The E-word

Many people I know have been getting on me to do more (can I bring myself to say it?) – “exercise.” Ugh. There. I said it.

When I was in St. Louis this summer, my weight went down. But I actually did a lot of exercise while I was there with morning and evening walks. Since getting back to Japan though, my cycling exercise has decreased as it has gotten cold, and I haven’t been consistently good on my diet and my weight has been creeping up again.

As much as I basically am not fond of the idea of exercise, it has been nagging at me that it’s not really good to sit like a lump all day in front of the computer screen and, if I am honest with myself, for my health I can spare an hour or so every day, or at least every other day, and do more.

My doctors’ opinions are mixed. My main heart doctor at Edogawa Byouin is an exercise fanatic. He is one year older than me and runs every day and he seems to think since all my test results are normal, that I should try to burn like 900 calories a day in exercise. My local clinic doctor is more cautious about excessive exercise, especially since it is colder weather (which causes vessels to contract), and he says it’s ok for a 25 year old to exercise for hours a day, but not so much for somebody “my age.”

I’m not quite ready to give concessions to age (I’m still in my 50s!) and decided that my friends, my sister, and my main doctor are right.

Meanwhile, a new gym opened in my neighborhood – Anytime Fitness. It’s ridiculously close to my house (like 3 minutes away on my bicycle), right above Mon and Monta’s vet. It not a “full sports center” in that it doesn’t have a pool or studios. But it has a lot of cardio exercise machines, weight machines, and also free weights. And changing rooms and showers.

The price is also reasonable – ¥6,300 per month (just $53 thanks to the booming dollar). And they are having a campaign where if I join this month it is pro-rated for this month, free for January and then the regular rate after that.

Also, it’s open 24 hours a day, every day (even on the new year’s holiday). The staff is just there from 10 am – 7 pm, but you get a fob for your keychain and can get in 24 hours a day.

Anyway… I did it. I joined.

Even with the campaign, I ended up paying about ¥17,000 today because of the first month, last month and fob charge. But there is no commitment after that – it’s all month by month.

I started today, and let me tell you, this is not your grandfather’s gym. It is actually really high-tech cool!

All the cardio machines are made by a company called Life Fitness and they each have big, hi-resolution LCD screens like this (the  picture on this screen is actually the entrance to my location).



Notice at the bottom right where it says “Login” in Japanese (the blue square) that it’s a QR code. If you download the Life Fitness free app for your iPhone or Android and sign up and give it your personal stats: sex, age, weight, etc., you just point your iPhone at the QR code on the screen and it logs you in to that particular exercise machine for your session! You even see your name show up on the screen.

While you are working out, you see not only basic stats (calories used, how far you’ve gone, time, pace and heart rate), you can also choose what you want to watch to keep you entertained during your workout. This can be Internet pages, TV stations, custom pages you set up yourself at the Life Fitness site, or even just pleasant scenery, like you are cycling through Switzerland. So you can actually do healthy exercise while watching TV or wasting time on Facebook.




And what’s even cooler is that after your session at that machine, your workout is saved to the Life Fitness site and synced with the app on your iPhone or Android, and you can see how many total calories you burned at each machine on every day you exercise. And it even syncs with MyFitnessPal, which I’ve been logging into for over 900 days now.

Here are the results from the three cardio machines I used today.




Note: In the app you can set your language, so when you login to a machine by pointing your phone at it, the language automatically get set to your preferred language – Japanese, or English or any of a whole bunch of other languages. When you finish your session it logs you out and reverts to the default language for the next person (in my gym of course it reverts to Japanese).

Today I only burned 287 calories over 47 minutes. But I think that is reasonable. Burning 900 calories would really take too much time I think. I have work to do also. I can’t see spending 2.5 hours a day exercising. I mean, let’s be realistic.

The machines I used today were the following:

I started with the Cross-Trainer, shown here. This machine really gives you the best bang for each minute. After just 4 minutes I could see my heart rate going into the 130s and was breaking a sweat. You clearly burn the most calories per minute on this machine. The first few minutes were quite difficult, but then I found a way of pacing that made it more comfortable. Still, it was the hardest device to use. And probably the best for whole body conditioning because it feels like you are moving everything.




Next I tried the recumbent bike, shown here. This was the easiest, and I see what my Edogawa doctor meant when he said, “bicycling is better than doing nothing, but it’s not the greatest exercise.” I didn’t break a sweat, and in fact it was so relaxing I felt like I could do it in my sleep. It burned the least calories per minute as well. Still, it was comfortable, and I can see using it to fill in time between other exercises. And calories burned are calories burned.




Lastly, I used the treadmill. This was actually the first time I ever used a treadmill and I was pleasantly surprised. You set the speed you want and also the incline percentage you want and just keep up. It was actually pleasant, because I like walking. You can see from the stats above that it didn’t burn much more than the recumbent bike, but I did break a sweat and I can see using this more and picking up speed and having higher inclines as I get more into shape.




Here are some of the weight machines they have, and I tried them out for a bit. Each one works on a different set of muscles in your body. I didn’t overdo it today, and tried just 10 reps on 4 of the machines to get a feel for what they were like. I didn’t use any free weights, which they had on the other side of the gym.




Here’s a view across the gym. You can see the free weight area all the way down in the distance on the other side, past the lockers.




Anyway, it was a good experience. And I really like how it is all connected via the Internet and syncs to your mobile device, and the web, and MyFitnessPal (and other services like FitBit), and how the screens are all wired so you can watch TV or look at the Internet so time passes quickly while you are doing something that is otherwise, essentially very boring.

All I have to do now is keep going back. I hope I do…














The E-word — 1 Comment

  1. Sounds like a great start, and a nice gym. For me, the whole trick to being serious about getting in shape was to set a schedule and stick to it. As with anything else after a few weeks it became a habit and now after several years if I need to skip a run or workout for some reason I feel uncomfortable about it.

    I’ll be very interested to follow your progress!

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