My cell phone-based exercise program

SANTA BARBARA, CALIF. -- Most busy professionals lack three vital things: 1) time; 2) learning; and 3) exercise. Because we don't have enough of the first thing, we put off the second and third things for another day -- a day that never comes. The result is that we're less educated and less healthy than we want to be. One solution: mobile technology.

Like many people, I found myself not reading as widely as I used to, and not getting enough exercise. The reason: not enough time. I would find myself putting off for tomorrow what I didn't have time to do today. Eventually I realized that tomorrow never comes. If you want a truly good life, you've got to both learn and exercise every day, not "some day."

The solution that works for me is daily long-distance walking as a "foundation exercise," combined with listening to podcasts on my cell phone and even blogging while walking. (There's a lot more to it than this, so read on.)

My wife and I walk a minimum of four miles each day (sometimes as many as eight). Once each weekend we walk a "half marathon" of about 13 miles. At least once per year, we walk the full Los Angeles Marathon of 26 miles. We do other exercises, such as "stadiums" (running up stairs or hills -- usually during our walk), swimming and biking when we can, and hiking trails at least twice per month. But walking is the foundational exercise that has transformed our health.

All this walking is enormously time-consuming. But that's OK, because -- thanks to mobile technology -- I'm doing more or less the same things I would be doing if I were in my office or at my home. In other words, because I'm walking, I don't take time out from my normal activities in order to do it. I just take my normal activities on the road. And that's what makes it possible.

Here are the ten awesome benefits of my "cell phone-based exercise program":

1. Health. Walking is amazingly good exercise, and can be done by just about anyone. Yes, we walk distances that may seem daunting to non-walkers. But we started with just a mile or two, then gradually increased it over time.

2. Fresh air. Our bodies -- and our minds -- need fresh air and sunshine, which you can't find at the gym.

3. One-on-one time with spouse. Leaving home distractions behind, walking is a great way to connect with your spouse every day and spend some quality time having real conversations.

4. Education. Podcasting is the most under-appreciated, underutilized educational technology in the world. I load up my BlackBerry Pearl with brilliant podcasts from the New York Times, BBC, the New Yorker, and many others. (I still use iTunes even though I don't use an iPod anymore.) I learn about technology, history, politics, current events, philosophy and more. It's wonderful. The secret to making podcasting great is to constantly discover and subscribe to new podcasts and delete the lame ones.

5. Availability. My BlackBerry Pearl, like many phones, will automatically pause a podcast when the phone rings (and unpauses it when the other person hangs up). I just press the button on my stereo microphone headset to answer the phone. The people who call have no idea I'm not at my desk. I can do everything with my phone -- make appointments, look up information, IM and more. And because I'm outside, rather than at a gym, it's not rude to talk on the phone.

6. Brainstorming and idea generation. I have no idea why, but walking stimulates creating thinking. When I get a great idea, I just press the number "6" on my phone, which speed-dials Jott. I just start talking, and the idea is captured.

7. Microblogging. Thanks to Twitter, I can blog -- or, at least "microblog" -- while walking. Every hour or so I refresh my browser to get the latest updates from the people I'm following. They're short enough to read without needing to stop walking. And if I think of something interesting to "tweet" myself (usually stimulated by the podcast I'm listening to), I go ahead and do that -- yes, while walking.

8. Money savings. Walking is free. Combined with other outdoor excercise, it can replace your gym and its expensive membership fees. You can also run errands during your walk, like going to the bank or dropping off mail at the post office, which saves gas and wear-and-tear on your car.

9. Massive time savings. Obviously learning, exercising, blogging and talking with your spouse take massive amounts of time if you do them one at a time like most people do. But by combining them into a single daily event, the time savings are enormous. Also: I often put off phone calls I have to make for the time while I'm walking. It's yet another great use of that exercise time.

10. Discovery of your community. I try to walk to new areas and new neighborhoods I've never seen before. I don't worry about getting lost because -- you guessed it! -- my Pearl has GPS. When I find a location I want to remember, I just capture it with my phone's GPS software.

Cell phone-based exercise can improve your health, career, marriage and mind. Give it a try! And let me know how it works for you.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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