I'm an avowed non-hacker - but I love these 3 little aerobic exercise hacks
One summer, I signed up for a running school which was run by a man I didn’t like very much. He reminded me too much of a school PE teacher. And he was clearly a life hacker. He had two pieces of advice for us, which he repeated very smugly as often as he could.
These were: firstly, don’t wear too many clothes when you exercise and secondly, most people don’t need to take water with them when they exercise most of the time.
Now, because I didn’t like him and because I don’t like hacks, I desperately wanted to prove him wrong.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t and I only made myself uncomfortable trying. More fool me.
He was not talking through his arse, even if he was one. No, as one of life's non-hackers I had to admit: this exercise advice works.
He did miss one very important piece of advice that you don’t hear very often: wear comfortable socks at all times. In your face, Smug Smartarse!
Don’t wear too many clothes
Essentially, this usually means setting out all the clothes you intend to wear and then removing a layer. Within reason. And decency. Obviously doesn’t work if its above 35C outside and the sun is relentlessly beating down out of a cloudless sky.
Fortunately, in our climate that doesn’t happen very often. It’s much more likely that you’re worried you’ll be too cold.
The chances are, though, that you won’t. If you’re starting exercise straight from the front door, just brave it in cooler clothing. You won’t regret it.
If you’re going to be standing around before or after exercise, can you take a very lightweight extra layer with you? Can you be creative about leaving it somewhere? Obviously this is just not always an option, especially if it’s a cherished piece of clothing you don’t want to lose, forget or have nicked. Or if there’s nowhere sheltered to leave it out of the rain. But it is something to think about as any solution you can come up with is going to make the sweaty part more comfortable.
You probably don’t need to take water with you
This is a bit controversial because these days we’re conditioned to believing that we have to be constantly taking in water or we’ll die. We have rightly started to wake up as a society to the fact that we need to be careful with our water intake - and this is likely to mean drinking more water, not less. However, some advice has tended to the extreme and there is still a lot of debate about how much you should drink in a day. Is it 2 litres? Does most of that 2 litres actually come from our food? Etc., etc.
One thing most people do agree on is that exercise = sweat = loss of liquid, which means that we should drink more than normal if we’re exercising.
That does not necessarily mean that everyone needs to carry a big, heavy bottle of water with them and sip from it constantly during the session.
It turns out that if you exercise for an hour and a half or less at a time, unless you are an elite athlete or close to it, you do not need to carry any water with you. This is good news for anyone who doesn’t like carrying a bottle around or constantly looking for places to put it down.
But - and it’s a BIG but - you do need to have hydrated properly in the hours BEFORE you exercise, and then again afterwards for this tactic to work properly.
That’s where it can go pear-shaped because, you know, life.
In my experience, though, it is worth putting in the mental effort to keep the water levels topped up ahead of time. I’ve discovered an interesting side effect to this need for forward planning which leaving the water bottle at home brings on; it has a positive effect on my mindset. Because I’m drinking water in preparation for doing exercise, it becomes almost automatic that I will actually do the exercise unquestioningly. It lowers my need to apply willpower.
That said, forgetting to drink an extra few glasses of water in the hours before you should exercise is not excuse for not doing it! The water bottle will just have to go along for the ride….
Wear comfortable socks
I came across this one while training for a half marathon. Because the training sessions were just so long, I was getting blister after painful blister. There was clearly nothing wrong with my shoes, so I ended up on a quest to find the perfect running sock.
And boy was it hard! Any socks with seams give you blisters on your toes. Low socks that disappear down the back of your trainers give you blisters on your heels. Socks that aren’t soft enough or are too thin give you blisters on the soles of your feet.
All of these blisters hurt like hell and only perfect socks will help.
Unfortunately, finding perfect socks is a story of trial and error and therefore some wasted money. I read review after review on the Internet, but every pair I bought on the basis of a good one turned out to be a dud. Eventually I happened upon a make called Bridgedale (I think they’re essentially a hiking sock company) and I haven’t looked back since. This link is not sponsored, by the way; I won’t get anything if you click on it, apart from the satisfaction of pointing someone in the direction of a good sock.
I didn’t get a lot out of the half marathon experience, but finding the right socks for me (and a bit of preventative taping on one of my toes) was well worth it in the end.
Don’t try to prove me wrong - you’ll only regret it!
So there you have it - three pieces of advice which, taken together, will improve your exercise comfort. Because I am nothing like a PE teacher, I hope that you won’t waste any of your time trying to prove them wrong. You will only regret it.
So embrace the perspiration, the empty lungs and the lactic acid, but don’t put up with blisters, overheating or excess baggage.