Sunday, February 06, 2005


I joined a health club (In Korean 'Health' or, because they don't have a 'th' sound, 'hel-seu'). It's near my apartment and I have a view of the ocean and fishing boats while I use the equipment.

It is the first time I have regularly gone to a fitness centre aside from the one at university where I trained with my sports team. I am not the first to mention this but the idea of going down an elevator so I can walk to the health club building and ride another elevator so I can use a running machine is a little strange. There were two health clubs in Yangyang but both were far enough that I was better off jogging and doing pushups and such at home. Jogging on the streets was relatively safe in Yangyang but not so much in downtown Sok-cho, or any other urban area.

I was shocked at how out-of-shape I was. I went because I wanted to get back into shape but also to strengthen my back up as I had been waking at 5:00am with serious back pain. My back is fine again and my running has improved greatly in only a week. I struggled through 20 minutes the first day and am now comfortable at 25 minutes and faster. Next week, I'll knock up the speed some more.

For me, there are three levels of sport attitude. When I start a repetitive sport (repetitive motions- swimming, running, cycling, canoeing, etc), I find my attention stuck on the total distance traveled, my current speed, how much further I will go and other impatience-driven concerns.
One of the main culprits for instilling these concerns is the machine's display or the easy availability of a clock and such. I rode my bicycle across a big chunk of Canada and even after more than a month, I found it difficult to pull my eyes away from the trip computer on the bike. The display on the high-tech running machine I am currently using shows me too much information and I constantly have to refocus my eyes on the harbour.

At the second level, I can daydream. I can run, paddle, swim, or ride with good effort but little attention given. I think about things I will write (or would have if I weren't so lazy), plots of books or movies I have seen and the like.

Finally, when I have mastered the sport, I return a bit to the first level in my desire to see my speed and such parameters but only to compare them to where I think I must be. I am very much thinking about the sport and concentrating fully upon it.
When swimming, I would look out of the corner of my eye at the pace-clock and think, "that last 50 metres was 36 seconds; it should have been 37. Ease up a bit."
And I would; the next 50 metres would be 37 seconds because at that point I could feel the difference in effort of 1 second. In a race, I could feel the difference of a tenth of a second.
Now, in the third level, I concentrate fully on the sport but can also be aware of what's going on around me. In the pool, I knew who was nearby; in a canoe, I could spot landmarks and wildlife all around.

I never reached the third level, or only did intermittently, while riding. Swimming and canoeing, with their specific stroke techniques were easier to reach the third level.

Anyway, I think that I have reached the second level in my running as my attention leaves the display for longer and longer times.

In other health-related news, I brought my touring bike back with me from Canada. I once rode most of the way across Canada and hope to see a little more of Gangwon and even Gyoungsangbuk's coast. I am sure cycling is 'good for health' but I mostly use it as another way to explore- faster than hiking but allowing more contemplation than driving.

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