Going Walkabout

January 12, 2009

JackGanssle-January 12, 2009

"You slime!"

So started my email to Max Maxfield, blogger at Programmable Logic Design Line

Techies have a rep for being couch potatoes. Hunched in front of a computer, the most exercise we get is in wielding the mouse. Obviously that's a stereotype as many of the engineers I know are more fit than the average American.

Except in my case it's true. I detest exercise. As Neil Armstrong once said "I believe that every human has a finite number of heartbeats. I don't intend to waste any of mine running around doing exercises."

It's boring to work out, run, walk or do anything just for the sake of getting the heart racing. "Boring" is the enemy, especially in this amazing world where there are so many interesting and compelling ideas to explore, and never enough time.

For many years I lived on a boat in downtown Baltimore. Everything was within walking distance: the supermarket, restaurants, theater, post office and more. It was easier to walk than to drive and find parking. But five years ago we moved ashore, to a house in the suburbs where everything is a short drive and a very long walk away. As my driving swelled my muscles have atrophied.

So when I read that Max had made a very public New Year's resolution to walk 1000 miles in 2009 (http://www.pldesignline.com/212700346) my first thought was "yuk." But he had planted a meme that kept surfacing. Maybe walking wasn't such a bad idea. Couple that with an ambitious goal " a kilomile " and my iPhone that has a built-in iPod, and perhaps it wouldn't be quite so horrible.

In "Quality is Personal" Harry Roberts claims that "trying harder" is doomed to failure. He says we must change something fundamental when we want to achieve some objective. As a result most New Year's resolutions fail since they're predicated on the same old goals and a promise to be more resolute. Walking a kilomile in a year, and maybe using some technology to entertain as well as track the walkabouts, feels like a new twist.

So I emailed Max and, after berating him for prying me from the keyboard, offered a reverse bet: I'd take his challenge, and if either of us fail in our kilomile goal, we'd send each other a buck for each unwalked mile, the funds going to charity. Minutes later he called and accepted the bet. Though we broadened the parameters to include running, the thought of doing that makes me want to reach for a book and a martini.

Max straps on the Nike+iPod, which uses an accelerometer in one shoe to beam gobs of data to his iPod. That gets uploaded to nikeplus.com where his progress can be shared by all. That device apparently isn't available for the iPhone, so I'm using RunKeeper which uses the phone's GPS to track mileage and time, and the device's wireless capability to upload data to a web site. Librivox has a library of free audio books, so I've started off listening to some old G. K. Chesterton stories.

What's your take on wasting heartbeats for the sake of exercise?

Jack G. Ganssle is a lecturer and consultant on embedded development issues. He conducts seminars on embedded systems and helps companies with their embedded challenges. Contact him at jack@ganssle.com. His website is www.ganssle.com.

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