exercise.  As I am writing this, however, I am realizing this might be a good place to sneak a bar graph or line graph into my blog….  Consider yourself warned.

I’ve never been crazy about exercise.  But starting a few years ago, I managed to push through some sort of block I’d struggled with for years, and I actually started to exercise regularly.  I’m not doing it as much now as I was a couple years ago, and certainly not as much as I want, but it’s still better than where I was when I was younger.  The problem is that I’m picky and I’m really good at coming up with excuses.  I don’t like competition, at least when it comes to sports, and I don’t like being in boot camp-esque classes where someone is yelling at me.  Thus I share with you the exercise activities I have found to be somewhat successful and/or enjoyable and my evaluations of them.  Or, in other words, the types of arguments I have with myself constantly when I’m trying to 1) convince myself to exercise and 2) select the most-appealing – or least unappealing – one.

The Criteria (all rated on a scale from 1 – 5, with 1 being the lowest, 3 being neutral, and 5 being the highest):

  • Fun factor- Overall how much do I enjoy this activity?
  • Sweat factor- I used to hate sweating.  Now I don’t mind it, but workouts where I don’t sweat still get bonus points.  (Like I said, I’m good at coming up with excuses.  Like, “Oh, I already showered today.  I can’t exercise now!”)
  • Body-image factor- To what extent does engaging in this activity make me feel good or bad about myself?  There is a fine line between self-awareness and self-consciousness.
  • Confidence factor- How embarrassed do I feel about my lack of athleticism during this activity?
  • Instant gratification factor- To what extent do I feel some sort of immediate (or within a day) result, either physically or mentally?
  • Cheapness factor- I am a grad student, after all.
  • Motivation factor- How likely am I to follow through with it?
  • Convenience factor- How easy is it to get started?
  • Effectiveness factor- Does this actually seem to do anything for me, in the long run?

The Exercises

Yoga DVDs at home– Really, I should have a couple categories for this, because it depends on whether I’m doing one of my wimpy DVDs or the hardcore one that I’ve been scared to do for the last few months.

  • Fun: When I’m into it, I love it.  When I’m preoccupied, it sucks.  But sometimes, when I’m lucky, it can help me get over whatever is distracting me.  Rating: 4
  • Sweat: Oh my god, yes.  I have had it drip into my eyes.  Yet it makes me feel like my body is ridding itself of impurities.  Rating: 3
  • Body-image: Cute workout gear?  Check.  Cute, tight workout gear which showcases body parts that aren’t so tight?  Check.  Still, sometimes when I’m in warrior pose, I can’t help but noticing that my arms are kinda nice.  Rating: 4
  • Confidence: This is where it really depends on the DVD.  But generally, it seems like something I can do and the things I can’t do feel like they’ll be in reach if I keep working. Rating: 4
  • Instant gratification: I usually experience some sort of muscle soreness the day after, which is a nice reminder that I did something good for myself.  Rating: 4
  • Cheapness: One time cost of somewhere between $13-$20.  And a lot of DVDs have multiple workouts, or ways of creating your own sets, so you can get variation from one DVD.  Rating: 4
  • Motivation: It’s easy to skip a day and even easier to fast forward past the challenging parts. Rating: 3
  • Convenience: Doesn’t get much easier than something you can do at home, whenever you want.  Rating: 5
  • Effectiveness: The more I do it, the better I get.  And when I was doing it regularly, I was in the best shape I’ve ever been in.  Rating: 4

Yoga classes at the studio

  • Fun: Pretty much the same as if I’m doing it at home.  Rating: 4
  • Sweat: Still yes, and when there are other people around, it’s embarrassing, especially when you’re sliding on your mat.  And I’m not even talking about hot yoga.  Rating: 1
  • Body-image: Same workout clothes, plus I’m now distracted by the fact that what the girl next to me is wearing is way cuter.  Rating: 3
  • Confidence: When there is an 80-year-old woman in the room with you who is bendier than you are, it’s hard not to take that as a blow to your ego.  But I still generally feel good about my abilities. Rating: 3
  • Instant gratification: Same as yoga at home, with the added feel-good bonus that I pushed myself to take the extra time and effort to go to a class. Rating: 5
  • Cheapness: Not so much.  Rating: 2
  • Motivation: Unless something feels completely impossible or I am sweating too much on my mat to be able to hold still, my ego is gonna keep me from sitting anything out or half-assing it.  Rating: 5
  • Convenience: Not so much. Rating: 2
  • Effectiveness: I probably push myself more than at home.  Rating: 5

Bicycling

  • Fun: Mostly fun, especially because it’s usually something Nick and I do together.  Rating: 4
  • Sweat: Yes, but not terrible.  And sweating when you’re moving feels more normal than when you’re sweating and essentially standing still.  Rating: 4
  • Body-image: Unlike yoga, I don’t own cute clothes for bicycling.  And helmets aren’t exactly sexy. Rating: 3
  • Confidence: Definitely better than if you asked me two years ago.  Still, I’m intimidated by any kind of hill, and I get easily frustrated when Nick is doing better than me. Rating: 3
  • Instant gratification: Being able to say I rode X number of miles is nice, tangible feedback.  Rating: 4
  • Cheapness: Buying a bike isn’t cheap, but not terrible.  The fact that I hate riding on the street means spending some gas money to drive to trails where I feel comfortable. Rating: 3
  • Motivation: Once we’re on the trail, Nick and I definitely push each other.  Rating: 4
  • Convenience: Again, my weirdness with riding on the street means we have to drive a bit.  And loading the bikes into the van can be a pain, especially when we first have to unload all of Nick’s drums.  Rating: 2
  • Effectiveness: Most certainly, although I think my avoidance of streets and hills limits what I get from it.  Rating: 4

Dance Party– What is this, you ask?  Well… sometimes when I don’t feel like actually exercising, I put on some iTunes and dance in front of the mirror in the bedroom.

  • Fun: It’s dancing and listening to music.  Rating: 5
  • Sweat: I try to.  That’s the only way I can rationalize this as a workout. Rating: 3
  • Body-image:  Yeah, I’ll admit it.  This makes me feel kinda sexy.  Rating: 5
  • Confidence: When I dance in public, I’m not usually that concerned about what people think.  So when there’s no one around, I could not care less how I look.  Rating: 5
  • Instant gratification:  Yeah, it makes me feel pretty, but it doesn’t always feel like the most efficient workout.  Rating: 3
  • Cheapness: Completely free, given you already have some means of playing music. Rating: 5
  • Motivation: This is one activity where I’ll usually push myself to keep going beyond the original time I set for myself.  Rating: 4
  • Convenience: Again, things you can do at home, regardless of the weather, are pretty convenient.  But I refuse to do this when Nick is at home. Rating: 4
  • Effectiveness:  It’s effective in making me feel less guilty about not doing a more structured exercise.  But I don’t know if it really does that much for me.  Rating: 3

Strength training– This is something I do at home, based on workouts from magazines.

  • Fun: No. Rating: 1
  • Sweat: A bit.  Rating: 3
  • Body-image: Eh. Rating: 3
  • Confidence: Totally neutral.  Like yoga, some stuff I can do, and that feels good.  Stuff that I can’t do (for the most part) seems attainable.  Rating: 3
  • Instant gratification: Oh I most certainly feel it the next day. Rating: 5
  • Cheapness: Again, one time cost.  Not terrible.  Rating: 4
  • Motivation: I have yet to stick with this long enough that I can get through an entire workout. But counting pushes me for some reason, and the fact that after I’ve done one side I have to do the other at least forces me a bit further than I really want to go.  Rating: 3
  • Convenience: I won’t do this when Nick is present, either. Rating: 4
  • Effectiveness: Seems like it could be good, if I did it more frequently. Rating: 4

Walking

  • Fun: Depends on where I am.  Walking around the neighborhood is a little boring.  But being in the sunshine and fresh air is a definite perk.  Rating: 3
  • Sweat: Not really, unless it’s hot out. Rating: 4
  • Body-image: Neutral. Rating: 3
  • Confidence: I can safely say that I have nothing but great confidence in my ability to walk. Rating: 5
  • Instant gratification: If I get my heart rate up, I’m happy.  And the sunshine really does help my mood. Rating: 4
  • Cheapness: I do need to buy a new pair of shoes….  Rating: 4
  • Motivation: I almost always follow through with my goals in terms of distance and/or time. Rating: 4
  • Convenience: It’s really easy for me to use the weather as an excuse. Rating: 3
  • Effectiveness: Again, since there’s no instructor or DVD pushing me, I wonder if I’m pushing myself as hard as I should. Rating: 3

Pilates DVDs

  • Fun: Not very much.  Mostly because I only use one DVD and I get bored with it.  (I have a second one, but the woman is constantly instructing me to smile, which makes me want to kick her in her obnoxiously firm abs.) Rating: 3
  • Sweat: Not at all.  And I get to lie on the floor for almost the entire thing.  Love it. Rating: 5
  • Body-image: Actually, there is something about the movements that makes me feel graceful. Rating: 4
  • Confidence: I can do the entire DVD without too much struggle.  Which makes me wonder if I need to find a harder one, or if I am doing it the right way. Rating: 4
  • Instant gratification: I still feel muscle soreness the next day, which makes me think this is worthwhile even if it’s not super-challenging.  Rating: 4
  • Cheapness: Same cost at yoga DVDs.  Rating: 4
  • Motivation: Even though this isn’t super-exciting, I always go through the entire thing.  Except for the one time I managed to fall asleep during the last 15 minutes. Rating: 3
  • Convenience: Same as all the other at-home things.  Rating: 5
  • Effectiveness: Despite sore abs the next day, I really do think I’ve outgrown the one DVD… other pilates DVDs… hopefully not!  Rating: 3

Results and Conclusions

And the winner is…. Dance Party, with a total of 37 points.  What conclusions can we draw from this?  Apparently I put more value on how much a form of exercise makes me feel pretty than how much physical exertion it requires….

Oh, I promised you a graph, didn’t I?

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