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Exercise for Philosopher Geeks (Really)

Just because I am a blogger does not mean that I fear exercise (well maybe a little).  A healthy body is as useful as a healthy mind. Indeed there are strong links between physical fitness and a healthy brain.

Being a geek I want the most efficient routine possible. If the particular routine has some theory behind it so much the better. The routine is based on evolutionary theory (way cool right now) and takes about 40 minutes once or twice a week. That does not include 5 to 20 minutes each day for walking. This routine is not just for geeks (or philosophers), it should be simple for you to create your own version.

I have no medical training. I have no fitness training. This routine has not killed me (yet), but it might kill you. Check with your physician first.

The Ideology

The real point you should take from this is that your exercise routine should be simple for you to remember and simple for you to perform. You should be able to fit it into your life. The routine should be complete so that it does not matter if you miss a day (some routines rely on targeting groups of muscle or activity – if you miss a day you miss part of the routine). It should take as little time as possible, giving you less excuse to say that “I don’t have the time.” There should be as little technical stuff to remember, making it easy to just drop into the gym and exercise. Just because you miss a few days is not an excuse to give up entirely.

The Theory

Humans were not designed to run marathons nor we designed to lift massive weights.  However the human body is designed to move.  Our hunter-gatherer forbearers did a lot of walking. A lot of their day was spent walking or performing some light lifting.  What running they did was in short but concentrated bursts (escaping predators, bringing down prey). An exercise routine should seek to mimic this pattern, namely: Lots of walking, some lifting, and bursts of intense aerobic activity.

The Routine

Seek to do twenty minutes of walking each day. This does not have to be in one go or even a special activity. You can build up your time with little “tricks” such as parking the car further away, taking the stairs not the elevator, or walking somewhere else to eat your lunch instead of having it your desk (taking a break is a good idea in itself). You can also walk to places you might drive (e.g., dropping off or collecting a video). To reach twenty minutes I usually need to do some walk-for-its-own-sake exercise. But on days where I don’t mange that, the “tricks” give me about ten minutes worth (with no “wasted” time).

I do not use a heart rate monitor to set my exercise level.  I set the levels by how hard I am breathing and how much I want to stop. The first level is moderate. I run at a pace where I can barely carry on a conversation and where I can easily continue but would really prefer to stop.  If you can talk with ease and are moving at a pace you could continue all day then you are not working hard enough. You should feel it, not in an “I am going to die way” but in an “I would rather stop” way. The second level is the “intense” level. At that level I am breathing as hard as I can, my legs are moving as fast as they can, I badly want to stop.  I feel that this method of setting your pace is better than a one-size-fits all heart rate number (I feel under exercised at the correct rate for my age).

I use a mixture of body weight (e.g., pull ups) and machines (e.g., seated row) for the weight lifting part. I don’t target specific muscles but try to cover the broad muscle groups. For weights, I move up the stack. I use a weight where I can just perform about 12 reps. After the 12 reps, I immediately up the weight and try for about 8 reps. After that, I increase the weight again and try for about 4 or 5 reps. When I can easily perform the 12 reps, I increase the weight.

7 to 10 minutes of moderate aerobic (I use a treadmill)
About 20 minutes of weights
2 to 3 minutes of moderate aerobic (treadmill again).
1 to 2 minutes of intense aerobic
2 to 3 minutes of moderate aerobic and cool down.


I deliberately avoided specifics because you should figure out exercises and a routine that you like.  This is probably not the greatest routine but it is simple and does get done.

My resting pulse has fallen from around 72 to around 60. I have increased the running speed needed for “moderate” and “intense” exercise. I have increased the amount of weight I can lift for a given amount of effort (i.e., I am stronger). Although not my primary intent, I have put on some bulk and more definition (more “cut” or “ripped”). My blood pressure remains normal (was before I started). I did not compare before and after triglycerides.

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