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American in Beijing

Exercise Routines

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By this point in my life, I know myself pretty well. I know if I'm in an environment with lots of stress, free food, and sedentary activities (i.e. studying), I'm going to gain lots of weight. I suppose this isn't surprising, but I'm a bit of a sugar addict so it can be much worse for me than other people. I decided that this time around I'm going be proactive about the issue and get some exercise routines in place before grad school starts.

I've already bought a fancy new pair of running shoes for my planned "post-dinner run" (I know I won't do it in the morning). But as I'm a beginning runner and can't/shouldn't do it for very long, I'm still looking for a relatively short and not incredibly challenging activity to do during my breaks from running. I figured that since everyone here is on a similar schedule as mine, this would be a great place to get some ideas.

In short, my basic question is: what do you do to stay healthy in grad school?

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I'm wondering the same thing, especially since the gym at my grad university has a reputation for being extremely over-crowded. The running habit I was building up in my hometown has gone by the wayside because of the stress and hassle of moving, and now that I'm settling in I've realized that my neighborhood isn't the best for evening and night runs, which are kind of my thing.

I'll be biking too and from school quite a bit, most likely, but I'm also harboring this fantasy that I'll get a troop of other antsy, frustrated grad students together for games of tag or skipping. I miss all the ways of keeping fit that are only socially acceptable when you're 10 or younger :(

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We have a department softball team, that helps somewhat...

I used to love running or biking, but those are out for a majority of 4-5 months of the year here, the last month it hasn't dropped below a heat index of 93 even in the middle of the night, with heats of 110+ far too common during the day.

Our gym alternates between empty and crowded, but is on the complete opposite side of campus from me.

Most of the people in the department that seem to have the best routines are those that do it for some sport- martial arts, fencing, competitive running (marathons), etc.

It gives a motivation, as well as a group of like-minded individuals to work out with.

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I'll be biking too and from school quite a bit, most likely, but I'm also harboring this fantasy that I'll get a troop of other antsy, frustrated grad students together for games of tag or skipping. I miss all the ways of keeping fit that are only socially acceptable when you're 10 or younger :(

Man, if we were at the same school I would totally join you in that game of tag. Although you know what you could do to get your grad school friends into it would be to start up a game of Paint Monster. We used to play this at an English Camp I worked at and it was the most fun thing ever.

It's basically a combination of tag and hide and seek. Three people (maybe more or less, depending on the size of your group) are given a jar of paint (each a different color) and a paintbrush. They are then told to hide in different places while the rest of the group covers there eyes. Once they have hidden themselves, one, two or three (again, depending on the size of your group) "paint monsters" are chosen. These people are each given a damp washcloth.

Once the paint monsters have been chose, the remaining people are allowed to run around freely looking for the painters. Once they have found a painter, the painter then uses the paintbrush to paint a stripe on the person's face. The goal of the game is to be the first one to return to the starting point with all the colors on his/her face.

However, once you have paint on your face, you are vulnerable to the attacks of the paint monsters. If they see you with paint on your face, they can chase you and try to tag you. Once they have tagged you, they use the damp washcloth to wipe the paint off your face. You must then start over.

Yet starting over might not be as easy as you thought, because the painters are allowed to move from their spots at any time, meaning that you have to start the whole process over again.

This game is a lot of fun . . . and maybe I'll just start a game on Berkeley's campus for an afternoon of stress-relieving fun and exercise!

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Haha the paint game is crazy!

I just do a weekly game of soccer, weekly game of basketball, running a couple of days in between, and some lifting in the gym for my back and upper body. You could do the least equipment-needy workout of just push ups. There also ab exercises that won't take too much time, but will tire you out.

After-dinner run sounds a little painful though. How about a just-before-dinner run? :)

Also, I found my running buddy last year on craigslist. I would recommend it for finding workout/running partners.

Edited by timuralp

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The running habit I was building up in my hometown has gone by the wayside because of the stress and hassle of moving, and now that I'm settling in I've realized that my neighborhood isn't the best for evening and night runs, which are kind of my thing.

I'm guessing that you prefer night runs, because you're not a morning person. You might try a track. Another option would be getting up early to run, then napping before you have to start your day.

About the OP's question, you might try class(es), either at your uni's gym or PE classes, particularly if you can get others to go with you. For a while in the fall, several of us from my previous program would go to yoga together. Then there's peer pressure motivating you to go.

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I'm guessing that you prefer night runs, because you're not a morning person. You might try a track. Another option would be getting up early to run, then napping before you have to start your day.

About the OP's question, you might try class(es), either at your uni's gym or PE classes, particularly if you can get others to go with you. For a while in the fall, several of us from my previous program would go to yoga together. Then there's peer pressure motivating you to go.

True that I'm not a morning person, but my preference for running at night result from a burst of antsy energy and anxiety I get around 8-10 pm. I'm a pretty low energy person in general, and that's really my only time where my body WANTS to get moving. I think what I'll end up doing is try to move my whole schedule earlier, and maybe I can push it to earlier in the evening.

I took up yoga at the tail end of my undergraduate, and it was great for my anxiety, my posture, my various aches and creaks, and all sorts of other things. I can only see the stress and the hunched over studying increasing in the next several years, so that is something in my own personal regimen that I need to hold onto. Hell, the breathing and inner focus alone helped with work stress and frustrating moments galore, and I see it coming in handy before presentations and social functions.

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Yay, more PM runners! I have NEVER been able to run in the mornings, even when I was a track athlete in high school and (briefly) college. I need to have a day's worth of food and activity behind me so I feel like I have something to run on. If I went in the morning I never did as well on the run, and then felt dizzy, weak, and awful the rest of the day.

In undergrad after I quit track, I took up distance and ran just about every day for 4-7 miles. I lived in a really beautiful place and so the mountain scenery was always a reward, but I just remember it being such a good thinking time for me - some of my best ideas, as well as a sense of calm, came from running. I don't think my thesis would have been the same had I not been a runner. Needless to say, I really, really want to get into that rhythm again for grad school! Being a high school teacher meant my afternoons/evenings were completely consumed, so I'm hoping the more flexible student schedule will help me get back on track. I just think I'm a clearer, more creative thinker and saner person when I'm running.

Yoga also sounds like a good idea and I might give it a try - one of my friends in law school, a sort of type-A guy's guy, not the type you'd usually imagine would be saluting the sun, recently took it up and says it really has helped him both stay in shape and feel centered. I'm sometimes a little suspicious of anything that sound too hippie-dippy, so maybe that's why I've made myself into more of a Pilates girl than yoga, but that's probably an unfair prejudice. Though, I do also recommend Pilates. I plan on checking out several of the fitness classes - I'm sure your university posts them as well. Always a great way to balance out running when it gets monotonous!

As far as being a beginning runner, I kind of feel like I'm starting over from scratch, too. What I always did and am doing now to get back into it is start with the treadmill - the terrain is even, the climate is controlled, and overall it at least makes me feel a little more in control at first. You can also more quantifiably track your progress, which keeps me motivated ("Oooh, last week I could only make 18 min without slowing for a bit! Now I can do 30!" That sort of thing). Eventually when I've built up the endurance I start running outside, and it's freeing. But I tend to find outside running the opposite - frustrating - when I'm not yet in shape. But that could just be me.

Edited by intextrovert

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I'm a long distance runner as well. But in the minority- I'm a morning runner! So, that often means I'm always alone :(

But I have to do it in the morning, not just to get it out of the way but it's an opportunity to have a good start of the day as I love to run. It also takes all the anxiety and nervousness out so I go to school all calm and ready to work.

Long distance running has done wonders for me in terms of thinking. My adviser was incredulous at my progress with my master's thesis. She never knew that I spent 3-4 hours every weekend thinking and writing my thesis in my head all through the summer as I did my fieldwork, in which I'd sit down at my laptop the next afternoon to write it all down, plus more. She never knew that as a result I was able to run the Detroit Marathon! By the time I ran that marathon, I never felt so positive and energetic because so much of my thesis was typed up that i was actually able to enjoy the course :)

You just need to make time in your schedule that's all. No ands, ifs, or buts. I never scheduled any appointments or classes before 10 AM just so I can work out. If someone insisted on an early morning appointment, then I'd schedule it on my day off or when I can spend less than an hour total with my workout (including stretching). It's all worked out, even if it meant waiting a few days longer...

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I picked my hell month this summer to prove to myself that I could be active under stress. I was taking ANOVA in a short summer term along with another class (thru term) and working a summer assistantship. I still managed to get in my EA Sports Active workouts when scheduled (30-day challenge; 2 days on, 1 day off). I did two challenges back to back this summer (June and July). Now I'm on the C25K. I run in the mornings when it's cool and usually pass a few others since it's normally around 7AM. I use the app on my iPhone to help me with the intervals and I post my daily runs on Facebook. Believe it or not, that keeps me in line. As school is starting back, I've had classmates, colleagues, and friends comment on the posts. Ergo, they keep me accountable.

Edited by dacey

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I've found in the past that expecting myself to take time out to exercise (doing a workout video, going to the gym, etc.) just never happens for me.

When I was doing my post-bac work I found the perfect solution: making myself walk places. So 5 mornings a week I walked 1 mile to the bus stop, then on the other end I walked about 3/4 mi to the far end of campus. In the evening I walked the same distance home. Plus I walked or biked to the post office (~1 mile), my friend's house, (~2 miles), library (~1.5 miles), and sometimes even tutoring appointments (~4 miles) or church (~3 miles). So I was walking 20+ miles/week and biking even more. I dropped 10 pounds that year.

Unfortunately, the bus is TOO convenient in my new home--only 1/4 mile from front door to bus stop, and about that from front door to office/lab. And I've put 10+ pounds back on this year. :( I'm thinking of changing my routine so that I walk 1 mile to the other bus line in the mornings. Still debating whether or not to walk back from there in the evenings though--there's about a 250' elevation gain. It burns a lot of calories but I am usually pretty dead tired on the way home.

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I alternate between walking a lot and doing yoga. If I don't feel like leaving the house, I'll get out my yoga-mat; if I don't feel like setting up my yoga-mat, I'll just walk out the door.

Skipping is also a great idea: it's really good exercise and it's fun! The only catch is that you have to find a good surface to do it on, and make sure your shoes are supportive.

Yoga also sounds like a good idea and I might give it a try - one of my friends in law school, a sort of type-A guy's guy, not the type you'd usually imagine would be saluting the sun, recently took it up and says it really has helped him both stay in shape and feel centered. I'm sometimes a little suspicious of anything that sound too hippie-dippy, so maybe that's why I've made myself into more of a Pilates girl than yoga, but that's probably an unfair prejudice. Though, I do also recommend Pilates. I plan on checking out several of the fitness classes - I'm sure your university posts them as well. Always a great way to balance out running when it gets monotonous!

I totally understand that viewpoint - I was initially pretty sceptical about yoga as well - but it doesn't have to be at all New Age-y if you don't want it to be. It's really just a way of combining some breathing-techniques with stretches involving every muscle you can find in your body and then some. * laughs * I find yoga helps me keep my energy-level up in the evenings, and helps me deal with stress. Even half an hour a day is a good workout.

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I'm looking forward to joining the gym again. I like being told what to do by a trainer in the morning (definitely a morning person here). I don't want to be thinking while working out - I prefer being in the zone.

I'm just hoping the gym at OSU isn't perpetually packed.

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I used to be a runner in college, but my body just started telling me NO! I got a stress fracture in my food and my IT band swells to the point that it's painful to walk...so no more running for this lady! It's too bad. However, I now do yoga a couple days a week. We have a great studio off campus, near our home that does 5 dollar yoga everyday! I also will be biking back and forth to school (parking is INSANE). I am hoping that will keep me in pretty good shape. I totally developed a gut from being a teacher for the past 4 years....work all day, lesson plan and grade all night.

Edited by rachaelski

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Rachaelski:

I've worried about the running, myself. My body went through a rough adjustment phase when I started, and one of my knees felt like an airbag had gone off behind my kneecap. Things are fine now, but I still worry about the wear on my joints. I've known plenty of runners, especially those who use the toe-first form, who manage to keep their knees and lower legs in working order after years and hundreds of miles, but knowing my history with joint injuries already it makes me worry.

Biking is a good option, especially in this city, but traffic and accidents truly unnerve me since an accident I had a few years ago where I broke my shoulder. Swimming isn't an option either, since I can't swim! Gyms get over-crowded, especially on the much-loved ellipticals and stationary bikes. So running it is... for now.

$5 a session yoga though! I wish I could find something that cheap around here!

Has anyone ever here ever tried Tai Chi? I'm only somewhat interested in it for the posture and joint health/fluidity, and moreso for the focus and control.

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I'm going to be biking everywhere, just as soon as I manage to find a bike. I'm also going to try keep up playing roller derby in my new town. I played sports through childhood and high school, but when I got to uni and everyone started going to the gym, I discovered that actually I'm kind of a poor self-motivator when it comes to working out. I never really managed to get set up with a gym buddy, which would probably help, but I'm REALLY GOOD about team sports. Something about the guilt of staying home and eating M&Ms when your whole team is relying on you to eat something that's recognisable as food and then turn up to practice.

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I've found that though the university gym may be packed in the afternoon and evenings, it's often pretty empty in the early morning hours (about 6-9:30am) so that's when I go if I need to get a workout in. I also signed up for some activity classes through the rec center last year (yoga; capoeira) that were fun, got me moving, and that had others in the class that would send me a text or email or facebook message if I missed class to ask if everything was ok. The trick to making a routine is scheduling it, just like you schedule the classes you have to go to and the meetings you have to attend. For me, this means having email reminders that tell me I have 30 minutes to be there so I can wrap up what I'm working on, change clothes, and get to class on time. Good luck!

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Has anyone ever here ever tried Tai Chi? I'm only somewhat interested in it for the posture and joint health/fluidity, and moreso for the focus and control.

I've done a bit of Tai Chi in various settings and I always really enjoyed it. I don't know about it helping to maintain joint health, but it's a great way to relax and relieve stress. You don't even have to be anywhere near physically fit to be able to do it either. I always enjoyed it, so I would definitely recommend it.

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I've done a bit of Tai Chi in various settings and I always really enjoyed it. I don't know about it helping to maintain joint health, but it's a great way to relax and relieve stress. You don't even have to be anywhere near physically fit to be able to do it either. I always enjoyed it, so I would definitely recommend it.

There have been times where my back and shoulders get very tense and off-kilter, mostly from sitting around or standing on my feet for too long, and I've done a modified version of Tai Chi that gets things moving more gently than yoga. I've tried yoga when I'm that tense, and it's almost too rough on my system to start out being super-bendy. I'm thinking if my old injuries are bothering me this much in my mid-twenties, I really need to find a maintenance routine that keeps things moving as I get older-- watching my parents freeze up in the last few decades has been a tough preview of what aches may come.

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There have been times where my back and shoulders get very tense and off-kilter, mostly from sitting around or standing on my feet for too long, and I've done a modified version of Tai Chi that gets things moving more gently than yoga. I've tried yoga when I'm that tense, and it's almost too rough on my system to start out being super-bendy. I'm thinking if my old injuries are bothering me this much in my mid-twenties, I really need to find a maintenance routine that keeps things moving as I get older-- watching my parents freeze up in the last few decades has been a tough preview of what aches may come.

Maybe you should change your bed. I had tense shoulders for the longest time, but now that I have a new bed it's a lot better.

I don't know how good Tai Chi would actually be for removing shoulder pain. I feel like it might be a good preventative method from getting your shoulders more tense, though, as you'll spend more time in a calm, relaxed state. Maybe you might want to combine Tai Chi with an acupuncture routine?

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I'm a total gym rat: I'm usually there 2-3 hours a day, 6-7 days per week. I do a lot of strength training and an hour or so of cardio daily. This is what keeps me sane, and I'm counting on it continuing to do so when classes start in a few weeks, so I'm determined to keep time open in my schedule for it.

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I live 4.4 mile from campus and plan on biking.

Riotbeard, I did a "practice run" today, and it felt so good! I just need to remember that when it's cold or rainy!

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