Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Fit Gamer: Part 1

Walk into any game store (as in one that sells RPGs/Comics/CCGs/etc...) and chances are the patrons that are present will be fine specimens of sloth and gluttony. I know, because for a long time I was one of them. These hobbies seemed to perpetuate this kind of lifestyle. Think about it, whether you're role-playing, dueling with cards or waging a mini battle, what position are you most often in? You're sitting on your ponderous derriere! And more often than not you are consuming mass quantities of Mt. Dew and nachos (or whatever unhealthy, yet scrumptious snacks you prefer). In fact, I would wager that for most gamers the closest thing to a "workout" is lugging game supplies to and from their gaming venue. Mind you, that's usually no small feat. D&D gamers often carry 3-5 books, plus paper, dice and other sundries (like the aforementioned Mt. Dew) to a typical gaming session. When placed in a single backpack, this can be the equivalent of a 30-pound rucksack. But, whereas an infantryman will hump that ruck for miles (with rifle in hand), a D&Der will usually only have to hoof it about 25-50 feet, depending on how far back in the store their table is.

So, how do we get out of this rut? Well, the answer is simple: Expend more energy and take in less excess fuel. That means get off your butt and move, and stop gorging yourself on Snickers bars and Cool Ranch Doritos. Ok, it sounds simple, but common sense (and even a little experience) will tell you that is a bit of an oversimplified answer. The real answer can be complicated, but definitely doable.


Let's start with exercise, since it's probably the simplest part. Most people think of exercise and think going to the gym and hitting the weights or taking an aerobics class. And while those are good examples, that's just part of it. Basically, exercise is anything that will get your heart rate up, and use more muscles than you normally do. Something as simple as going outside and walking for a half-hour will do wonders for you. That's how I started a few years ago. I worked in a law office and after a life-event that I don't want to get into, I found myself really wanting to get away from my desk at lunch. Previously that often entailed a trip to McD's. But one day I decided to go for a walk instead. Within a few days I was bringing shorts, a t-shirt and gym shoes to work, and walking longer distances. Then I added a couple of 3-lb. hand weights. Within a couple of months I was running part of my route. I lost 30 pounds in about three months. And most of that was due to the exercise (my diet changed drastically too, but we'll discuss that later).

Mind you, by this time I was in my 30's, and had served six years in the Army as an Airborne Infantryman as a young man. So, I was no stranger to exercise and fitness. But the fact is, I was never a jock in high school, and when I first went to Basic Training at age 18, I could barely do the required 13 push ups (remember that scene near the beginning of the movie Stripes when Bill Murray struggled to do 3?).

So, starting out....what's best? Well, my recommendation is this: Start with some mild cardio exercise (such as walking or swimming) 3 times a week. Try for at least 20 minutes at a time. More is better, but any amount is good, as long as you gradually add to it in some way. If you are inclined to do some strength training, I would start with some calisthenics (using your own body weight) such as push ups, pull ups and sit ups. A quick internet search will net you hundreds of websites that can explain the mechanics of these exercies better than I can here. If you have some dumbells, there are websites and books dedicated to using these to get a total body workout.

This is a basic "crash course" in getting more healthy. Next time I'll go over the basics of nutrition and diet. Later I'll go into more detail about both parts of the equation. Until then, get moving!

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